Tea Tree Oil– The “It” Ingredient of the Year

Tea Tree OilTea tree oil is the “it” ingredient of the year.  It is extracted from the Melaleuca ( have no idea ow to pronounce  it)  tree found mainly in Australia and Queensland. While its the hot new ingredient in beauty care, aboriginal peoples have used  it for centuries for wound healing and skin irritations.  In the 1920’s, a researcher  published the first studies on the antibacterial  activity of tea tree oil.  He found that  the extract was more than 10X  more effective than phenol–  the most popular disinfectent  before the arrival of antibiotics.

Tea Tree Oil in Your Medicine Cabinet

Continuing research has found that 5%  tea tree oil formulations are effective as benzoyl peroxide  without  the dryness   and irritation.  Tea tree oil  has also been shown to have  antibacterial and antiseptic  peoperties.  There is good evidence that tea tree oil is actually more effective than antibiotics  when dealing with the potentially deadly MRSA bacteria.  In addition 10% tea tree oil has been used successfully for athletes foot, dandruff and nail infections.

Not All Tea Tree Oil are Created Equal

Tea tree oil has impressive studies to back up its claims, but its hard to know if commercial products can deliver results.   For example, 5%  tea tree oil formulations are effective for acne, but lower concentrations do not offer the same benefits. Similarly 10% Tea tree oil formulations knock out athletes foot– but lower concentrations  just aren’t effective.  Unfortuneately, unlike ingredients like benzoyl peroxide  or zinc oxide, manufacturers are not required to list tea tree oil concentrations.  As a result, there is no way of knowing if a product will be helpful prior to purchase.  It can have the required levels or  just a drop or two , but  you won’t be able to judge a tea tree oil until you have used it for awhile. There are some excellent products, but   I would just make certain that the store  has a consumer friendly return policy.  I especially like the  line of te tree oil products from The Body Shop  that includes a mask, toner, cleanser and face  wipes.

Two  final thoughts.(1)  Don’t confuse tea tree oil with Argan Oil.  While both equally exotic, Argon  oil is extracted from a nut and is  a powrful moisturizer packed with antioxidants, nothing like the properties of tea tree oil  (2)  Despite the fact that  tea tree oil can be highly toxic if taken by mouth, I’ve seen tea tree oil  in a toothpaste, mouthwash and even tooth picks.  I guess that due to its anibacterial activity, somebody thought that tea tree oil would be effective  for bad breath and cavities.  Its a really terrible idea.


4 thoughts on “Tea Tree Oil– The “It” Ingredient of the Year

  1. I’ve been wondering about Tea Tree Oil for a while now! I received a couple products containing it and never knew what I was supposed to be looking for. Great article! I definitely want to explore more products experimenting with it. I wonder if this would work on other skin irritations like eczema?

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