British Society of Cutaneous Allergy (BCSA)

Tea Tree Oil

What are the aims of this patient information leaflet?

This leaflet has been written to help you understand more about your contact allergy. It tells you what a contact allergy is, what causes this allergy and what you can do about it.

What is contact allergy?

Dermatitis, also known as eczema, describes a type of inflammation of the skin. Contact dermatitis or contact eczema is a term used when this inflammation is caused by direct or indirect skin contact with something in your environment. Allergic contact dermatitis occurs when your immune system causes allergy to a very specific chemical or substance that has been in contact with the skin.

What causes your specific allergy?

Your patch tests indicate that you have a contact allergy to tea tree oil.

What is tea tree oil?

Tea tree oil comes from the leaves of the tea tree, Melaleuca alternifolia. It is known to have antiseptic properties and is therefore used as an oil to treat skin and nail infections as well as being added to some consumer products such as shampoos.

What are some products that contain tea tree oil?

  • Tea tree essential oil
  • Cosmetics and toiletries, eg shampoos, skin cleansers, shave lotions, wet wipes, soap, foot cream, sunburn treatments
  • Laundry products and fabric softeners
  • Nail products including antifungal lotions.

Remember, always check the label, these lists can never be complete and ingredients change.

How can I manage my allergy?

This means that you should avoid putting products containing tea tree oil onto your skin in the future.

It can cause eczema/ dermatitis if in contact with the skin or, if consumed, in a herbal drink/ preparation.

If you are allergic to tea tree oil you may also have problems with similar natural plant-derived substances such as colophonium (pine tree rosin/ resin), balsam of Peru/ Myroxylon pereirae (natural fragrances) or eucalyptus oil.

Self-care (what can I do?)

Always check the ingredient listing on the product, package or package insert as these lists can never be complete and ingredients change. This is particularly important for any products purchased outside the EU where some allergens may not be banned.

Created: 2020