You may know that tea tree oil is a great natural remedy for acne, skin rashes, cuts, and bug bites — you can even use it to make a natural hand sanitizer and mouthwash. Its antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal qualities make this essential oil very useful. No wonder it’s used in so many cosmetic and skin care products!
But if you’re pregnant, you may be more carefully evaluating the products you use — and rightfully so. Even natural remedies can cause side effects.
Tea tree oil has powerful chemicals that can sometimes cause irritation and other reactions. You might be especially sensitive during pregnancy due to a number of bodily changes.
So while tea tree oil is generally safe for you and your budding baby from the second trimester on, it can depend on how you’re using it.
Here’s how to use tea tree oil safely while you’re pregnant.
According to the International Federation of Professional Aromatherapists’ pregnancy guidelines, tea tree oil is safe for pregnant women. However, the best way to use it depends on what stage of pregnancy you’re in.
It’s also important to use it outside your body, on your skin only, and only when diluted with a carrier oil. It’s unknown if tea tree oil is safe to take by mouth as a supplement or use inside your body during pregnancy.
You’re barely even showing yet, but in the first trimester, your baby is having the busiest time ever growing and developing. By about the 12th week of pregnancy, your little bean will have a brain, spinal cord, bones, muscles, and even a beating heart. This is why the first trimester is also a very sensitive time for pregnancy.
It’s best not to use tea tree oil and other essential oils in your first trimester. This is because we don’t know how much tea tree oil is absorbed through the skin and into your developing baby. We also don’t know what effects using too much tea tree oil may have on a delicate fetus this early in the game.
But it’s fine to use store-bought face wash or shampoo containing organic ingredients like tea tree oil, as the amount in them is so small. Plus, you wash them off anyway.
By your second trimester, you might be proudly showing off a baby bump. This means that you also have a thicker layer of fat that protects your baby. This healthy “fat border” helps absorb anything on your skin before it gets to your baby.
Plus, the major organ development that happened in the first trimester is mostly a thing of the past. Now everything just has to grow.
So, it’s safe to say that you can use diluted tea tree oil on your skin in the second trimester. To stay on the safest side, avoid massaging your belly with it, and first dilute it with natural carrier oils like almond oil.
You can use tea tree oil safely on your skin during your third trimester. It’s still important to dilute it with a carrier oil that suits your skin. This helps ward off skin rashes and prickliness.
You should still avoid using pure tea tree oil internally, but if your mouthwash has a little bit of tea tree oil in it, this is fine. Just don’t swallow your mouthwash! Tea tree oil is poisonous if ingested.
Tea tree oil is safe to use even when you’re close to going into labor. Unlike some essential oils, it doesn’t cause or get in the way of labor contractions.
Again, always dilute tea tree oil enough with a base or carrier oil. (This is important whether you’re pregnant or not.) Pure oils can be too strong for the skin and cause rashes or even chemical burns. Too much essential oil can also cause nose and eye irritation, headaches, and other symptoms.
Below are some recommended amounts regarding the use of tea tree oil:
- Place 1 drop of tea tree oil into 1 teaspoon of a carrier oil for use on your skin.
- Mix 3 drops with 1 teaspoon of a base oil and add it to your warm — but not hot — bath.
- Place 10 to 12 drops of tea tree oil into about 5 teaspoons of a carrier oil or cream to make an essential oil blend for massaging your skin.
Many oils or creams can be used as a base for tea tree oil:
Your skin may be hypersensitive while you’re pregnant. Be sure to always do a skin patch test before you use your tea tree oil blend. If you have sensitive skin all the time, this is especially important.
Here’s how to make sure your skin can tolerate the tea tree oil blend:
- Use a cotton swab to apply a dot of the diluted oil to the inside of your elbow.
- If you have no immediate reaction (your skin does not get red, bumpy, or irritated), keep the tea tree blend on your skin and wait for up to 24 hours.
- If there’s still no reaction, you can safely use the tea tree oil blend on your skin.
- If the skin becomes red, irritated, or itchy, massage some plain carrier oil or cream onto the area to get rid of the tea tree oil. Don’t use the tea tree blend if you have this reaction.
- Make a new tea tree oil blend that’s even more diluted — for example, 1 drop in 2–3 teaspoons of a carrier oil or cream.
- Try the more diluted blend and check for a reaction.
- If you still get a skin reaction, your skin may be too sensitive to use tea tree oil.
Pregnancy acne is in the long list of things about pregnancy that no one mentions. It’s a common side effect of the raging hormones that help you grow a baby.
Many drugstore and prescription acne creams, ointments, and medications have ingredients that are unsafe for you and your baby while you’re pregnant. For example, you need to avoid skin care ingredients like retin-A (also known as a retinoid and retinoic acid) and salicylic acid.
Tea tree oil can help clear up the spots because it gets rid of some of the bad bacteria that build up in your pores. It might also help balance an oily complexion, which is also courtesy of pregnancy hormones.
Dilute tea tree oil in a gentle skin care ingredient like pure aloe vera gel. Follow the dilution rules above — one drop of tea tree oil for every teaspoon of aloe vera gel. This blend makes an antibacterial, cooling, and moisturizing gel to help soothe pregnancy acne.
KEEP IN MIND
Remember that broken or damaged skin may absorb more essential oils and other ingredients. If you have open or oozing acne spots, use less of the tea tree oil blend until your skin has healed.
Also, remember to do a skin patch test before you try the tea tree oil and aloe vera gel mixture. Keep in mind that the skin on your face and neck is usually more sensitive than the skin on your arm.
Never swallow essential oils. Tea tree oil is poisonous.
Yeast infections — another common detail about pregnancy that everyone forgot to tell you! Don’t use tea tree oil to treat yeast infections during pregnancy.
Your down there area is very sensitive and may get irritated from using a tea tree oil blend. It’s also much too close to the baby. You don’t want tea tree oil going where it’s not supposed to go.
Natural remedies for a yeast infection that are safe during pregnancy include:
- Greek yogurt (it’s full of probiotics, or friendly bacteria)
- probiotic supplements and suppositories (just get your doctor’s OK first)
- aloe vera gel
- coconut oil
SEE YOUR OB/GYN
If you have a serious yeast infection case or it doesn’t go away, ask your doctor to prescribe the right treatment for you. It’s important to treat the yeast infection as quickly as possible, especially during pregnancy.
Tea tree essential oil is a great natural remedy and skin care ingredient. That said, talk to your doctor or OB-GYN before you use tea tree oil for a specific pregnancy concern.
While tea tree oil is generally safe to use on the skin while you’re pregnant, even natural remedies have to be used safely. Avoid using pure tea tree oil during the first trimester, as it’s difficult to know exactly how strong an oil blend is or how much is being absorbed by your body — and baby. Never swallow essential oils.
You can still use tea tree oil face washes, shampoos, and other store-bought skin care products. These contain very tiny amounts of tea tree oil.
Always dilute tea tree oil and other essential oils before you use them —whether you’re pregnant or not.