Ingredient Debrief: Five Facts About Tea Tree Oil

Of all the essential oils out there, I’m betting you’re most familiar with tea tree oil. A widely marketed and disseminated natural ingredient – I mean there’s a whole web page dedicated to tea tree oil shampoos on Walmart.com (!) – it’s a “key” component in both drugstore staples and high-end beauty counter splurges. Yet how much do you really know about tea tree oil?

S.W. Basics DIY Skincare Essential – Tea Tree Oil

Personally, my tea tree oil knowledge was limited, with my most memorable encounter occurring at the Origins store in the mall in, like, 2002. I had walked into the store solely to purchase a gum ball from the Origins gum ball machine, encountered a pushy salesperson, and left with a tea tree oil-based face wash. My story ends there, because I can’t for the life of me remember if I used it or if it was any good (it probably wasn’t), but I have since associated tea tree oil with gum ball machines and a suburban New Jersey mall. Weird, right?

With the launch of our DIY Skincare Essentials Tea Tree Oil I have had the opportunity to learn a bit more about high quality tea tree oil and am happy to report it’s an amazing, genuinely effective ingredient for skincare and beyond. With that said, I’m sharing some things I’ve learned along the way, all of which do not involve malls or gum. Hopefully, they’ll help turn this “familiar” ingredient into one you truly understand – and are psyched to use, too.

Tea tree oil comes from Australia, and Australia only.

Here’s a first fun fact for you: Tea tree oil comes from Melaleuca alternifolia, a plant indigenous to Australia – and, basically, Australia only. With that noted, the first step for identifying and selecting a quality tea tree oil is to ensure that it is sourced from Australia, as synthetic or fraudulent versions are often processed in India or China. We source ours from a small, organic farm in Australia, if you’re wondering…

Tea tree oil is more powerful of an antiseptic than carbolic acid. 

I was blown away when I learned this about this discovery made in 1923 by Dr. A.R. Penfold. Through research he was able to establish that tree oil was twelve times more effective at healing infections than carbolic acid, a popular conventional antiseptic. Today there are countless studies highlighting the antiseptic, antimicrobial, and antibacterial properties of tea tree oil – I highly encourage those skeptics out there to check them out.

Tea tree oil is as effective as benzoyl peroxide in treating acne. 

This study put benzoyl peroxide – the key ingredient in many over-the-counter acne treatments – head-to-head with tea tree oil. The results were beyond encouraging: Not only was tea tree oil as effective as this synthetic ingredient, users reported less negative side effects. For anyone that has experienced hellish irritation via synthetic acne treatments, this is great news.

Tea tree oil can be used to treat funguses and warts. 

Equally cool and gross, right? Studies like this one have proven that tea tree oil is just as effective as a synthetic drug in treating toe jam (tee hee), while a 2008 study in the medical journal Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice revealed that TTO could be used to eliminate warts. Eureka! I love natural treatments for natural disgustingness.

Tea tree oil can ward off lice, fleas, and ticks (and more).

Tea tree oil is naturally anti-parasitic, meaning it can ward off pesks such as ticks, fleas, and lice, plus prevent them from growing, too. Given many pest repellents are highly toxic, this is great news – particularly because lice and fleas tend to flourish on two of life’s most precious ‘lil treasures: kiddies and doggies.

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