In my quest to find the best eco-friendly and all natural skincare treatments, I've come across an ointment that appears to do it all: Tea Tree Oil.
It's an essential oil that's produced by distilling the leaves of the Melaleuca alternifolia-a native Australian plant whose leaves were traditionally used as a substitute for tea (that's how tea tree oil gets its name).
But it didn't take very long for aboriginals to discover the many benefits that tea tree leaves have on the skin. Australians were the first people to press crushed tea tree leaves onto the skin to help heal their cuts, burns and infections. Talk about good instincts! Of course, today we have science to reaffirm those initial instincts-to teach us why Tea Tree Oil promotes a faster healing of the skin.
Basically, tea tree leaves comprise of terpenoids- natural lipids known for their antiseptic and antifungal abilities. The organic compound terpinen-4-ol, the most abundant terpenoid, is believed to be the main reason for Tea Tree Oil's antimicrobial properties. Its unique chemical composition is responsible for an impressively long list of skin conditions that Tea Tree Oil's treats:
1. As an antiseptic that fights germs, it's used on cuts and burns.
2. As an anti-fungal and anti-bacterial agent, it helps heal Athlete's Foot, eczema, yeast infections, and many other types of bacterial and fungal skin infections.
3. Studies have even proven it to work effectively at reducing acne. Though most scientific data points to benzoyl peroxide as a more successful acne treatment, Tea Tree Oil has been shown to produce fewer side effects. In a 1990 study published in the Medical Journal of Australia, 79% of people who used benzoyl peroxide experienced adverse reactions (e.g. itching, burning, stinging, and dryness), compared to only 44% of those using Tea Tree Oil.
4. Tea Tree Oil even works on insect bites, razor burn, lice, and dandruff.
So how do you use it? Simple. Just apply it directly onto the affected area of skin, a couple times a day. Tea Tree Oil can either be diluted with water or used in full strength. Many OTC creams & lotions contain it as an active ingredient, but most organic health stores also sell the oil in its pure form.