People should never use essential oils directly on the eye, including as a treatment for pink eye. There is no evidence that essential oils help with this condition.

While scientists have found that some essential oils have antimicrobial properties, they are potent substances that people should only use on the skin and at a safe dilution.

This article discusses the safety of using essential oils to treat pink eye, as well as which oils may help with pink eye symptoms and other remedies for this condition.

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People should not use essential oils on the eyes.

Pink eye, also known as conjunctivitis, is inflammation of the lining of the eyelid and the thin tissue covering the front of the eye. It occurs as a result of a virus or bacteria.

Essential oils are concentrated extracts from plants. According to a 2017 review, there is research to suggest that some essential oils may have antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory, among others.

However, a person should never apply essential oils directly to the eyes. Both pure and diluted essential oils can cause irritation or damage to the eyes. For some, they may also cause an allergic reaction.

Some people claim that essential oils such as tea tree and lavender oil are helpful for pink eye. There is no scientific evidence to support this.

Certain essential oils can be effective for treating some skin conditions, but people cannot safely apply them directly to the eyes, which is where conjunctivitis is.

Certain essential oils may help to keep the skin surrounding the eyes clean at a safe dilution, but there is no evidence to suggest this speeds up recovery or treats the infection.

Additionally, treating conjunctivitis is not always necessary. Most cases of pink eye are viral and get better on their own within 7–14 days.

There is currently no evidence that any particular essential oil helps treat pink eye. That said, some eye hygiene products do contain tea tree oil, such as wipes and cleansers.

A 2022 review suggests tea tree oil has benefits for blepharitis, which is inflammation of the eyelid, but no similar studies have assessed its effect on conjunctivitis. In high concentrations, tea tree oil can be toxic to the eye, even though it can be helpful for the eyelids.

Anecdotally, some people claim that other oils, such as eucalyptus, peppermint, or myrrh, also treat pink eye. There are no studies proving this. Additionally, oils such as peppermint are very potent and may cause irritation if a person uses them near the eye.

Using essential oils does have risks. It is not safe to use them on the eyes in any situation, but applying them to the skin can also cause symptoms for some people, such as:

The authors of a 2017 review say there is insufficient research into the effects of essential oils in humans to fully understand the potential benefits or risks of using them medicinally.

If someone is planning to use essential oils on their skin, they should always dilute the oils in a suitable carrier oil according to the instructions on the label or the advice of a qualified aromatherapist.

It is also important to perform a patch test on the skin before applying anywhere else, as this can reveal if the oil will cause irritation.

If any essential oil gets into a person’s eye, whether diluted or not, they should rinse the eye under running water for 15 minutes. A person can do this by putting their face beneath a running faucet, allowing water to run over the entire eye.

If essential oil is also on a person’s hands, they should wash their hands with soap and water before touching their face. If any symptoms appear or continue after rinsing the eye, contact a doctor.

Often, conjunctivitis resolves on its own. However, in the meantime, there are safe treatments that can relieve symptoms. These include:

While recovering from conjunctivitis, it is important to prevent transmitting the condition. A person can wash their hands before and after touching the eye area, and wash or dispose of anything that comes into contact with it. It is important to avoid sharing personal items, such as towels or bedding.

If an individual has thick pus from the eye, they may have a bacterial infection. Mild bacterial conjunctivitis can also resolve on its own, but if it does not show signs of improvement after 5 days, a person should speak with a doctor. They may prescribe topical antibiotics.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a person with conjunctivitis should seek medical attention if they experience any of the following:

  • light sensitivity
  • blurred vision that does not improve after wiping the eyes clean
  • painful eyes
  • extreme redness
  • worsening or persistent symptoms
  • symptoms of bacterial conjunctivitis that do not improve after 24 hours of antibiotic treatment

Anyone who has a condition that affects the immune system or undergoing treatment that weakens the immune system, should contact a doctor immediately if they have pink eye.

Parents and caregivers should seek medical attention immediately if pink eye develops in a newborn.

It is not safe to use essential oils for pink eye. This is because essential oils are potent and may damage the eyes if someone uses them directly on the eye surface.

At a safe dilution, a person may use certain essential oils to clean the area around the eye, but there is no evidence that this helps treat conjunctivitis.

Most cases of pink eye resolve on their own within a few weeks. A person can reduce the symptoms by keeping the area clean, applying cold compresses, or using OTC products for conjunctivitis and eye irritation.