Overview

Plant extracts have been used by civilizations for thousands of years for their health benefits. They often serve as an alternative to Western medicine.

Tea tree oil is no exception. Derived from the leaves of the Melaleuca alternifolia plant, this oil can help with skin infections, acne, athlete’s foot, and other inflammatory ailments. It’s also known to help clean the hair, keep it strong, and reduce dandruff.

With such valuable therapeutic properties, tea tree oil may be the answer to your hair issues. These days, tea tree oil is luckily found in common everyday products like shampoo.

What are the benefits of using tea tree oil on your hair?

Tea tree oil can help with various ailments, such as dandruff and hair loss.

With all the severe chemicals found in hair products today, you could be stripping your hair follicle of much-needed nutrients. If you use a lot of products or dye your hair often, you can put your hair at risk of breaking off or falling out.

Using small amounts of diluted tea tree oil down the shaft of the hair will help prevent buildup of chemicals and dead skin. This keeps your hair healthy and moisturized, which can help it grow at its normal rate and prevent it from falling out.

Dandruff is caused by an accumulation of scaly, dry skin on your scalp. If left untreated, the dead skin buildup could ultimately hinder hair growth. A shampoo containing tea tree oil can provide both antifungal and antibacterial benefits. This means it will get rid of what’s causing the dead skin on your scalp.

Note that if you have an autoimmune condition, are going through chemotherapy, have a genetic disposition to losing hair, or have hair loss associated with aging, tea tree oil likely won’t help with your hair loss.

What the research says

There’s research out there that supports using tea tree oil for hair benefits. The research focuses on helping your hair and scalp, but also on getting rid of unwanted hair. However, the research doesn’t show that tea tree helps hair grow more quickly. Rather, the oil may help with various hair conditions, which in turn allows hair to grow properly and stay healthy.

Hirsutism is the presence of hair in areas of the body that are typically only found in men, such as the chest, face, and back. It’s a result of an excess of male hormones. In a study published in the Journal of Endocrinological Investigation, women affected by hirsutism were given lavender and tea tree oil spray twice per day for three months on affected areas. At the end of the study, they had a decrease in hair diameter. Researchers concluded that the oils could be effective in reducing hirsutism.

From the Journal of American Academy of Dermatology, researchers investigated the effectiveness of using a shampoo containing 5 percent tea tree oil on 126 participants. The study ran for four weeks. Results showed that even 5 percent of tea tree oil in the product caused a 41 percent improvement in dandruff. The participants also said the shampoo improved the itchiness and greasiness of their scalp, and they had no adverse effects.

How to use tea tree oil on your hair

To help with dandruff, apply a shampoo with 5 percent tea tree oil to your scalp. Lather for 3 minutes daily for 4 weeks.

For healthy hair, dilute tea tree oil with a 1 to 10 ratio of tea tree oil to almond oil or another similar oil. Use the mixture every day to get the best results.

Risks and warnings

Although tea tree oil provides benefits, there are a few precautions to consider.

For example, do not ingest the oil. Doing so can cause a loss of muscle control and balance, and it can even put you in a coma. This oil is meant for topical use only. Along those lines, keep it out of reach of children.

Always look for fresh tea tree oil if you plan to rub it on your hair. It’s less likely to cause allergies than oxidized tea tree oil. Tea tree oil contains 1,8-cineole, which is known to irritate some people’s skin. It’s best to test any product with tea tree oil on the lower inside of your arm first. Wait 12 to 24 hours to see if you have a reaction. If it burns or causes a rash or redness, avoid using the product.

If you’re allergic to Balsam of Peru, benzoin, colophony tinctures, eucalyptol, or plants from the myrtle family, you have a greater probability of also being allergic to tea tree oil. It’s best to avoid it.

Side effects include depression, diarrhea, drowsiness, fatigue, muscle tremors, itching, and rashes.

Pregnant and breastfeeding woman should use tea tree oil with caution. If you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, talk to your doctor before trying tea tree oil on your hair.

The bottom line

Tea tree oil can be an effective way to help with dandruff and get healthy hair. Look for it in the ingredient list of your shampoo. You should always test it on your skin before use, as it can be mildly irritating to some people.

If you experience a strong allergic reaction, seek medical attention immediately.

If you don’t have any reactions, start applying a tea tree shampoo or mixture to your hair every day. Shampoos contain a mild dose of the oil and are less likely to trigger any allergies.