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Tea tree oil: what is it, what are the benefits and how does it help clear up acne?

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A consultant dermatologist explains everything you need to know about the anti-inflammatory ingredient, including how to use it.

When it comes to selecting the correct skincare for you, it can be a bit of a minefield. There seems to be an endless list of ingredients that can aid your complexion, depending on your skin type. So much so, we created an entire A-Z about them all.

One ingredient that comes up fairly often is tea tree oil, a natural substance with the ability to treat blemishes. Sure, it may not be the newest, most cutting-edge extract out there, but thanks to a raft of new launches (namely, Dr.Jart+’s brand new Teatreement collection), tea tree oil is having a real moment in the skincare spotlight once more. 

The problem is, tea tree oil isn’t as foolproof as you might think. In fact, it can actually leave skin irritated if it’s used incorrectly. Here, Dr Shaaira Nasir, consultant dermatologist at sk:n, breaks down everything you need to know about the anti-inflammatory ingredient…

What is tea tree oil?

“Tea tree oil is an essential oil also known as melaleuca. It is distilled from the levels of the Melaleuca Alternifolia plant that is found in Australia. It is used in a number of different products such as shampoos, skin cleansers, shaving lotions, wet wipes, soaps, creams and antifungal lotion.”

What are the key benefits of tea tree oil?

“Tea tree oil has anti-inflammatory and anti-septic properties. It has been shown to help conditions such as acne as well as dandruff, athletes foot and fungal nail infections.”

What skin type is best suited to tea tree oil?

“Tea tree oil is suited to all skin types. However, it is always recommended to patch test your skin with the product first to see if you will react to it just like any other essential oil or skincare product that is new to you.

“Tea tree oil is also known to cause a contact allergic dermatitis in some people which is why you should be sure to test patch it first, especially those with a history of eczema and dry, sensitive skin.”

Can tea tree oil irritate the skin?

“If applied in high concentrations it can certainly irritate the skin and therefore, it should be diluted properly. Symptoms that can show that your skin is irritated can include dry, red and scaly skin.”

What is the best way to use tea tree oil?

“When you buy tea tree oil it is important to make sure you are getting 100% natural oil without any additives. This should then not be applied directly on to the skin but instead diluted with a carrier oil, some coconut oil or with a moisturiser. Many products will have tea tree oil already blended within it, so you get the right consistency, and it is a safer way of incorporating the ingredient into your skincare routine.”

Where should tea tree oil fit into your skincare routine?

“For those with oily or acne-prone skin, tea tree oil is present in facial washes, toners or spot treatments to help with inflammation as it is anti-bacterial. It can also be found in anti-dandruff shampoos to help with flaky, itching and inflamed scalps.”

Best tea tree oil products, picked by the Stylist beauty team

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