While research suggests there are health benefits, the FDA doesn’t monitor or regulate the purity or quality of essential oils. It’s important to talk with your healthcare provider before you begin using essential oils and be sure to research the quality of a brand’s products. Always do a patch test before trying a new essential oil.
If you’re having skin problems, I feel bad for you, hun. You got 99 products, but is tea tree oil one? (K, we’ll stop).
Extracted from the leaves of the Australian Melaleuca alternifolia tree, tea tree essential oil has a reputation as nature’s do-it-all secret weapon.
While it has a variety of uses — try it as an antiseptic, homemade cleaner, DIY mouthwash, or natural deodorant, to name a few — many home remedy enthusiasts turn to this essential oil for its skin healing benefits.
From treating acne to dandruff to bug bites, tea tree oil might be the product your medicine cabinet has been missing.
Before you swan dive into a bottle of it though, remember pure tea tree oil is potent, so you won’t want to use it on your skin at full strength. Try diluting it with a quality carrier oil like coconut or sesame.
Newbs should start slow with a 30:1 ratio of carrier oil to tea tree oil — aka 3 to 4 drops of tea tree to every teaspoon of carrier oil. Increase potency as desired, drop by drop.
Or, skip the concocting part and order a pre-infused tea tree oil product, such as bar soap or shampoo. (The most effective products contain about 5 percent tea tree oil).
Limited research suggests that tea tree oil might be helpful for a variety of skin conditions. Wider research shows that tea tree oil has antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antiparasitic, and antiseptic traits. Here’s what science tells us tea tree oil can do for skin:
1. Banish acne
Most of the research on tea tree oil for skin points to its successful use as a zit zapper and pore purifier. Thanks to its natural antibacterial and anti-inflammatory effects, tea tree oil has been shown to reduce redness, unclog pores, and promote healing of existing breakouts.
While it’s not a miracle cure intended to replace your entire skin care routine, research indicates that adding it to your regimen could have skin-clearing benefits.
2. Glow it up
Not only can tea tree oil fight and prevent breakouts, it can help you achieve that dewy, Instagram-filter glow.
One recent study determined that when participants used a tea tree oil face product, they experienced better hydration and reduced oiliness.
In an acne study comparing the effectiveness of tea tree oil versus benzoyl peroxide, tea tree oil users reported less dryness and flakiness. Hello glow, buh-bye shine.
3. Keep your mitts clean
Let’s take our current love of handwashing and turn it up to 11. Tea tree oil’s antibacterial properties might give your favorite hand cleaner a boost.
Tea tree oil is antimicrobial, which means it can inhibit the growth of viruses and bacteria like the flu virus and E. coli (poo germs 💩).
A few drops can be added to hand wash or an alcohol-based sanitizer for optimum cleanliness. Plus, since it helps hydrate, your already overwashed hands will thank you.
4. Give the finger to bloodsuckers
We can all agree that bug bites suck. Enter tea tree oil: Several studies claim it has antiparasitic properties. One even claims that tea tree oil is more effective than DEET and other essential oils in keeping bugs away.
Considering tea tree oil’s rep with reducing inflammation, it could also prove useful post-bite. All in all, it might be a good addition to your camping packing list.
5. Halt dandruff at the root
Goodbye, head confetti! Tea tree oil’s anti-flake, anti-inflammatory, and anti-fungal properties all come into play for soothing that scalp.
One 4-week study of 126 people with dandruff found tea tree oil eased symptoms in 41 percent of participants. Bonus: In a study on tea tree oil shampoo, participants reported less greasy locks. Woot!
6. Stay fresh (in a not-so-fresh place)
It would be great if we could always smell like we just stepped out of the shower. By the end of the day, it’s more like walking out of middle school gym class (anyone? Just us?).
Sweat alone is odorless but becomes funky once it blends with skin bacteria. Tea tree oil could fight that BO and keep your underarms fresh thanks to its antibacterial traits.
7. Soothe a burn
While putting tea tree oil into an open wound is a no-no, it could help small owies. Tea tree oil is a natural antiseptic. There’s some evidence that it helps heal burns and skin wounds when diluted in gel form.
Keep some tea tree oil balm near the kitchen for the next time you neglect your oven mitt. Or, use on a sunburn to stall peeling and cool blistered skin.
8. Stop the itch
When you find yourself scratching, grab that tea tree oil. It can hydrate skin and reduce the dryness that makes you itch. If your skin is itchy due to inflammation, it could help with that, too. Not stocked on tea tree essential oil? Try an infused body wash, face wash, or lotion.
9. Prevent staph infections
Tea tree oil has been shown to eliminate microorganisms like Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). This is the nasty stuff that can cause staph infections.
Staph can be left on gym equipment or yoga mats (wipe down the thigh machine!). Research on tea tree oil shows that the Terpinen-4-ol within it is a “potent agent” against Staph.
After hitting the gym, try a tea tree oil body wash to wipe out the microscopic nasties.
Tea tree oil is a mostly safe topical product, however mild side effects can occur.
Avoid applying to the mouth area to avoid accidental ingestion (trust us, it tastes horrible). A little lick won’t hurt you, but it could be toxic if swallowed. So, be especially careful if you’re using a tea tree mouthwash.
If you’re using tea tree oil products on your face, make sure to stay away from your eyes and eyelids.
Be especially careful using tea tree oil around irritated skin, wounds, and rashes. Unless your doctor says it’s cool, don’t put tea tree oil on eczema or psoriasis.
If you’re new to using tea tree oil, make sure to test it out first to rule out an allergy. Conduct a patch test in advance, especially if your skin is usually sensitive. Rub some of the diluted oil on a small area of skin in your inner arm or elbow. If you don’t have redness or a rash the next day, you’re in the clear.
Just remember to consult your doctor before using any essential oil if you are pregnant or have an existing health condition.
If you saw our note at the beginning of this article, you’re aware that the FDA does not regulate essential oils. This can make buying primo products a little confusing.
In general, look for products that include the proper latin name on the label, come in dark glass bottles (usually amber or blue), and utilize third-party quality testing.
Still not sure how to proceed? Check out this complete guide to buying top-notch essential oils.
Once you’ve got your oil, store it in a cool, dark place to keep it fresh and unspoiled. Double-check that your storage place is out of the reach of pets and children. Use when needed, and enjoy those skin-soothing benefits!