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This essential oil comes from the leaves of a species of tree calledMelaleuca alternifolia, which grows in Australia.
In this article, we cover the uses, benefits, and risks of tea tree oil for skin.
Using tea tree oil for the skin may help with a variety of conditions. We cover some of these in the sections below.
Uses for tea tree oil include treating ance, oily skin, and itching.
Due to its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, tea tree oil may help treat acne.
The results of one study, which involved 14 participants with acne, support the use of tea tree oil for treating acne. The participants applied the oil to their face twice per day for 12 weeks. The researchers measured the efficacy of the tea tree oil based on any decreases in acne lesions.
There were 23.7 acne lesions across the 14 participants at the start of the study. By the end of the 12 weeks, the total number of lesions for the group had dropped to 10.7.
The researchers also found that the participants tolerated the tea tree oil well. Although mild peeling and dryness occurred, no serious adverse effects developed.
Therefore, the results indicated that tea tree oil may help treat mild or moderate acne.
Tea tree oil may also benefit oily skin. One study evaluated the use of sunscreen containing tea tree oil to determine whether or not it reduced oily skin in study participants.
For 30 days, the participants applied sunscreen containing tea tree oil to their skin. After 30 days, at least 1 out of 2 areas of the face showed a reduction in oiliness and a decrease in pore size.
Applying tea tree essential oil to the skin may help relieve dryness. Although studies on tea tree oil and skin dryness are lacking, decreasing inflammation may reduce dryness that typically occurs with irritation.
As a result of its anti-inflammatory effects, tea tree oil may also help reduce itchy skin.
One study inThe Archives of Dermatological Researchcompared the use of zinc oxide and clobetasone butyrate with that of tea tree oil in people with dermatitis.
The results revealed that tea tree oil was better at decreasing allergic dermatitis than the other topical agents.
Due to its antibacterial properties, tea tree oil may help speed up wound healing. However, studies in this area are lacking.
One small study, with four participants, compared healing times when using tea tree oil for wounds infected with Staphylococcus aureus. The researchers compared healing time using conventional treatment alone and conventional treatment plus the fumes from tea tree oil.
The results indicated that 3 of the 4 participants had decreased healing time in the wounds they treated using tea tree oil.
Tea tree oil contains terpenoids, which may have some benefits for the skin. Although research is not extensive, tea tree oil for the skin may have the following benefits:
How to use and safety
Never take tea tree oil orally, as ingesting it can result in serious health issues. Only ever apply it to the skin.
Tea tree oil is an ingredient in many products, including ointments, mouthwashes, lotions, and skin care creams. It is also available as pure essential oil. Most commonly, it is available in a 5% concentration, but higher concentrations are also available.
Apply tea tree oil to the skin after diluting it with a carrier oil or moisturizer. Diluting tea tree oil decreases the risk of skin irritation. It is also important to avoid applying the oil too close to the eyes, as exposure to the eyes may cause irritation and redness.
To use tea tree oil on the skin, mix a few drops with a carrier oil, and put it on the skin with a cotton ball. Another option is to place a few drops of tea tree essential oil in a warm bath. Apply products that contain tea tree oil, such as lotions, as the manufacturer directs.
Tea tree oil is available to purchase online, along with carrier oils.
Side effects and risks
Possible side effects from tea tree oil include skin irritation, dryness, and itching.
According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, most people can tolerate products containing tea tree oil. However, side effects are possible.
Side effects are more likely to occur when using the oil in higher concentrations. They include:
- skin irritation
As with any product, an allergic reaction is also possible. Before using tea tree oil on the skin, it is best to do a patch test to make sure that it will not cause irritation.
Always consider the risks when using essential oils, as some are harmful to children, pregnant women, and pets.
For example, one study in theNew England Journal of Medicineconcerns the link between tea tree oil use and gynecomastia in prepubescent boys.
The study includes a case review involving three boys — ages 4, 7, and 10 — who had normal hormone levels but unexplained breast development.
The boys were using products containing tea tree or lavender oil. After discontinuing use of the products, gynecomastia resolved in all three boys. However, this finding alone cannot confirm an association between tea tree oil and gynecomastia.
Using tea tree oil for the skin can offer several benefits. For example, it may help treat certain skin conditions, including acne, itching, and oily skin. It may also promote wound healing.
Although most people tolerate tea tree oil well at low concentrations, it can also lead to side effects, including skin irritation.
If signs of an allergic reaction develop, such as a rash or itching, discontinue use immediately.
People with preexisting skin conditions and woman who are pregnant or breastfeeding should talk with their healthcare provider before using tea tree oil.