Both tea tree oil and vitamin E are frequently suggested for topical use as a remedy for a variety of skin disorders, but these substances vary in their effectiveness and safety. It’s important to distinguish between the two, as indiscriminate use may not simply fail to deliver the effects you desire, it can also result in negative side effects.
Tea tree oil and vitamin E differ in their sources. Tea tree oil is obtained solely from the leaves of the Melaleuca alternifolia plant, a tree native to Australia. Vitamin E is obtained from a wide variety of natural foods, such as avocado, corn oil and almonds. It is also sold as a supplement and is available both in natural and synthetic versions. Alpha tocopherol is the most prevalent form of vitamin E found in the human body, according to the Linus Pauling Institute. Supplements labeled d-alpha-tocopherol are the natural form. Those labeled dl-alpha-tocopherol contain the synthetic version of vitamin E, which is less a biologically active form.
Topically applied vitamin E oil is sometimes touted as a scar reducer, though “Canadian Family Physician” states that scientific evidence suggests it is ineffective in that capacity. The University of Maryland Medical Center says that topical alpha-tocopherol cream may reduce skin roughness and wrinkles.
Tea tree oil is prized for its antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral properties. CoxHealth states that reliable evidence exists to support the use of a 5 percent tea tree oil solution in treating acne. Evidence supporting its use in fighting athlete’s foot and yeast infections is less convincing.
Vitamin E supplements are packaged in gelatin capsules or sometime in bottles as oil. Vitamin E capsules are taken internally or can be perforated with a pin so that the oil can be squeezed out and applied topically. Tea tree oil is sold in small bottles for topical use. Both products are also featured as ingredients in a number of cosmetics and soaps.
Oral dosages of vitamin E should meet the recommended daily dosage of 15 mg, but higher dosages may cause negative side effects. Some negative side effects such as hives, and worsened appearance of scars, have been reported with topical vitamin E use. Tea tree oil should never be taken internally, as it can poison both animals and humans, according to “Clinical Microbiology Review.” Used topically, tea tree oil should be diluted, as the use of full strength tea tree oil may cause irritation or allergic reaction.
For 15 years, Charis Grey's award-winning work has appeared in film, television, newspapers, magazines and on the Internet. She has worked as a story editor on the CBS drama "Flashpoint" and her work appears bimonthly in "The Driver Magazine." She has a Bachelor of Science in biology and a doctorate in chiropractic medicine from Palmer College.