Tea Tree Filter
November 28, 2012 4:44 PM   Subscribe

Should tea tree oil in bath water sting like crazy?

I'm not getting a good answer from the online tea tree oil fanatics who swear by its use for all medical and hygienic purposes.

I used 100% tea tree oil from the drugstore and put about 2 t. in my hot bath water. About halfway through the bath (not a long soak), it started to make my legs sting like crazy, and I drained the bath water, cleaned the tub and soaped all over again to get it off. It is still stinging. Oddly enough the rest of my body isn't experiencing the prickly sensation.

Is this a serious reaction (i.e. poison, allergy) or will it go away? I basically feel as if I've had a Finnish sauna and beaten myself with the traditional birch branches.

I realize I probably used too much. For impulse actions I identify with Mark Vonnegut who said "My mind is like a lynch mob."
posted by bad grammar to Health & Fitness (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
When was the last time you shaved your legs? If it's recently, then yeah, I bet that hurts.

Tea tree oil, a very little goes a very long way. I'm not entirely sure why you'd put it in a bath at all to be honest.
posted by padraigin at 4:46 PM on November 28, 2012 [3 favorites]

Have you shaved your legs recently? I made the mistake of using a salt scrub after shaving once: never again. Some lotions also sting my legs after shaving.
posted by yasaman at 4:46 PM on November 28, 2012

My mom tried tea tree oil on her face once to dry up oily/broken out areas. It burned her skin slightly, and took a few weeks to heal. Your legs are most likely more sensitive from shaving (assuming you shave). The reason it's still stinging is because of the oil -- it'll stop eventually.
posted by DoubleLune at 5:08 PM on November 28, 2012

That was my exact experience, except I used only several drops of 100% tea tree oil and the stinging was not limited to my legs. I don't remove hair by shaving, so that wasn't it. It took days to get back to normal. Needless to say, I threw out the tea tree oil and attributed the experience to to having what must be unusually sensitive skin.
posted by halogen at 5:13 PM on November 28, 2012

Seriously, don't ever use it on any skin that is erupted, newly shaved or exfoliated, or abrased at all. If you use it, dilute it A LOT, and rinse it off when finished. I put a very very tiny amount in shampoo to clear up dandruff, but a tiny bit. I know what you mean about the people that tout it for everything, but it isn't a cure all for everything. AND FYI if you get a burning sensation from an oil based product, use another form of oil on top of it to dilute--olive oil, coconut oil, even vegetable oil. GOod luck!
posted by msleann at 5:14 PM on November 28, 2012

Tea tree oil is a known irritant. The European Commission Scientific Committee on Consumer Products found:
Tea Tree Oil is a skin sensitiser. Skin sensitisation may also be enhanced by irritancy. Neat Tea Tree Oil and certain formulations at concentrations of 5% or more can induce skin and eye irritation.

Based on clinical data, the current use levels of TTO are shown to induce contact allergy.
Online "natural remedy" enthusiasts claim all sorts of things unsupported by evidence. Personally I wouldn't go near the stuff given that there is insufficient evidence to support medical use, and substantial scientific evidence of harm due to exposure. With the existing evidence base, drug regulators would never approve the sale of a tea tree oil product for therapeutic purposes. You're only able to buy the stuff because it is ostensibly sold for "cosmetic" rather than medical purposes, although as the EC document above points out, manufacturers do not clearly specify what the cosmetic function is. This all provides a nice loophole to allow the sale of tea tree oil to consumers without the normal regulatory safeguards provided for medical topical agents.
posted by grouse at 5:15 PM on November 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Thanks, people. I will dilute it next time. I haven't shaved recently, but I assume the hot water opened my pores. The effect is fading now, thank goodness. I hope I haven't made myself allergic, as I've used Dr. Bronner's Tea Tree Oil Soap without any problems.

CVS Pharmacy sells tea tree oil in its medical aisles alongside hydrogen peroxide, bacitracin, and gentian violet.... though they still sell castor oil too.
posted by bad grammar at 5:19 PM on November 28, 2012

or if your skin was super duper dry it would sting. i use tea tree oil CREAM for damn near everything. love the shit though hate the smell. however straight tea tree oil is way too harsh for me.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 5:40 PM on November 28, 2012

Two TEASPOONS in a bath?

Ow, ow, ow, owie ow ow ow ow ow ow.
posted by flabdablet at 7:03 PM on November 28, 2012 [3 favorites]

[Folks maybe take up the "is this illegal" sidebar elsewhere unless it's relevant to the question? Thank you.]
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:26 PM on November 28, 2012

You could be unusually sensitive to tea tree oil, but it sounds like you used an excessive amount. If things get worse, then doctor up. But for now, all I think you know is to use quite a bit less next time and to limit the duration of the exposure.
posted by J. Wilson at 7:31 PM on November 28, 2012

Essential oils like tea tree are very concentrated and can be irritating. You only need a few drops in a bath. The oil tends to end up on your legs since they're in the water more than your upper body. Tea tree oil is used as an anti-bacterial/anti-fungal. I wouldn't use it in a bath unless you have some skin condition you're trying to clear up or just really like the smell (have an ex that does). The anti-fungal part is why it's used in dandruff shampoos.
posted by stray thoughts at 8:45 PM on November 28, 2012

In my experience, one's sensitivity to tea tree oil builds up over time. After having used it in various ways over the years, at this point, I can't use it any more at all, since it gives me an itchy rash, even in small doses. Even otherwise two teaspoons of undiluted Tea tree oil in a tub of bath water is way too much. That stuff is really aggressive.
posted by Namlit at 3:46 AM on November 29, 2012

If you're using essential oils in a bath, the usual advice is to a) only use a few drops and b) dilute them first in milk or cream. The idea behind that is that the oil doesn't dissolve in the bathwater, it juts sits in a concentrated layer on top. If you mix it with milk it mixes with it (because of the fat content) and makes it less concentrated, and therefore less likely to cause irritation.

Incidentally, there is only one essential oil I can think of that would be considered safe to put directly on your skin, every other that I know of should be vastly diluted before going near your body (for example, in massage you might put 5 drops in 200ml oil and then use sparingly).
posted by kadia_a at 9:05 AM on November 29, 2012

I am an old fan of Kneipp bath products before their prices went through the roof and was mainly seeking the aromatherapy effect (not that I believe in aromatherapy woo either). I'll get some odorless bath oil and do my own dilution. For what it's worth, the brand from CVS did not come with a dropper in the bottle and other people could easily make the same mistake.
posted by bad grammar at 5:04 PM on November 29, 2012

« Older Jealousy from the other side.   |   Why don't I have two left feet? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.