Tea Tree Oil for Perioral Dermatitis

Dermatitis is the inflammation of your skin, and perioral dermatitis involves the presence of red bumps around your mouth. This skin disorder is much more common among young women than men. Treatments for perioral dermatitis typically involve applying cream or medication to the infected area. There is some evidence that tea tree oil can be beneficial for dermatitis. However, consult your doctor before applying any treatment to your skin.

Skin cream on a table. (Image: dourleak/iStock/Getty Images)

Background

Tea tree oil, which originated in Australia, is the essential oil taken from the leaves of the Melaleuca alternifolia tree. It has been used for centuries to treat skin conditions such as wounds and infections. In the 1920s, merchants began selling melaleuca oil for its antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral and antiseptic qualities, and it was used to treat infections in other parts of the body. Tea tree oil is now used to treat ear, nose and throat infections as well as gynecological conditions.

Diagnosis

The diagnosis of perioral dermatitis is based on physical appearance and self-reported symptoms. The red bumps that appear around the mouth often result in a burning sensation. These bumps may or may not be filled with pus and are unlikely to cause itchiness.

Treatment

Although the cause of perioral dermatitis is unknown, treatments are available. Treatments often take several months and relapse may occur. One common trigger for perioral dermatitis is the use of skin creams that contain steroids to treat other skin conditions, such as acne. Skin creams or other topical agents that contain tea tree oil are not known to trigger dermatitis.

Research

Studies suggest that tea tree oil is effective in treating acne. In a 2010 issue of "The American Journal of Clinical Dermatology," researchers suggest that tea tree oil is so effective in treating acne that it may become the standard of care for acne treatment. Tea tree oil was also found to reduce contact dermatitis by 40 percent in a study published in the July 2010 issue of "Archives of Dermatological Research." Contact dermatitis is caused by exposure to irritants and allergens and leads to red bumps or a rash. Further studies are needed to determine whether tea tree oil can effectively treat perioral dermatitis.

Caution

Pure tea tree oil is potent and should not be applied directly to the skin for any dermatitis condition. Applying tea tree oil to the skin may not only worsen your existing skin condition, but it can also cause additional irritation. Dry, flaky skin or even a rash may develop. Tea tree oil is toxic when swallowed. Ingestion of tea tree oil can lead to drowsiness, weakness, vomiting, coma or death.

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