Tea tree oil comes from the leaves of the tea tree. It was used in the 19th century to make an herbal tea by sailors and is not the same as the tea plant from which we have drinking tea today. It is often used for fungal and bacterial infections and insect bites to aid with healing but people have also started using it with piercings because they want a more “natural” healing choice.
Many people love tea tree oil because it has a great smell and many antibacterial properties but that doesn't mean it's a good choice of aftercare. It's often found in skincare and hair products because it can help with dry skin and acne but these are not piercings. Many people will try and use it on a new piercing for the same reason – antibactieral is good, right? Tea tree oil isn't a good choice as aftercare for a fresh piercing, asides from the fact that when used neat it can cause discomfort it will interrupt the healing process, it can be used for healed piercings though.
When To Use Tea Tree Oil
Tea tree oil has a drying action on the skin which is why it is great for acne. Because dry piercings are uncomfortable piercings the only time you want to dry your piercing out is when it has a scar or a keloid. These are often fluid filled which means that a drying product is ideal. The nose or nostril piercing is one of the most common keloided piercings and because there is usually wet mucus inside the nose tea tree can be very helpful. However, if there is nothing wrong with your piercing (no keloids or scars) the tea tree can actually cause these to form by irritating the skin through excessive drying.
It should only be used if your piercing has a “bump” after the initial healing period is over and not before then. If you're not sure whether your piercing has a bump or whether tea tree oil is right for your piercing go and see a professional piercer. They will be able to look at your piercing and tell if there is scar tissue or keloids before you risk damaging your piercing. Tea tree oil should not be used as piercing aftercare. The best thing for piercing aftercare is a simple saline solution ( a mix of non-iodized sea salt and distilled water) to wash the piercing and nothing else. If your piercer recommends tea tree oil for after care as well as this you do not need it.
How to Use Tea Tree oil for Piercings
Tea tree oil is an astringent. This means that it draws moisture out from the cells that are exposed to it. When your piercing has a scar or keloid you want to take a small amount of oil, diluted with a carrier oil such as almond oil or coconut oil, and apply it to the bump on your piercing with a clean finger. You do not want to use paper towels, q-tips, or cotton buds because the small “hairs” of the bud may get in your piercing and this may irritate it.You want to apply this morning and night after washing your piercing but you may also apply it periodically throughout the day until you start seeing the bump shrinking. Continue to apply the oil until it has disappeared. Once the bump has disappeared it's important to stop using the tea tree oil as it can cause it to come back. Tea tree oil will also work on scars from piercings that have been removed or migrated out in the same way.
There is some evidence that tea tree oil can disrupt hormones but studies are ongoing. It does however, definitely cause drying, irritation, burning, itching, and redness when applied directly to the skin. It should not be used in any greater concentration than 5% because of this when applied to skin but can be applied without dilution for therapeutic purposes like shrinking piercing bumps as long as it is applied to the bump only and not the area around it which could become inflamed.