- Tea tree oil is an essential oil that has gained popularity for its numerous skin healing properties.
- Tea tree essential oil has been shown to help relieve symptoms associated with a wide range of inflammatory skin conditions.
- When diluted and used correctly, tea tree oil can be a safe and effective alternative to many topical skin care products.
Tea tree oil has powerful anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties which make it effective at reducing the symptoms and severity of numerous inflammatory skin disorders and conditions. These include eczema, acne, athlete’s foot and dandruff, among others.
What Is Tea Tree Oil?
Tea tree oil, also known as melaleuca oil, is an essential oil produced by steaming the leaves of the Australian tea tree. It is available in its pure form as an oil and in many over-the-counter skin care products, including soaps, shampoos, and moisturizers.
Benefits of Tea Tree Oil
Tea tree oil can be used to soothe and heal a range of conditions and symptoms that affect the skin. The main medicinal benefits of tea tree essential oil include the following:
- Anti-inflammatory. Tea tree oil was found to reduce symptoms of contact dermatitis (a form of irritation which occurs when skin comes in contact with an allergen) by 40%, which is significantly more than standard medications.
- Anti-bacterial. Tea tree oil can be used to treat and disinfect minor cuts and abrasions by killing S. aureus and other bacteria known to cause infections in open wounds.
- Antiviral. Tea tree oil’s antiviral properties can reduce the chances of an infection developing in cases where skin is broken.
- Antimicrobial. Tea tree oil has antimicrobial properties meaning it can kill infectious microbes and prevent the spread of itchy patches on the skin.
- Antifungal. Tea tree oil’s antifungal properties can help reduce the resilience of certain yeasts, like those which cause dandruff, itching, and seborrheic dermatitis.
- Antiseptic. Tea tree oil’s main antiseptic agent is terpinen. It works to stop or slow down the growth of microorganisms (bacteria, viruses, or fungi) which cause irritation or inflammation.
- Antioxidant. Tea tree oil has antioxidant properties which offer protection against free radicals. This in turn prevents further skin damage, reduces pain and inhibits wound development.
Tea Tree Oil Uses
Due to its range of powerful medicinal properties, tea tree oil can be used to help treat the following 8 skin conditions:
1. Acne treatment
Research shows that tea tree oil can reduce the amount and overall severity of acne. In one study, tea tree oil was found to be just as effective against acne as benzoyl peroxide, the most common anti-acne medication.
2. Oily skin
One study evaluated the use of sunscreen containing tea tree oil, specifically designed for people with oily skin. After 30 days, at least 1 out of 2 areas of the face showed a reduction in oiliness and a decrease in pore size (in addition to the UV protection).
Tea tree oil’s terpinen compound has anti-inflammatory properties, meaning it can help relieve redness, irritation, and swelling commonly associated with eczema. Meanwhile its antibacterial properties can reduce the chances of infection if the eczema causes open lesions.
4. Itchy skin
Due to its anti-inflammatory effects, tea tree oil may reduce itchy skin. It has been shown better at decreasing allergic dermatitis than other topical agents. Additionally, tea tree oil may also work to alleviate insect bites by reducing itching, redness and swelling.
Psoriasis is an autoimmune condition characterized by outbreaks of red, itchy, scaly skin. Although there are medications which can relieve symptoms, there is no known cure. Tea tree oil’s anti-inflammatory and antiseptic compounds may be helpful for easing psoriasis.
6. Athlete’s foot
Athlete’s foot is a contagious fungal infection of the feet which can also spread to the nails and hands. Studies suggest that tea tree oil may be an effective alternative to traditional antifungal medications for relieving symptoms.
7. Wound healing
Research has shown that tea tree oil helps trigger the activity of white blood cells instrumental in the wound healing process. Adding tea tree oil to conventional wound treatments has been shown to decrease healing times in most cases.
8. For hair care
Research has found that a 1% tea tree oil solution is capable of killing 100% of head lice within 30 minutes. Additionally, dandruff has been shown to improve 40% with the use of a 5% tea tree shampoo.
How to Dilute Tea Tree Oil
It is best not to apply tea tree oil directly to the skin. To avoid irritation, it’s important to dilute your tea tree oil with a carrier oil such as olive oil, coconut oil, or almond oil. As a general rule of thumb, add 12 drops of a carrier oil to every 1-2 drops of tea tree oil.
Since tea tree oil can vary widely in quality, it’s important to select an oil that is 100% natural and without additives. If possible, buy organic and always buy from a reputable brand. Tea tree oil’s latin name, melaleuca alternifolia, and its country of origin should be printed on the bottle. Opt for an oil that contains a 10 to 40% terpinen concentration for best results.
How to Apply Tea Tree Oil to Skin
After diluting your tea tree oil, it’s still important to do a patch test on a small area of your skin before using applying it for the first time. Be sure to wait 24 hours to see if any adverse reaction occurs.
Applying tea tree oil to the face
Tea tree essential oil is considered safe for application to the face, but be careful when using tea tree oil around the eye area, as contact can cause redness and irritation.
There are many ways to use tea tree oil on the face. You can dilute 3 drops of tea tree oil into 2 ounces of witch hazel and use it as a toner throughout the day. This is especially good for acne. You might use a face wash, moisturizer, and/or spot treatment containing tea tree oil as well.
Applying tea tree oil to the scalp
Tea tree oil is effective at treating skin disorders which affect the scalp, including dandruff or lice.
To use tea tree oil on your scalp, you might apply a mixture of tea tree oil and your choice of carrier oil to your hair and scalp and leave it in for about 20 minutes. Follow up with a shampoo which contains a 5% concentration of tea tree oil. Massage it into your scalp and hair for several minutes and rinse.
Risks of Using Tea Tree Oil
Tea tree oil is considered safe overall. There are, however, certain things to be aware of before incorporating it into your skin care routine.
- For external use only. Tea tree oil should be stored out of reach of children and should never be ingested because it can be toxic if swallowed.
- Can cause contact dermatitis in some individuals. Some individuals who use tea tree oil develop contact dermatitis, ironically one of the conditions tea tree oil may help to treat. Always perform a spot test first to avoid this.
- Can be irritating if left undiluted. People with sensitive skin may experience irritation when using undiluted tea tree oil. It’s best to mix tea tree oil with an equal or greater amount of olive oil, coconut oil or almond oil, particularly if your skin is sensitive.
Tea tree oil can be helpful for a number of different skin conditions and is an inexpensive natural alternative to traditional chemical-based skin products.
Although generally considered safe, some people may experience skin irritation or allergic reactions after using it, so an allergy skin patch test and proper dilution is recommended for best results. Skin care products already blended with tea tree oil are also available, ensuring you get the right concentration.
When used correctly, tea tree oil typically begins to clear up symptoms within a few days or weeks of consistent use. It may take longer for certain conditions to heal completely. Continued use of tea tree may prevent further recurrences.
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