Essential oils have become a popular component of consumers’ bathroom cabinets, as health crises have become epidemic and ingredient awareness indispensable. Essential oils, which are generally distilled from plants, are commonly viewed as safe and effective alternatives to conventional formulations–for everything from stress relief to infections.
Tea tree oil, in particular, has been linked to dozens of effective uses (some substantiated by science and others not). For retailers who thrive on staying well informed for their customers, here are the particulars of tea tree oil that you should know about.
WHAT IT IS
The tea tree, also known as Melaleuca alternifolia, is a small evergreen native to Australia. The oil is produced by steam distillation of the shrub’s leaves and branches. It’s composed of more than one dozen elements that account for its capacity and acclaim. Here are a few of its impressive properties:
- ✔ Anti-inflammatory (inflammation reduction)
- ✔ Antiseptic (inhibits disease proliferation)
- ✔ Antiviral (works against viruses)
- ✔ Antibacterial (impedes bacteria)
- ✔ Antioxidant (inhibits oxidation)
- ✔ Antifungal (works against fungi)
As such, the noncomedogenic essential oil has been deemed well suited for beauty and grooming purposes. In a report by the International Journal of Current Research titled “A Study of the Antimicrobial Activity of Tea Tree Oil,” its writers conclude that tea tree oil “is a safe, natural and effective antiseptic.” The study also attributes tea tree’s popularity, efficacy and incorporation into cosmetics and pharmaceutical products “as the principal antimicrobial or as a natural preservative” used for topical application.
Studies have shown the use of 5 percent tea tree oil to be effective in addressing acne. Researchers found it to “significantly ameliorate acne lesions by decreasing inflammatory and noninflammatory elements (open and closed comedones),” as cited in a report by the International Journal of Dermatology. They observed that the results occurred more slowly than with the use of 5 percent benzoyl peroxide in acne treatment, but that it resulted in fewer side effects and provided marked improvement of the lesions after three months. It should also be observed that tea tree oil’s efficacy is notable in mild and moderate cases of acne.
The report also referenced a separate finding: A concoction of tea tree oil combined with lavender oil–and tested on heads with live head lice–was so effective that it could be used in place of pyrethrin-based products (insecticides used to treat head lice).
Tea tree oil’s effectiveness extends well beyond acne and head lice. In the beauty and grooming categories alone, it’s known to address dry skin, eczema, psoriasis, itching, irritation and oily skin. It can handle foot odor and toenail fungus. It can help remedy dandruff and contribute
to a healthy scalp, subsequently aiding in hair growth. It also helps
heal wounds and aids cold sores. As a result, it can be found in a wide assortment of beauty and grooming products. In skin care alone, tea tree oil is used in toners, cleansers, moisturizers, makeup removers, creams and masks. Beyond skin care, it’s formulated into oral hygiene products as well as nail, hair and body care items, including deodorant, sunscreen and mouthwash.
As with any miracle ingredient, cautions apply. Retailers should make sure that their customers understand that tea tree oil can be toxic when ingested, particularly in high doses. It can also have adverse effects as a topical treatment if too much is used or if it produces an allergic reaction. As a result, it’s wise to advise customers to dilute pure tea tree oil by adding it to the other products in their regimen, such as a face cream or shampoo. Or, advise customers to dilute it with a carrier oil, such as almond or coconut oil. Otherwise, steering customers to tea tree oil-based products may be best, as they’ve already been formulated to incorporate a safe amount of the ingredient. With such a wide range of uses, this is one hair and skincare staple that will stand the test of time.