Treating Dandruff with Tea Tree Essential Oil
It is estimated that approximately 50% of the population around the world is affected at some time during their life by dandruff. Actually, in a scientific article named suggestively “Dandruff: The Most Commercially Exploited Skin Disease”, the authors draw attention to the fact that, because dandruff is so common, and it affects people of all ages, gender and ethnicity, it is currently the most commercially exploited skin and scalp disorder by personal care industries. That despite, or maybe fuelled by the fact that the debate on whether dandruff has to be treated as a disease or a disorder is still on. It is no wonder, then, that there are numerous available treatment options:
- Keratolytic shampoos – with ingredients such as salicylic acid and sulphur which loosen the attachments of the flakes and allow them to be washed away with shampooing;
- Regulators of keratinization – with zinc (used to heal the scalp and regulate sebum production, tar (classically used to treat psoriasis) or corticosteroids (used for their anti-inflammatory and anti-proliferative effects);
- Antimicrobial agents – such as selenium sulphide (believed to have anti-seborrheic and anti-Pityrosporum properties), imidazona antifungal agents (such as ketoconazole) and Hydroxypyridones;
- Naturopathic and Homeopathic therapies – such as with Tea Tree essential oil, of the leaves of the Australian Melaleuca alternifolia tree.
Tea Tree essential oil is one of the best options and a sound alternative for those who prefer to use natural products, as it is not only very effective in treating dandruff, but also well tolerated by most.
What is dandruff and what causes it?
Dandruff is a skin condition of the scalp that usually appears at puberty and is generally characterized by the presence of flakes on the scalp and hair and sometimes by itchiness. Though the causes that generate it are still unclear, dandruff is believed to be the mildest form of seborrheic dermatitis and it was associated with the presence of Malassezia (also known as Pityrosporum ovale), a type of fungus.
Though there is no known cure, there are very many treatments that can keep dandruff under control.
How can Tea Tree essential oil help?
The beneficial effects of Tea Tree essential oil in treating dandruff are mainly attributed to its anti-fungal activity. But Tea Tree essential oil is also effective in regulating sebum production, cleansing the scalp and alleviating the symptoms of dandruff, such as itching.
The Tea Tree oil can be applied directly on the scalp, preferably mixed with a carrier oil (3 drops of Tea Tree essential oil to 10 ml of cold pressed carrier oil), or you can add it to your regular shampoo (3 drops of oil to 10 ml of shampoo).
What does science say?
- In an article published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, the authors presented the results of a study conducted to investigate the efficacy and tolerability of 5% tea tree oil in patients with mild to moderate dandruff. 126 male and female patients over the age of 14 were randomly assigned to receive either 5% tea tree oil shampoo or placebo, and they were asked to use it for 4 weeks. The results showed a 41% improvement on the assessed components - scaliness, itchiness and greasiness - in patients that used the tea tree essential oil, compared to just 11% improvement in the placebo group.
- In an article published in Skin Pharmacology and Physiology, the authors assessed the antifungal activity of Tea Tree essential oil against various pathogenic fungi. Tea tree oil was found to be able to inhibit growth of all clinical fungal isolates. It was concluded that “tea tree oil ointment in the therapy of fungal infections of the skin and mucous membranes as well as in the treatment of dandruff, a mild form of seborrheic dermatitis, may be at least partly due to an antifungal activity of tea tree oil”.
- Another study, published in the Journal of Applied Microbiology, investigated the antifungal activity of the components of Melaleuca alternifolia (tea tree) oil. The results showed that most components of Tea Tree oil are effective against a range of fungi.
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