Photo: Sylvie Tittel | Unsplash
Tea tree oil has anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and antiseptic properties that make it a triple threat in piercing aftercare.
Not only can it be used to care for certain piercings during their initial healing process, it can also be used long-term to minimize irritation and prevent infection.
However, tea tree oil shouldn’t be used in place of your piercer’s recommend cleansing process. It should only be used as a complementary treatment.
Read on to learn more about its benefits, what piercings you can use it for, side effects to watch for, and more.
Tea tree oil is known for its wound-healing capabilities. This is due in part to its natural . It may also exhibit , which can help prevent bacterial infections.
Tea tree oil :
- ease redness and irritation around the piercing
- shrink papules, pustules, and other bumps
- prevent keloids and other scar tissue from forming
- prevent infection
Although the evidence is promising, more research is needed to truly determine how effective the oil is — especially in comparison to proven treatment options.
Topically applied tea tree oil is for most people. This means that tea tree oil is likely safe to use on the external area around most face and body piercings.
This includes piercings in your:
Tea tree oil shouldn’t be swallowed, so it typically isn’t recommended for oral use. Ingestion can lead to adverse side effects, including reduced muscle coordination, dizziness, and confusion.
In some cases, it may be safe to use tea tree oil as part of a mouth rinse or a soak. You should talk to your piercer before using the oil to care for any oral piercing.
You should also talk to your piercer before using the oil to care for a genital piercing; internal use of any kind may result in side effects.
The way you use the oil ultimately depends on where you’re applying it. Spot treatments work well for surface piercings, while soaks and rinses may work better for other types of piercings.
Regardless of where you plan to use the oil, you should also dilute the oil and perform a patch test before doing a full application. This will allow you to see how your skin reacts before you apply it to an open wound.
Like other essential oils, tea tree is very strong by itself. Applying pure tea tree oil to the skin may cause redness, burning, or other irritation.
How you choose to dilute it depends on how you plan to use it. You can add a couple of drops to an ounce of water to create a rinse, or mix it with an equal amount of carrier oil to create a topical solution.
After you dilute tea tree oil, you’ll want to perform a patch test. To do this, apply a small amount of the diluted oil to the inside of your arm or leg.
If you don’t experience any irritation within 24 to 48 hours, it should be safe for you to apply elsewhere. If you have a history of skin sensitivities, you may want to wait the full 48 hours before you decide to do a full application.
As a topical spot treatment
Once you’ve diluted the tea tree oil and have had a successful patch test, you can apply a small amount of the substance to a thin cloth or sturdy paper towel.
Then, dab the cotton onto the skin around and within the piercing. Use gentle pressure only; wiping the cotton back and forth may allow tissue fibers to catch on the jewelry or otherwise irritate the area.
As part of a sea salt soak or spot treatment
You can also add a couple drops of tea tree oil to your sea salt soak. Make sure the solution is mixed well before you dip your piercing into the water.
When you’re finished, rinse the area with regular water and pat dry.
You can also dip a cotton cloth into your sea salt and tea tree oil solution and apply it directly to the area. Again, make sure you rinse the area with regular water and pat dry when complete.
As part of a sea salt rinse
Piercers recommend sea salt rinses for piercings located inside of the mouth. Adding a couple of drops of tea tree oil to your sea salt solution may boost its healing effects.
Swish the rinse around the mouth and spit. Do not swallow the tea tree oil rinse.
Make sure you follow up with standard salt water rinse to remove any lingering tea tree oil.
Despite their “natural” origin, essential oils like tea tree oil are powerful substances. You should never apply pure tea tree oil directly to your skin. Doing so can result in a serious allergic reaction, blisters, or other irritation.
The only exceptions to dilution are the few ready-to-use tea tree oil products on the market. These often come in roller ball tubes that are applied to external areas only. Many of these products are designed for aromatic use, so make sure your selection was created with topical application in mind.
Although tea tree oil is considered risk-free when used as directed for most people, there’s still a chance of allergic reaction.
If you’re sensitive to tea tree oil, you may develop a rash. The odds of this happening are also greater if you:
- have had allergic reactions to tea tree in the past
- don’t properly dilute the oil before use
- are generally sensitive to essential oils or have sensitive skin
Even if you’ve had success with tea tree oil in the past, it’s always a good idea to do another patch test before using a new product.
Talk to your piercer if you’re considering using tea tree oil as a complementary post-piercing treatment. They can answer any questions you have and advise you on use.
Discontinue use if you develop:
If these symptoms last more than a day or two, see your doctor. You should also see your doctor if the piercing site begins to leak pus or blood, is hot to the touch, or has a foul odor.