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When we think about (or sniff) tea tree oil, we might be transformed back to our childhoods where there was no shortage of awkward moments and lice shampoo treatments seemed to happen weekly. What you might not know, however, is that tea tree oil has several other uses, including being used as an affordable and effective natural alternative to harsh chemicals that are used to treat hair issues such as dandruff, an itchy scalp, and even hair loss.

Forget using products that contain tea tree oil as an ingredient, the best way to use it is directly by applying a few drops to the products you’re using—namely, shampoo—to treat the condition at hand. Keep reading to learn more about this Holy Grail product that's had enough of being overlooked.

Tea tree oil benefits

Tea tree oil has been used for centuries to treat a variety of health-related conditions ranging from acne to athlete’s foot, coughs and congestion. Extracted from the leaves of tea trees, this naturally antifungal and antibacterial oil provides a gentle yet effective alternative to harsh chemicals that can irritate the skin.

Tea tree oil is often used as a spot treatment for acne symptoms, or an added element in baths to treat athlete’s foot or other fungal skin conditions. When used on the hair, tea tree oil can provide relief from dry, flaky scalp, lice and possibly hair loss. Tea tree oil is known to stimulate blood flow to the areas on which it is applied, particularly on hair follicles, which are also known as pores. When pores are not clogged, the condition of the skin around it is ultimately improved and the risk of an inflammatory infection or buildup is reduced over time.

How to use tea tree oil for the hair

There are several shampoos and conditioners on the market that contain tea tree oil or oil extract in their formulas. If you’re looking for a DIY option, there are a number of options that cost just a few cents. For an occasional scalp treatment, apply a few drops to jojoba oil and massage into the roots, rinsing away after five to 10 minutes. For more frequent use, add 1 to 2 drops of tea tree oil to a full bottle of shampoo and use as you normally would.

Safety precautions to keep in mind

Tea tree oil should not be ingested, but is considered generally safe when applied topically to the skin and scalp. Some people may experience irritation and dryness if the concentration of oil is too high, so it’s always best to start slow when adding tea tree oil drops to any shampoo and increase if necessary. Because tea tree oil is naturally astringent, it can strip the hair of dyes, so if your roots and locks are chemically treated with color, it’s best to steer clear of tea tree oil in order to preserve your hue.

Where to find tea tree oil

If you're looking to purchase your own, tree oil can be found in most health-food stores and drugstores. Organic varieties will ensure that the highest concentration of the antiseptic properties tea tree oil is known for, and brands stored in dark brown glass bottles will afford a longer shelf life for your oil as sunlight can cause the main ingredient, called terpinen-4-ol, to oxidize faster.

It's safe to say that tea tree oil has come a long way from when we were kids and it was used to treat lice. Nowadays, people are getting wise to its ability to treat a variety of issues, making it what is considered a Holy Grail product to always have on hand.