Since I first discovered it in the organic aisle of my grocery store, I have been proselytizing the benefits of tea tree oil to anyone who’d listen. It’s an essential oil that is surprisingly unknown. With all the hype going down about expensive exotic oils like maracuja and argon it’s worth exploring the benefits of the still lesser known oils.
Tea tree oil is produced from the Austrailian melaleuca tree. It has long been favored for it’s health benefits, reported to work as an antiseptic and an anti-fungal agent, but fell to the wayside with the rise of modern antibiotics and pharmaceuticals. Applied topically as it is toxic to ingest, it can aid in healing athlete’s food and even head lice. Many of the companies selling this product describe much like aloe vera, suggest it be used to sooth burns and skin irritations. So, can it be of any use as a beauty product?
There is some evidence to suggest that tea tree oil can be an effective treatment of acne (1), but more studies need to be done before science will give a seal of approval. It seems that it has a similar effect to the old acne standby benzoyl peroxide but with a lot less side effects, like dry, flaking skin.
Some people do have allergies to this oil, so I recommend testing a small amount on a concealed area of skin before slathering yourself up. Tea tree oil is sold (here) in a less concentrated gel form, which I prefer for facial use. I squeeze a pea sized amount on my hand and spread it all over my face, avoiding the eyes of course, in the morning and at night before bed. When I wake up the next morning, pimples seem less red and smaller, and any eczema patches are few and far between.
If you want to buy tea tree oil products (like shampoos, gels, masks) you will likely find it in the organic section of your local market, or much more easily online. It isn’t available commercially in many cosmetics just yet, but many Etsy sellers are selling handmade tea tree oil cosmetics.
Here are some helpful videos on this subject:
1. Bassett, IB; Pannowitz, DL; Barnetson, RS (1990). “A comparative study of tea-tree oil versus benzoylperoxide in the treatment of acne”. The Medical journal of Australia 153 (8): 455–8.
- Tea Tree Oil For Natural Acne Treatment (healthybodylife.com)
- My New Personal Indulgence – Trader Joe’s Tea Tree Tingle Hair Products (pittsburghmommyblog.com)
- Ingredient Spotlight: Tea Tree Oil (evolutionmanblog.wordpress.com)