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INTRODUCTION

Activities:

Analgesic, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antifungal, antimicrobial, antipruritic, antiseptic, insecticidal, anti-skin cancer1–4

Important Chemical Components:

Terpinen-4-ol, γ-terpinene, α-terpinene, α-terpineol, terpinolene, α-pinene, and cineole are primary constituents. Tea tree oil contains more than 100 chemical compounds, mainly terpenes and alcohols, including D-limonene.5,6

Origin Classification:

This ingredient is considered natural. As an ingredient used for dermatologic purposes, it is laboratory made.

Personal Care Category:

Antiacne, analgesic, antifungal

Recommended for the following Baumann Skin Types:

DSNT, DSPT, DSNW, DSPW, OSNT, OSPT, OSNW, and OSPW

SOURCE

Melaleuca alternifolia, a member of the Myrtaceae family and the source of tea tree oil (TTO), is a small tree native to Australia. Although there are three different species of coniferous Myrtaceae growing in Australia, New Zealand, and Southeast Asia known as tea trees, only the essential oil derived from the needles or leaves of the Australian M. alternifolia is used in medical and cosmetic products. Aromatherapists do use the essential oils of all three species, but only M. alternifolia has been extensively tested for toxicity, and its antimicrobial activity evaluated.7 A clear liquid that ranges from colorless to faint yellow but with a sharp, camphoraceous aroma, TTO contains over 100 natural compounds.

Steam distillation is used to extract the oil from the leaves. A menthol-like cooling sensation is yielded by the essential oil.6 Its common name is based on the brewing of the leaves for tea by early settlers in Australia.8 It is also known by the Maori and Samoan expression “ti tree oil.”1,9

Recent data support its use to treat acne vulgaris, seborrheic dermatitis, and chronic gingivitis as well as to promote wound healing.4 In addition, TTO has been shown to display anti-skin cancer activity.4

HISTORY

An essential oil of the M. alternifolia tree or shrub, TTO is thought to have been used for thousands of years by Australian natives for healing purposes,10 and has been used for nearly a century, at least, by the Bundjalung indigenous tribe in Australia as an herbal medicine to treat upper respiratory tract infections.1,6 Australian aborigines also use TTO to treat bruises and skin infections, and the essential oil is now thought to be a suitable alternative option in the acne armamentarium.11 The antiseptic and disinfectant properties of TTO were reported by Penfold and Grant in the 1920s, with the finding that it exhibited 13 times more antiseptic activity than carbolic acid, leading to the investigation and usage of the essential oil.12,13 Further studies in the 1930s established TTO in Australia as an effective topical antiseptic and broad-spectrum antimicrobial agent, particularly against Candida albicans, Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus aureus, S. epidermidis, and Propionibacterium acnes.3,12,14 In fact, the broad-spectrum antibacterial activity of TTO forms the basis for its use in acne therapy.4,15

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