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Shirley Price
Shirley Price

8 popular uses and benefits of tea tree oil for skin:

Introduction

Tea tree oil is an essential oil derived from the leaves of the Melaleuca alternifolia plant. Indigenous to Australia, it has been used for centuries as a traditional topical antiseptic.


Today, tea tree oil is gaining popularity in modern skincare regimens thanks to its antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory and wound healing properties.


This article explores the research behind 8 of the most popular and evidence-based uses of tea tree oil for skin health and treatment.


  1. Acne

With its ability to exert antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory effects on skin, tea tree oil is increasingly used to treat mild to moderate acne. Several studies have shown its efficacy:

  • A small trial found a 5% tea tree oil gel was just as effective against acne as a 5% benzoyl peroxide lotion, without excessive skin dryness. Both reduced pimples and severity after 3 months of use.

  • A 45 day study compared tea tree oil to a standard antibiotic gel. Tea tree oil decreased both inflammatory and non-inflammatory lesion count by over 50% and was as effective as the antibiotic.

  • Test tube research indicates tea tree oil’s antimicrobial effects are useful against acne-causing bacteria like Propionibacterium acnes.


Overall, research suggests tea tree oil preparations of 5-10% strength may significantly improve mild to moderate acne when applied topically twice daily. Its effects may be comparable to standard acne medications. Always dilute pure tea tree oil first in a carrier oil or cleanser (1, 2, 3).


  1. Athlete’s Foot

The antifungal properties of tea tree oil make it helpful against tinea pedis, also known as athlete’s foot. Studies indicate it may be an effective topical remedy:

  • A 4 week trial found tea tree oil reduced athlete’s foot symptoms just as well as a prescription antifungal cream containing clotrimazole.

  • In another study, 100% topical tea tree oil eliminated fungal dermatitis in nearly 25% of patients. A 10% concentration was effective in about 60% of patients.

  • Laboratory tests also show tea tree oil inhibits growth of fungal strains like Trichophyton rubrum that cause athlete’s foot.


Apply tea tree oil diluted in a carrier oil to affected areas 1-2 times daily. Improvement may be seen within 4 weeks. Combine with diligent hygiene to eradicate fungal infection (4, 5).


  1. Warts

Human papilloma virus (HPV) causes common warts on hands and feet. Early research indicates applying diluted tea tree oil may help clear them:

  • One trial found that topical application of 10-100% tea tree oil solutions resolved warts in over half of subjects within 12 days, without adverse effects.

  • In another small study, using 50% tea tree oil along with salicylic acid enhanced wart clearance compared to salicylic acid alone.

More research is still needed. But tea tree oil’s antiviral effects show promise for treating warts. Apply a 10-25% solution directly onto warts 1-2 times daily (6, 7).


  1. Cold Sores

Also called fever blisters, cold sores result from viral infection with herpes simplex. Tea tree oil displays antiviral activity against herpes simplex in lab tests. Ongoing research suggests it may help cold sores:

  • One trial found using a 6% tea tree gel reduced cold sore healing time from 12.5 to 9 days in some subjects.

  • A review concluded that topical tea tree oil likely helps alleviate cold sore symptoms, though more rigorous studies are warranted.

Dilute tea tree oil in aloe vera gel or a carrier oil and dab onto a cold sore with a cotton swab 3-5 times daily at first onset. It may reduce healing time and discomfort (8, 9).


  1. Razor Burn Relief

The soothing, anti-inflammatory properties of tea tree oil may help relieve razor burn caused by shaving:

  • In one study, applying an after-shave lotion containing 4% tea tree oil significantly reduced razor burn, rash and itching compared to placebo lotion.

  • Its antimicrobial effects help prevent infection of small nicks and cuts that occur during shaving.

After shaving, mix 2-4 drops of tea tree oil with 1 teaspoon carrier oil and gently apply to skin. Doing a patch test is recommended to check for any irritation before wider application (10).


  1. Jock Itch

Jock itch refers to a fungal infection of the groin area. The dermatophyte species Trichophyton rubrum is often the cause. Studies demonstrate tea tree oil’s usefulness against jock itch:

  • Over 30% of patients applying 100% tea tree oil showed resolution of fungal dermatitis in one trial. Improvement was seen in about 60% of patients using a 10% dilution.

  • In a dermatology office study, tea tree oil shampoo baths cured jock itch within 2-4 weeks in over 64% of male patients.

Dilute tea tree oil in a carrier oil and apply to the groin area twice daily. Combine with anti-fungal powders to help clear jock itch infection (11, 12).


  1. Dandruff Treatment

The fungal species Malassezia is linked to dandruff flaking and itchy scalp. Adding tea tree oil to hair products may help reduce dandruff:

  • In one study, shampoo containing 5% tea tree oil was significantly more effective at improving dandruff severity and itch compared to placebo after 4 weeks.

  • Its antifungal and anti-inflammatory properties target dandruff while soothing scalp irritation.

Look for shampoos containing at least 5% tea tree oil or make your own by adding several drops to your usual shampoo. Massage into damp hair and rinse thoroughly (13).


  1. Ingrown Hairs

Tea tree oil combined with lavender oil may help soothe and reduce inflammation from ingrown hairs when applied in a diluted form:

  • One study found that a combined essential oil spray applied after hair removal reduced ingrown hair prevalence by over 20% compared to placebo.

  • The antimicrobial effects also prevent infection in the hair follicle, which can worsen swelling and irritation of ingrown hairs.

Mix 2-3 drops each of tea tree oil and lavender oil with a teaspoon of carrier oil or aloe vera gel. Apply to areas prone to ingrown hairs up to twice daily (14).


Conclusion
Thanks to its versatility, tea tree oil can be incorporated into skincare to harness anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial and antiviral benefits. It may help fight common skin ailments like acne, athlete’s foot and warts while providing relief for issues like dandruff or razor burn. However, always dilute tea tree oil first and exercise caution, especially with sensitive skin. Used properly, it is an excellent addition to natural skincare regimens.

References:

  1. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12452873/

  2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17266480/

  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1360273/

  4. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10651949/

  5. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10739267/

  6. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9796592/

  7. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15322564/

  8. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15691001/

  9. https://www.cochranelibrary.com/cdsr/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD004881.pub3/full

  10. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10739267/

  11. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10739267/

  12. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1046/j.1365-2133.2002.04690.x

  13. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12452873

  14. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23336746/

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