What exactly is tea tree oil?
Tea tree oil is the oil derived from the leaves of the Melaleuca alternifolia tree, native to New South Wales and Queensland, Australia. Aboriginal Australians extracted the oil for traditional healing. Most methods of extraction involve steam distillation to obtain the essential oil. In its most natural form, tea tree oil is an essential oil so strong that it may be irritating to skin, so it's often diluted either with water or a carrier oil like coconut, grapeseed, or jojoba oils.
How does tea tree oil benefit skin?
Tea tree oil contains key compounds that reduce the bacteria on skin's surface that contribute to acne production. Tt can also help calm the skin and reduces redness caused by acne pustules.
If those benefits sound similar to benzoyl peroxide, it's because they are: Several studies pitting the two acne-fighting ingredients often show that tea tree oil is just as effective, but with fewer side effects such as dryness, irritation, itching, and peeling. Its potent germ-fighting properties also make tea tree oil a valued natural antiseptic for skin abrasions and cuts.
While tea tree oil is best known for its acne-fighting benefits due to its antimicrobial properties, the perks don't stop there. Tea tree oil also has been shown to have some efficacy in the treatment of nail fungus, athlete's foot, and dandruff.
What skin type is tea tree oil best for?
Tea tree oil is unique in that it works well for dry and oily skin alike. For dry skin that may be irritated or inflamed to compromise to the barrier matrix, it functions to calm the skin. With oily and acne-prone patients it helps [clarify skin] to support balance.
Like other essential oils, tea tree oil should only be used topically — never ingested. Always spot-test a small patch of skin to check for potential irritation like redness, dryness, and peeling before using it all over.
Which ingredients shouldn't be paired with tea tree oil?
There aren't any known drug interactions with tea tree oil, but applying it to the skin in its purest, undiluted form can be risky, those with sensitive skin should take caution when using any other topical that can cause irritation, like benzoyl peroxide or retinol. Because of the potential for skin irritation and allergic contact dermatitis, use tea tree oil products that have been specifically formulated for use on the skin.
Anyone with eczema should steer clear of tea tree oil. These patients have impaired skin barriers, which increases the risk of irritation and allergic sensitization. Applying tea tree oil on an actively inflamed rash will likely make it worse.