Tea tree oil, otherwise known as melaleuca oil, is an essential oil distilled from an Australian plant called Melaleuca alternifolia, says Gretchen Frieling, MD, a triple board-certified dermatopathologist in Boston. It's a popular essential oil, particularly for its many purported skin benefits. It's also a relatively inexpensive product, with the cheapest bottles around $5.
But does it really work? Tea tree oil is an organic, healthy, and harmless ingredient that helps to keep the hair, skin, and nails healthy, says Frieling. How? The oil is proven to have anti-inflammatory, antiviral, antifungal, and antibacterial properties.
It’s important to note, though, that tea tree oil should not be applied directly to the skin, explains Frieling. Doing so can cause inflammation, irritation, and burning, adds celebrity facialist Candace Marino.
Before using, dilute it with other lotions or oils, which are typically called carrier oils, like olive oil, coconut oil, almond oil, moisturizer, and sunscreen. A good rule of thumb is 12 drops of carrier oil for every one to two drops of tea tree oil, Frieling recommends.
Want to experiment with this coveted essential oil? Here are a dozen proven benefits:
1. Reduces Acne
Tea tree oil contains anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties that help reduce acne and soothe irritated skin, says Melissa Quinones, an esthetician at Eternal Hair and Esthetics. It's noncomedogenic, too, meaning it's unlikely to clog your pores and cause additional problems.
2. Prevents Infection in Minor Cuts and Abrasions
Use tea tree oil as an antiseptic to help prevent minor cuts and abrasions from becoming infected, says Frieling.
3. Speeds Healing Time of Small Wounds
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It may also shorten the duration of healing time, thanks to the proven boost in white-blood-cell activity.
4. Treats Nail Fungus
There is some evidence that the topical use of tea tree oil helps get rid of nail fungus. Participants in the study were tasked with applying the oil twice daily for six months, and researchers found that the topical therapy provided "improvement in nail appearance and symptomatology."
This article was originally published at an earlier date and has since been updated.
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