Tea tree oil is used on its own or mixed with other ingredients in so many effective home remedies it almost seems like a miracle treatment. It’s well-known for treating everything from athlete’s foot and acne to sinusitis, and a host of bacterial and viral infections, but few are aware of the wonders it can do for your hair.
If you aren’t familiar with tea tree oil, also known as melaleuca oil, this volatile essential oil comes from the leaves of the tea tree, technically the Australian native plant Melaleuca alternifolia and has been widely used throughout Australia for centuries. Aboriginal communities first utilized it as an antiseptic by crushing the leaves and applying them to burns, cuts, and infections. In the 1920s, its use became widespread outside of Australia after chemist Arthur Penfold published a series of papers on its antiseptic properties. Because of its potent anti-microbial compounds, you’ll often see it listed in the ingredients of many body products, including skin lotions and shampoos. In fact, the oil is becoming increasing popular for natural hair care, and can be used alone, or paired with other products.
If you doubt its effectiveness, these reasons are sure to get you using tea tree oil to enjoy more beautiful, lustrous, and even longer hair.
1. Tea Tree Oil for Longer, Thicker Hair
While tea tree oil doesn’t necessary speed up hair growth directly, it can actually encourage hair growth by helping to unclog hair follicles and nourish the roots. If you suffer from dandruff as well as hair loss, there’s a very good chance it will help, as dandruff can clog pores as well as incessant itching and inflammation that can cause hair to fall out.
A 2002 study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology found that when a group of male and female participants used a shampoo with a 5% concentration of tea tree oil over a four-week period, nearly half experienced a significant decline in dandruff. Just 11% of participants in another group treated with a placebo, reported improvement. While the research doesn’t prove that tea tree oil directly causes the hair to grow, it does offer evidence as to how it can help. Tea tree oil effectively moisturizes the hair so that the scalp is no longer dry and itchy, and it also helps to prevent dead skin cells from building up, as well as residues of other haircare products, leading the way to longer, more lustrous locks. At the same time, the tea tree oil can also control excess oil produced in the scalp that can block hair follicles, preventing hair growth.
There are a number of ways you can use tea tree oil for longer, thicker hair. One of the best is to use it as a massage oil on your scalp, though you’ll need to dilute it first in a carrier oil. Simply add a few drops to a carrier oil like almond, olive or coconut oil in its liquid form, and massage it into your scalp. Then wrap your hair up in a towel and allow it to sit for about 10 minutes to soak up the full benefits of the oils before rinsing it out. Start out by applying the treatment two to three times per week, and after experiencing desired results, continue it on a weekly basis.
For an extra-deep treatment, to be used no more often than once per week, use hot oils. A hot oil treatment is especially effective for treating both dandruff and hair loss. Follow the previous directions, blending a few drops of tea tree oil to a carrier oil like almond, jojoba, olive or coconut oil, and then warm it up on the stove. You want it to be warm, but not so hot that it could burn your scalp. When it’s at the right temperature, massage it into your scalp and then quickly wrap your hair in a towel to hold the heat in. Wait 30 minutes before rinsing it out. The heat helps to open up hair follicles, helping the oils to penetrate the scalp.
Yet another option is to make a tea tree oil spray that can be applied to your hair and left in. Just fill up a glass spray bottle with water, and add about 5 drops of tea tree oil per ounce. Spray it on in the morning and leave it on throughout the day to fight dandruff and encourage hair growth.
2. Tea Tree Oil for Battling Dandruff
As mentioned, tea tree oil is great for fighting dandruff, so even if you aren’t experiencing hair loss and/or seeking longer, thicker hair, if you have a problem with dandruff, it’s one of the best remedies out there, thanks to its antifungal and antibacterial properties. The oil fights the fungus that causes dandruff without drying out the scalp. It also serves as a natural conditioner and eliminates problems that lead the scalp to flake.
To use tea tree oil to treat dandruff, you can simply add it to your usual shampoo, using about 10 drops per eight ounces of shampoo. Wash your hair as normal, but allow the shampoo and tea tree oil blend to sit for five minutes before rinsing to allow the scalp to soak up the benefits.
For even quicker, more effective results, apply an overnight treatment by filling a small, empty bottle about three-quarters full with almond oil, coconut oil, olive oil or jojoba oil. Then add 15 drops of tea tree oil and mix well. Apply the concoction to your scalp by massaging it in for several minutes, ensuring the scalp is completely saturated. Place your hair in a shower cap, or another type of covering to avoid getting the oil on your pillowcase, and keep it on overnight. In the morning, wash your hair as you normally would with shampoo, and then apply conditioner.
3. Tea Tree Oil for Itchy scalp
Even if you don’t suffer from dandruff, you may suffer from an itchy scalp which can also be extremely irritating and lead to other problems like hair loss. An itchy scalp is typically caused by a fungus, bacteria or an allergic reaction, and tea tree oil has been proven to fight these problems. It can even address scalp eczema and scalp folliculitis.
There are multiple homemade recipes using tea tree oil to address the issue, so you may want to experiment, starting out with one in which you have all of the ingredients now.
Coconut and tea tree oil solution:
- Combine 10 drops of tea tree oil with one tablespoon of organic, unrefined coconut oil in a small bowl.
- Mix well until the coconut oil turns is completely liquid, and both the oils blended together.
- Apply the oil mixture into your scalp by massaging it in, concentrating on dry, itchy areas, while avoiding the hair and keeping it on the scalp as much as possible.
- Allow it to sit for at least 30 minutes, but ideally overnight.
- Rinse well and then shampoo as normal, following with a good conditioner.
- Repeat the process at least once per week.
Tea tree, peppermint, and olive oil solution:
This is an extra potent recipe for addressing an itchy scalp, so use it no more than once per week.
- Combine three drops of peppermint oil, three drops of tea tree oil and a tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil.
- Add the oils to a cup of very warm, but not scalding water. Mix well.
- Shampoo your hair as you normally would and rinse.
- Now massage the oil mixture into your scalp, allowing it to penetrate for several minutes before rinsing. Be sure to wash all of it out completely to avoid a greasy hair look.
- If you have a hard time getting all of the oil out, use a mild shampoo afterward to get it out completely.
After shower solution:
- Shampoo and condition your hair as you normally would. Afterward, towel dry and comb out your hair.
- Add about 10 drops of tea tree oil to the palm of your hand. Gently rub your hands together to disperse the oil.
- Massage the oil into your scalp, working it all the way to the ends of your hair. If your hair is especially long and thick, you may need a bit more oil. If it’s very short, cut back a bit.
- Leave the oil on and then dry and style your hair as usual.
4. Tea Tree Oil for Getting Rid of Head Lice
According to the world-renowned Mayo Clinic, more research is needed to learn how effective tea tree oil is for combating lice, however, there have been some studies that suggest it could be useful for treating this very annoying problem. One 2012 study in particular, published in Parasitology Research, found that tea tree oil may be able to kill lice in the nymph and adult stages of life, as well as reduce the number of lice eggs that hatch.
Research conducted in 2010 out of the University of Queensland in Australia and published
in BMC Dermatology, also discovered rather promising results. Experts treated children suffering from head lice with various treatments, including a tea tree and lavender oil treatment. Just one-quarter of those treated with a chemical anti-lice shampoo containing piperonyl butoxide and pyrethrins were free of lice afterward; however, nearly all of the kids treated with the tea tree oil solution were totally lice-free.
Of course, while more large-scale studies may be needed for scientific proof in order for experts to recommend it as a safe, effective lice treatment, those who’ve tried tea tree oil for eliminating lice seem to swear by it. That’s because tea tree oil contains two elements known for their insecticidal properties that help kill lice: 1,8-cineole and terpinen-4-ol. In addition, the oil helps to remove nits or lice eggs as it can dissolve the gummy texture that connects the nits to the hair shaft, making them easy to remove when combing the hair.
Follow these instructions to use tea tree oil to eliminate lice:
- Mix up a tea tree solution using a mild shampoo by adding 3 to 4 drops of tea tree oil and 3 to 4 drops of lavender essential oil to a small bowl.
- Add about 95 to 100 drops of mild shampoo, or about the amount of the size of a quarter; mix well.
- Add a few drops of extra-virgin olive oil which will aid in suffocating the lice. Mix well again, until all ingredients are blended thoroughly. Work the shampoo mixture into your hair, massaging it into the scalp area, where most of the lice and nits tend to be.
- Don’t rinse, but instead, cover the hair with a shower cap and allow the shampoo to remain for 30 minutes.
- After 30 minutes, work the shampoo/oil into a lather, working it through the scalp and hair with your fingers to eliminate as many lice as possible.
- Rinse well with warm water, ensuring that all shampoo and residue is gone.
- Apply a leave-in conditioner to make it easier to remove the lice when combing through the hair.
- Using a lice comb starting at the scalp, comb through the hair to remove all lice and nits. If it’s very long, you may need to divide the hair into sections, combing through each one at a time.
- Repeat this treatment daily for seven days to ensure all nits and lice have been removed.