Tea tree oil is derived from the leaves of the Melaleuca alternifolia tree, more commonly known as the Australian tea tree. It’s an essential oil with a long history of medicinal use, mostly due to its powerful antimicrobial properties. But do these properties translate into an effective scar treatment?
Scars are usually the result of an injury involving the deeper layers of your skin. Your body naturally repairs itself with thick connective tissue, often called scar tissue. Sometimes, your body makes too much scar tissue, resulting in a keloid or hypertrophic (raised) scar. Over time, scars begin to flatten and fade, but they may never completely go away.
Tea tree oil’s antibacterial properties can reduce your risk of developing an infection in an open wound, which can result in additional scarring.
Keep reading to learn more about what tea tree oil can and can’t do for scars.
There’s no evidence to support using tea tree oil on existing scars, whether they’re acne scars, keloids, or hypertrophic scars. In addition, scars are hard to remove, even with professional laser treatments.
However, if you tend to develop scars, tea tree oil may be able to reduce your risk of developing another one from a future injury. Tea tree oil has strong antimicrobial properties that can help fight bacterial infections.
Fresh wounds are particularly vulnerable to infection. If an infection occurs, the wound will likely take longer to heal, which can increase the risk of scarring. In addition, tea tree oil has anti-inflammatory properties that may help to reduce redness and swelling around wounds.
If you’ve never used tea tree oil, it’s best to start by doing a patch test. Put a few diluted drops on a small patch of skin. If your skin doesn’t show any signs of irritation after 24 hours, you can start using diluted tea tree oil elsewhere.
To disinfect a wound, place the affected area under running water for three to five minutes and gently wash with soap. Next, mix 1 teaspoon of tea tree oil into 1/2 cup of fresh water. Soak a cotton ball or paper towel in the solution and gently dab the wound. Repeat twice a day until the wound closes.
For added protection against scars, mix a few drops of tea tree oil with petroleum jelly. Petroleum jelly helps reduce the appearance of scars by keeping new wounds moist. Scabs develop when wounds dry out and can slow down the healing process, increasing your risk of developing a scar.
Some people experience a skin reaction when applying tea tree oil topically. If you experience itchy, red skin after using tea tree oil, stop using it. You may have an allergy or be extra sensitive to tea tree oil.
You should also never use undiluted tea tree essential oil directly on your skin. This can lead to irritation or a rash. Tea tree oil can be diluted in a carrier oil such as sweet almond oil or coconut oil. The usual recipe is 3 to 5 drops of tea tree oil in 1/2 to 1 ounce of carrier oil.
In addition, exposure to tea tree oil may be linked to a condition called prepubertal gynecomastia in young boys. Experts aren’t completely sure about the link. While more studies are needed to fully understand this risk and those yet to be discovered, it’s best to talk to your pediatrician first before using any essential oil on children.
Essential oils, including tea tree oil, aren’t regulated by any governing body, so it’s important to look for high-quality products you can trust.
When choosing tea tree essential oil, check for the following:
- The label includes the Latin name of the tea tree. Make sure you get a product with a label that mentions Melaleuca alternifolia.
- The product is organic or wild. While they can be harder to find, essential oils that are certified as organic or that come from wild-gathered plants are the purist option.
- It’s 100 percent tea tree oil. The only ingredient in an essential oil should be the oil itself.
- It’s steam-distilled. The oil extraction method is important. Tea tree oil should be steam-distilled from the leaves of Melaleuca alternifolia.
- It’s from Australia. The tea tree is native to Australia, which is now the major producer of quality tea tree oil.
Tea tree oil is a powerful natural remedy for many things, from skin infections to dandruff. However, it won’t help to remove scars. Instead, try applying diluted tea tree oil to fresh wounds to reduce your risk of infection and speed up the healing process, which may reduce your risk of scarring.