From beauty products to natural cleansers, tea tree oil is definitely having a moment. But beyond its current trend status, this essential oil has been used for centuries by indigenous groups in Australia to promote targeted healing. Tea tree oil is derived from the leaves of the Melaleuca alternifolia plant, a small tree native to southeastern Australia, but it’s since become popular all over the world. Whether you’re looking to resolve a specific wellness issue or simply boost your natural beauty arsenal, here are 15 of the best uses for tea tree oil. Read on to learn some genius everyday uses. We spoke to board-certified dermatologists Kristina Goldenberg and Gary Goldenberg of Goldenberg Dermatology in NYC, and Marisa K. Garshick of MDCS in Manhattan for their expert opinion on this essential oil.
There’s a good reason that tea tree oil has been showing up more and more in our favorite shampoos. A natural cleanser, tea tree oil supports hair health without the use of chemicals, making it an ideal ingredient for restoring hair to its natural beauty and shine.
In addition to promoting hair health, tea tree oil can also keep your scalp healthy as it helps to reduce itchiness and flakiness and fights the buildup of residue on the surface of the scalp. Gary Goldenberg elaborates, "It helps eliminate the accumulation of dead skin layers and scale. It also has strong antimicrobial properties making it an effective agent for fungal infections of the scalp."
Patients who struggle with dandruff may find a lot of relief using tea tree oil. Gary Goldenberg recommends OGX Hydrating TeaTree Mint Shampoo and Conditioner ($6).
While there’s no substitute for allergy medication if you’re dealing with a serious aversion, tea tree oil can help to combat the redness and itchiness that often accompanies an allergic reaction. "Tea tree oil is thought to help reduce inflammation by reducing certain markers of inflammation including interleukin 1,8 and 10," says Garshick.
All-Natural Hand Cleanser
Many hand cleansers and sanitizers rely on alcohol and chemical ingredients, but tea tree oil’s power comes from its natural antibacterial properties. Keep an ounce or two on hand for germ-related incidents. Keep in mind though, "It is best to follow guidelines when using hand sanitizer," Garshick warns, "as the CDC recommends an alcohol-based sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol for most effect."
Sometimes you have to fight fire with fire, and sometimes you have to fight oil with oil. Tea tree oil helps to keep naturally occurring skin oils in check, which, together with tea tree oil’s antiseptic qualities, can help to reduce acne breakouts. "However, it’s important to remember that facial skin is sensitive and this ingredient can cause an allergic reaction causing dryness redness, and scaliness in the skin," Gary Goldenberg warns, "I always recommend first trying a test area to make sure there is no reaction before applying it to the rest of the face.
Since tea tree oil is outstanding at killing bacteria, one of the best uses for tea tree oil is as a natural mouthwash. Mix a tiny amount (a drop or two will do) with warm water and swish for about 30 seconds once or twice daily.
Clean Your Toothbrush and Retainer
Take it one step further by also using this miracle oil to disinfect your toothbrush and retainers. Due to tea tree oil's ability to kill bacteria, it is a great natural way to keep these products clean and bacteria-free. Mix five to 10 drops of the oil in with water and soak your oral products for a few hours to fully clean.
One of the lesser-known uses for tea tree oil is as an insect repellent. Tea tree oil can be rubbed directly on the skin or mixed with water and applied as a spray. We really like this natural alternative from Beekman 1802 because it has a blend of multiple essential oils and it smells amazing!
As cold and flu season persists, it’s the perfect time to put your essential oils to work. Enjoy the air-purifying benefits (and calming scent) of tea tree oil by combining it with lavender and adding it to a vaporizer or diffuser. This diffuser from Serene House is the perfect size for any bedroom or living room.
All-Purpose (and All-Natural) Cleaner
As with other natural remedies derived from tea tree oil, a successful all-purpose cleaner can be made with a very small amount of the substance and is one of the best uses for tea tree oil. Mix 15 to 20 drops of tea tree oil with a half cup each of warm water and vinegar, spray a surface, and wipe clean.
Soothes Insect Bites
Tea tree oil soothes itching and helps with inflammation, making it the perfect holistic way to treat insect bites. From itchy mosquito bites and beyond, dilute a bit of the oil in some water and apply using a q-tip to the affected area. "When using for open wounds (and bites), it can be applied directly, though maybe diluted down so that it won't cause additional irritation," says Garshick.
Treat Cuts and Scrapes
Because of its capacity to fight fungus and bacteria, tea tree oil is an ideal choice for treating minor scrapes and wounds. Apply directly to clean skin two to three times daily to speed the healing process.
K. Goldenberg states, "Tea tree oil is great for cuts and scrapes for two reasons. Firstly, it has antimicrobial properties that help prevent infections of open wounds. Secondly, tea tree oil has anti-inflammatory properties that can help the wound heal faster. It helps reduce redness and swelling. Small amounts of oil can be applied directly on the skin."
"Remember to not use Tea tree oil instead of conventional therapies but in addition to since there is not enough evidence to show that tea tree oil is as effective as medical therapies. It has been shown to accelerate healing though," Kristina Goldenberg warns.
Tea tree oil is anti-fungal, meaning it kills bacteria. Try it for treating athlete's foot and other common fungal infections. "It can also be used in topical forms to treat yeast and fungal infections as it is thought to have activity against Candida albicans and has been used in the treatment of other yeast and fungal related conditions," says Garshick. Add about 20-30 drops into a bath or basin and soak the infected area for 20-30 minutes. Repeat as often as necessary.
The common cold has nothing on tea tree oil. Due to its ability to calm inflammation, it's a great way to clear congestion such as a runny or stuffy nose. Apply a few drops into your diffuser or add to a warm bath and relax with some deep breathes.
Make Your Own Deodorant
The combination of sweat and bacteria is what makes our armpits, well, smell. Dilute a few drops of tea tree oil in some water and apply to underarms as a great natural deodorant. The oil is anti-fungal and anti-bacterial to keep you smelling fresh all day long, naturally. "However, it can cause irritation since the skin of the underarms is very sensitive," says Kristina Goldenberg. "I recommend moisturizing the area with a gentle moisturizing cream (not lotion) multiple times a day to prevent irritation."