If you get Tea tree oil in your eyes accidently you need to wash it with water or if you have it to hand, a sterile saline solution immediately. Tea tree oil if undiluted is an irritant to the eyes. Tea tree oi is an essential oil made from crushed leaves of the tea tree (Melaleuca alternifolia) and its likely to sting and in extreme cases damage the cornea of the eye.
Tea tree oil has a range of skincare and haircare uses. You can use it to moisturize your hair and encourage hair growth, treat cuts and wounds, relieve inflammation, and much more.
One place that tea tree oil isn’t supposed to go – no surprise to anyone – is the eyes. Many tea tree-based products will tell you to “avoid contact with eyes”, and that’s because tea tree, like many natural ingredients, is an eye irritant.
Of course, mistakes can be made, and while you’re hopefully not willingly putting tea tree oil in your eyes, it might end up in there if you’re using this ingredient on your skin or hair.
It’s easy to panic if you get tea tree oil in your eye, because it evokes a stinging, burning sensation that makes you pretty sure that you’re going to go blind. But you won’t – so relax, and follow the steps below to safely resolve the problem.
1. Flush your eye
If you’ve got quite a bit of tea tree oil in your eye, you’ll need to flush your affected eye with clean water for between 15 to 30 minutes. Use whatever is easiest for the job, whether that’s your kitchen sink sprayer, a shower head, or a bog-standard faucet.
2. Aim well
Unless you’re really unlucky, you’re probably only dealing with oil in one of your eyes. In that case, it’s recommended that you aim the water at your forehead just above the eye. Water will then run down your forehead into your eye. Make sure your forehead doesn’t have any lingering tea tree oil on it, or you’ll just exacerbate the problem.
If you’ve managed to get tea tree oil in both eyes, aim water at the bridge of your nose instead, and allow it to flow down both sides of your nose into your eyes. It’s best to tilt your head back to do this, which will send the water flow sideways rather than straight down your nose.
3. Look around
During the flushing process, move your eye from left to right, up and down, and from corner to corner. This will allow the water to have contact with every part of the eye, effectively removing all tea tree oil. It might be hard not to blink – a natural reflex – but it’s important to keep your eye open as much as you can. Make sure you don’t rub your eye, as this could spread the oil.
4. Consider seeking professional advice
We’ve all had something in our eye – shampoo is a common one – and felt the burn for a couple of minutes. But if you’ve managed to get a significant amount of tea tree oil in your eye, or it’s especially painful or the pain doesn’t go away after 5 minutes, consider seeking professional advice. Call an emergency eye care specialist and explain the situation. They can offer you advice over the phone, and may recommend that you book an appointment to see them as soon as possible.
Don’t worry too much, though – in the majority of cases, getting tea tree oil in your eye is unpleasant, but not dangerous. You may want to arrange to get your eye looked at for peace of mind, but it’s highly unlikely that you’ll experience any permanent damage.
What if I’m wearing contact lenses?
If you’re wearing contact lenses when you get tea tree oil in your eye, the best thing to do is to remove your contacts after around 5 minutes of flushing (they may have fallen out already by this point, and that’s fine). Don’t try and remove them straight after getting tea tree oil in your eye – the oil may make it very difficult to get them out, and you’ll just prolong the pain. Once you’ve removed the lens, continue to flush your eye for another 25 minutes or so.
Will tea tree oil make me blind?
That’s highly unlikely. It’s far more likely that you’ll experience temporary symptoms like redness, itching, burning and pain if you get tea tree oil in your eye. Follow the steps above and you’ll likely feel better within minutes.