By Maui V. Reyes for Yahoo! Southeast Asia
Chances are, you've seen "tea tree oil" or "tea tree extract" as a main ingredient in many skin and beauty products. You might even own a few of them. But did you ever wonder where it came from, and how your skin and hair could benefit from it?
Tea tree oil is a natural antibacterial disinfectant, something that aborigine tribes have known for thousands of years. The indigenous Bundjalung people of Eastern Australia have been using the leaves of "tea trees" (also known as melaleuca) to treat colds. It was in the 1920s when researcher Arthur Penfold reported on its antimicrobial activity that people (including pharmaceutical companies!) took notice of this wonder tree.
So how exactly does tea tree help you get beautiful skin and hair? Read on to find out:
1. Treat acne. Experiencing a zit attack? Tea tree-infused acne meds can help tame acne flare-ups! In fact, a study published by the Medical Journal of Australia in 1990 states that a solution of 5% tea tree oil is just as effective as 5% benzoyl peroxide. Which explains why some dermatologists aren't shy about recommending the use of tea tree oil paired with glycolic acid to treat pimples.
2. Cure scalp conditions. From mild scalp irritation to a baby's cradle cap, tea tree's bacteria-fighting properties can help remedy your scalp problems. Tea tree-infused shampoos usually contain about 2 to 5% concentration of the oil (any more than that and it will be too strong) to rid the scalp of fungus and bacteria. It can also help unblock hair follicles to prevent even more bacteria build-up, all the while moisturizing the scalp.
3. Keep bugs away. If it can kill bacteria and viruses, it can most definitely act as an insect deterrent. Keep mosquitoes, fleas, lice, and flies away by rubbing a bit of tea tree oil mixed with a carrier oil, like mineral or sunflower oil (read the label—too much tea tree oil might be too strong for the skin!). Bonus: it can kill hookworms as well, which can penetrate through the skin.
4. Keep wounds clean. With all its microbe and bacteria-fighting powers, it's no wonder aborigine tribes also used tea tree to treat cuts and open wounds. Some have applied it directly on open wounds, boils, sores, cuts, and insect stings.
5. Helps calm eczema and dermatitis. Eczema is a skin condition, which may include dryness and skin rashes. Oftentimes, the skin gets itchy, starts to crust, then blister or crack. While corticosteroids are usually prescribed to treat this condition, some swear by the wonders of tea tree oil to help clear up their skin. If you'd like to try exploring tea tree in clearing up your skin, get a go signal from your doctor to try this tea tree bath: add 10 drops of tea tree essential oil and one tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil to a warm bath. Soak the affected area for about 20 minutes, giving the oils time to work its antiseptic magic on your skin.