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Tea Tree Oil

Larson, David; Jacob, Sharon E.

Section Editor(s): MOWAD, CHRISTEN M. MD

doi: 10.1097/DER.0b013e31823e202d
Product Allergen Watch

Tea tree oil is an increasingly popular ingredient in a variety of household and cosmetic products, including shampoos, massage oils, skin and nail creams, and laundry detergents. Known for its potential antiseptic properties, it has been shown to be active against a variety of bacteria, fungi, viruses, and mites. The oil is extracted from the leaves of the tea tree via steam distillation. This essential oil possesses a sharp camphoraceous odor followed by a menthol-like cooling sensation. Most commonly an ingredient in topical products, it is used at a concentration of 5% to 10%. Even at this concentration, it has been reported to induce contact sensitization and allergic contact dermatitis reactions. In 1999, tea tree oil was added to the North American Contact Dermatitis Group screening panel. The latest prevalence rates suggest that 1.4% of patients referred for patch testing had a positive reaction to tea tree oil.

Geisinger Medical Center Danville, PA 17821 emowad@psghs.edu

From the University of Southern California, Los Angeles, and the Division of Dermatology, University of California, San Diego, San Diego, CA.

Reprints not available.

The authors have no funding or conflicts of interest to declare.

©2012American Contact Dermatitis Society, All Right Reserved
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