Tea tree oil may help with certain conditions that can cause dry eyes, such as blepharitis and meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD). However, there is limited scientific research to prove this.

Tea tree oil is antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory, so it may help treat certain eye conditions. Treating these conditions may reduce their symptoms, ultimately resulting in less dryness.

However, research suggests some uncertainty about how effective tea tree oil is. There are also some safety concerns around using tea tree oil near the eyes, as undiluted tea tree oil can damage the eyes.

This article discusses whether tea tree oil is good and safe for dry eyes, how it works, how to use it, and what to do if it gets into the eyes.

Although research suggests essential oils may have some health benefits, it is important to remember that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not monitor or regulate the purity or quality of these oils. A person should talk with a healthcare professional before using essential oils and research the quality of a particular brand’s products. It is also important to always do a patch test before trying a new essential oil.

Photo collage of a person rubbing dry eyes and a dropper containing tea tree oil.Share on Pinterest
Design by MNT; Photography by Sergey Filimonov/Stocksy & Martí Sans/Stocksy

There is limited information on how well tea tree oil can treat dry eyes. It may depend on the cause of the dryness.

Tea tree oil is one of the treatments for blepharitis, which is a type of eyelid inflammation. It occurs due to Demodex mites living in the eyelash hair follicles.

A 2017 research review suggested that using an eyelid scrub with diluted tea tree oil may help treat blepharitis. However, a small 2020 review suggested that tea tree oil’s effectiveness in treating short-term Demodex blepharitis is uncertain.

People also use tea tree oil for MGD, which is when the glands that make oil in the eyelids do not work as they should, resulting in dryness.

In one small 2021 study, researchers found that tea tree oil shampoo caused more irritation in MGD but that it helped manage the symptoms more efficiently than a regular eyelid shampoo.

So, there is some evidence tea tree oil may help with certain cases of eye dryness if the cause is blepharitis or MGD. However, more research is necessary.

Undiluted tea tree oil can be toxic to the eyes. It may cause:

  • irritation
  • a sensation of stinging
  • allergic reactions

Diluted tea tree oil also has the potential to irritate some peoples’ eyes or cause allergic reactions.

It is advisable for people to always dilute essential oils correctly before applying them to the skin. On the first application, always perform a patch test on a small area of skin to confirm that it does not cause a reaction.

Another option is to try premade tea tree oil remedies that are specifically for the eyes. These can include:

  • scrubs
  • wipes
  • shampoos
  • sprays

When buying tea tree oil treatments, check the concentration of essential oil. Some may contain high concentrations that could be harmful.

For example, one 2021 case report described an off-label blepharitis treatment that contained a 50% tea tree oil concentration, which caused damage to a person’s corneas. Products that contain lower concentrations may be less likely to cause harm. A doctor may be able to recommend a trustworthy product.

There is little information on whether tea tree oil is safe for someone who is pregnant or breastfeeding.

Tea tree oil has many health properties, including:

  • antiviral
  • antimicrobial
  • anti-inflammatory
  • antifungal

It also has a wide range of topical uses, but for eye health, people typically use it for blepharitis and MGD.

Tea tree oil is toxic to Demodex mites. Specifically, it makes Demodex mites leave the skin, and it contains terpinene-4-ol and other compounds that can kill them.

The terpinene-4-ol in tea tree oil can also suppress certain pro-inflammatory processes, resulting in an anti-inflammatory effect.

People must never apply tea tree oil directly to the eyes. They must only use it on the eyelids and surrounding area, following instructions to dilute it safely.

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If any essential oil accidentally gets into the eye, people must rinse the eye under clean running water for 15 minutes.

When doing this, the water should flow over the eye and outward, down the face. People can do this by putting their heads under a faucet or using a shower head to direct the water.

If this does not help, or concerning symptoms develop, they must contact a doctor immediately.

Tea tree oil may help with dry eyes if the cause is blepharitis or MGD. Blepharitis is eyelid inflammation that occurs due to Demodex mites living in the eyelashes, while MGD occurs when the glands around the eye do not make enough oil.

Tea tree oil is antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory, which may benefit these conditions. If they are not causing the dryness, though, this approach may not help. Additionally, there is only a little high quality scientific evidence that tea tree oil reliably works.

If a person wants to try tea tree oil for the eyes, it is important that they follow safety guidelines to dilute the oil to a low concentration and only use it on the skin surrounding the eyes. Alternatively, they can get recommendations from a doctor on eye wipes, gels, or cleansers that contain tea tree oil.