As you create your natural hair regimen, if you’re looking for a holy grail natural hair product, you might consider the many hair care benefits attributed to tea tree oil.
We’ve seen women use tea tree oil for hair growth, dandruff, thinning (i.e., hair loss), scalp maintenance and other beauty related uses, like skin care.
As a result, tea tree oil is one of the most popular essential oils in the natural hair community.
However, if you’re a frequent reader of the Curl Centric blog you know that we do our best to substantiate hair care benefits, so you can make an informed decision on whether to use tea tree oil within your natural hair regimen.
So, without further ado let’s get started.
Tea tree oil has been used by Aboriginal Australians for hundreds of years. Aborigines depended on tea tree oil as a powerful antiseptic. They would crush the leaves and apply the paste to wounds to quickly cure infections.
It wasn’t until the 1920s that the potency of tea tree oil started to gain notoriety outside of Australia. We can thank the chemist, Arthur de Ramon Penfold, for his role in researching and publishing information on tea tree oil as an antiseptic and spreading his findings to the world.
Although methods for extracting the oil have varied in the past, today the commercial oil is extracted using steam distillation on the leaves and twigs of the narrow-leaved tea tree.
With time tea tree oil has become even more diverse than its Australian origins. Health and beauty product lines will include tea tree oil in products meant to cure athlete’s foot, get rid of acne, cure sinusitis, and various viral and bacterial infections.
How to Use Tea Tree Oil for Hair Care
The oil also goes by the name of melaleuca oil due to its source: the leaves of the Melaleuca alternifolia shrub. This plant’s common name is the narrow-leaved tea tree and is native to New South Wales, Australia.
It has proven effective in treating a range of complaints due to its anti-infective, antiviral, antibacterial, and anti-fungal properties.
In addition to providing numerous benefits for the hair and skin, the oil is also used to soothe the symptoms of conditions such as bronchitis (as a natural home remedy).
You might ask is tea tree oil actually good for hair care; there are a number of scientific studies that provide reasonable evidence that the oil can be used as a legitimate hair treatment. So, let’s discuss some of the most common uses.
Using Tea Tree Oil for Dandruff
One of the most misdiagnosed hair and scalp conditions is dandruff. Actually, dandruff impacts most people at some point during their curly hair journey.
The good news is that dandruff isn’t contagious. It’s a common scalp condition (i.e., “reaction”) causing the skin on your scalp to flake away.
We’ve written extensively about the causes of dandruff, although the causes (based on existing research) indicate that the causes are associated with individual susceptibility, sebum, and fungus.
As it relates to individual susceptibility, experts have not been able to pin down why dandruff seems to plague some curly girls more than others.
Some researches have drawn a link between Malassezia, a fungus your scalp naturally produces, and dandruff. They predict that your scalp could be producing dandruff because it becomes too sensitive and irritated by Malassezia.
While we don’t have any studies directly pointing to Malassezia, we do have research that directly links tea tree oil to a reduction of dandruff over time.
The Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology published a study in 2002 following 126 men and women who suffer from dandruff. Instead of using pure, undiluted tea tree oil, they had the research subjects use a shampoo with 5% tea tree oil daily for 4 weeks.
Almost half of the participants reported a 41% reduction in dandruff. Researchers concluded that a 5% application of tea tree oil appears to be an effective treatment for dandruff without any known side-effects (i.e., it’s well tolerated by humans).
Ultimately because of the anti-fungal and antibacterial properties of the oil, it is an effective method of treating scalp conditions such as dandruff.
These properties allow the oil to fight the presence of bacteria and other agents that can cause skin cells to be generated overly fast (leading to dandruff), therefore eliminating current problems and preventing them from returning in the future.
You can incorporate tea tree oil into your hair regimen to treat dandruff by following the same basic plan the research participants used for four weeks.
The easiest method (in my opinion) is to purchase a shampoo that already has about 5% of infused tea tree oil.
You can also add a few drops of pure tea tree oil to your favorite shampoo and wash your curls just like you would during your normal wash day routine.
However, instead of applying the shampoo and washing it out immediately, massage the infused shampoo on your scalp for several minutes, like a regular scalp massage.
Does Tea Tree Oil Grow Your Hair?
We’re commonly asked if tea tree oil can be used for hair growth. Tea tree oil is one of the many essential oils that have been linked to promoting hair growth because it is thought to stimulate the hair follicles.
Currently, there are no studies that can identify a direct link between tea tree oil and speeding up your hair growth cycle. However, keep reading because we’ve identified a cool trick that can improve hair growth.
Encouraging Hair Growth
In a previous article discussing the benefits of scalp massages for hair growth, we mentioned that scalp massages are effective at increasing the thickness of your hair.
Ultimately if your goal is to grow long hair, you should incorporate regular scalp massages into your hair care regimen. The key is to stimulate blood circulation in the scalp. Using tea tree oil during your scalp massages, add an extra benefit, like dandruff mitigation.
Using Scalp Massages for Hair Growth
Dilute Your Oil Before Use
Remember, tea tree oil is a potent antiseptic, so anytime you want to apply it to your skin, scalp, or hair, you’ll want to dilute it first with a carrier oil or another hair product, like shampoo. We like to dilute tea tree oil with jojoba oil, argan oil, avocado oil, almond oil, coconut oil, and neem oil.
A Little Goes a Long Way
When diluting essential oils, you only need 1-3 drops of the essential oil combined with roughly one-half a teaspoon of the carrier oil.
Part Your Hair into Small Sections
To make sure that you evenly distribute your tea tree oil blend, section your hair into 4-6 sections. The thicker your curls, the more sections you’ll want to make. Once you’ve made your sections, make sure you massage your scalp with the balls of your fingertips.
Set It and Forget It
Once you’ve thoroughly massaged every section of your scalp, you’ll need to allow the tea tree oil to work its magic. We encourage ladies to pull their hair to the top of their head in a high ponytail, like a pineapple. Learn more about how to pineapple your hair with this article.
Then put on a shower cap. Wrap a towel on top of the shower cap for ten minutes. The towel is an added boost because it helps to trap the heat in that your scalp naturally produces.
Once the time is up, wash your hair with your favorite moisturizing shampoo.
There is no exact science on how often your curls can benefit from a scalp massage. We suggest starting off slowly, with one or two times a week. All you need to do is pay attention to your curls after each treatment and then adjust the frequency depending on how your curls respond.
Other Hair Benefits
In addition to fighting dandruff and potentially encouraging the growth of new hair (note: I’m skeptical), tea tree oil can also help general conditions related to dry scalp.
Additionally, the oil can help fight bacterial infections that may be responsible for irritations in the scalp. It has even been helpful in treating lice in the past.
There are multiple options for using tea tree oil on your hair and the easiest option is to simply add several drops of the oil to your favorite shampoo. This will allow you to continue using your preferred product but still enjoy all the benefits associated with tea tree oil.
Another option is to use the oil as an individual treatment. To do this, combine several drops of tea tree oil with a larger quantity of a carrier oil, such as jojoba oil.
The use of tea tree oil goes back many generations and in fact, the Aboriginal communities found on Australia’s east coast have used this oil for centuries in order to treat skin conditions as well as for other uses.
From the Aboriginal Australians to the naturally curly YouTubers, tea tree oil plays a major role in skin and hair care.
Science is gradually producing more and more research proving that tea tree oil has the antiseptic power to improve scalp conditions, and naturally cleanse your hair and scalp from dirt, oil, dead skin, and maybe even lice.
As long as you are not allergic, you can incorporate tea tree oil into your hair care routine, just make sure to dilute the oil instead of applying it directly.
Do you have your own tea tree oil recipe that you use to revitalize your curls and cleanse your scalp?
If so, share it below! We would love to know more about how you use tea tree oil within your natural hair regimen.