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The benefits of using tea tree oil could include improving acne, athlete's foot, and more skincare concerns. Here, dermatologist-approved products that contain the natural ingredient.

By Cassie Shortsleeve
October 03, 2018

Essential oils—oils extracted from plants for healing and medicinal use—are *everywhere* right now. But while you’ve likely heard of lavender and mint, tea tree oil, derived from distilling tea leaves from an Australian tree, Melaleuca alternofolia, is another worth knowing about.

Tea tree oil for nearly 100 years in Australia and is touted for its antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, and antimicrobial properties. Today, it’s often for issues such as acne, athlete’s foot, nail fungus, cuts, and insect bites.

“[Tea tree oil] is also particularly notable in dermatology, since it is found in soaps, skincare products, shampoos, and acne-fighting toners,” says Melissa Kanchanapoomi Levin, MD, founder of and clinical instructor at NYU Langone, explaining that the ingredient has shown antimicrobial activity "by disrupting bacterial membranes, as well as antimicrobial activity against a type of Staphylococcus called methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus."

What's more, Dr. Kanchanapoomi Levin says that the ingredient has also demonstrated acne-fighting properties. "It is a great natural anti-inflammatory and antibacterial agent that can minimize the bacteria that causes acne," she says.

Of course, while people use tea tree oil for a slew of different reasons (and it’s in plenty of skincare products), its effectiveness for any skin condition is not proven, notes Lauren Eckert Ploch, MD, a dermatologist based in Augusta, Georgia. This is the case with most natural remedies, she adds.

One other word of caution: Pure tea tree oil can be irritating to the skin and needs to be diluted, says Dr. Kanchanapoomi Levin. To be safe, she recommends buying tea tree oil already in a dilution rather than mixing it yourself.

If you have sensitive skin or are eczema-prone, she also suggests testing a small area (like the skin on your wrist) before applying it somewhere else like your face. She also doesn’t recommend tea tree oil if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding.

That said, if you’re looking to give the natural remedy a try, consider the below dermatologist-approved products that contain tea tree oil.

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