Tea 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.