The new study looked at eight key chemicals from the hundreds that make up the oils.
The study results will be presented on 19 March at the Endocrine Society's annual meeting in Chicago.
A new study from a team at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) is rekindling a debate over the safety of essential oils.
'However, they possess a diverse amount of chemicals and should be used with caution because some of these chemicals are potential endocrine disruptors'.
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Dr Rod Mitchell, honorary consultant paediatric endocrinologist at the Queens Medical Research Institute in Edinburgh said the study "is important in establishing a possible mechanism for the suggested link between gynaecomastia and exposure to lavender and tea tree oils".
Tea tree and lavender oil have been suspects for long in reports describing boys growing breast tissue, but until recently a composition analysis identifying chemicals responsible in these oils, was not reported. Researchers at the NIEHS, including Kenneth Korach, Ph.D., a co-investigator for the new study, previously found laboratory evidence that lavender and tea tree oil have estrogenic (estrogen-like) properties and anti-androgenic (testosterone inhibiting-like) activities, meaning they compete or hinder the hormones that control male characteristics, which could affect puberty and growth. Moreover, even if men do want larger breasts, smearing lavender essential oil and tea tree essential oil won't be the best thing to do. Four of the tested chemicals appear in both oils: eucalyptol, 4-terpineol, dipentene/limonene and alpha-terpineol.
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Professor Ieuan Hughes, a child hormone specialist at the University of Cambridge, said: "The scientists have shown a convincing effect, albeit on cell lines; that these oils can mimic oestrogens and act as anti-androgens [male hormones]".
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"Of course, not everyone exposing themselves to such oils has adverse effects, so it is possible there are particular individuals who may be more sensitive to the effects of the chemicals, or perhaps are using the products in excess".
Bisphenol S (BPS) can be found in personal care products, baby bottles and receipts.
"The anti-male hormone effects are rather unexpected and it is not possible to comment further without the data". The others were in either oil: linalyl acetate, linalool, alpha-terpinene and gamma-terpinene.
All eight chemicals demonstrated varying oestrogenic or anti-testosterone properties, with some showing high or little to no activity. These changes are consistent with the hormonal conditions that prompt male gynecomastia. This coincides with exposure to tea tree oil, commonly used as an "alternative" antiseptic, and lavender oil, used in "aromatherapy" or as an alternative sleep aid.
Essential oils are available without a prescription and are not regulated. "The bottom line is that the public should be aware of these implications and risks when deciding to use essential oils", he said.
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It is not uncommon for boys to develop breast tissue during puberty or just after, but the boys affected by the plant oils were aged four, seven and 10. When the children stopped using these products, gynecomastia symptoms subsided in months.