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Tea Tree Oil for Facial Hair: Benefits & Side Effects

People have tried many different methods for stimulating and maintaining healthy beards. Often, this has meant experimenting with chemical-based products like minoxidil. However, tea tree oil has become a common option to consider for those who prefer natural ingredients.

What is Tea Tree Oil?

Tea tree oil is an essential oil derived from the leaves of Australian tea trees. It is produced through a steaming distillation process and is sometimes known as melaleuca oil. Over time, it has been produced to serve various medicinal purposes –– despite limited proof regarding its effects. 

Where does it come from?

The Australian tea tree from which the oil is harvested is known as Melaleuca alternifolia. It grows primarily along the southeastern coast of Australia, in swamp-like conditions.

What does it smell like?

Tea tree oil typically has a scent similar to that of camphor. This scent is typically described as “menthol-like” or “piquant.” It is a somewhat sharp, crisp scent that some find pleasant. Others find it to be too strong or medicinal, however, there is not a strong consensus as to whether or not the aroma is appealing. 

What beard care products can it be found in? 

Tea tree oil is not just an independent separate substance people consider for beard maintenance and treatment. It is a common ingredient in many common types of everyday beard care products. These include the following: 

Is tea tree oil non-comedogenic?

The term “non-comedogenic” refers to skin products that are designed such that they do not block pores. Tea tree oil is in fact, non-comedogenic. However, while tea tree oil itself should not block or clog pores, the same cannot necessarily be said about some of the carrier oils it is commonly mixed with for application. More on this below:

How do you apply tea tree oil?

Tea tree oil is highly concentrated, which means it can cause redness, irritation, or contact dermatitis when applied directly. For this reason, it is important to combine drops of tea tree oil with a carrier oil before applying. Common carrier oils include the following: 

Combining tea tree oil with one of these carrier oils will reduce the potential for direct skin irritation. However, some carrier oils –– such as coconut oil –– are comedogenic, meaning they carry greater potential to clog pores. 

How Can Tea Tree Oil Help Your Beard?

Antibacterial Properties

Tea tree oil has long been embraced by aboriginal people in Australia for certain medicinal purposes and is associated with some antibacterial benefits. Specifically, there are indications that tea tree oil kills some bacteria that can cause acne (and other skin conditions) when left untreated. This means that application of tea tree oil on your beard may decrease the likelihood of acne build-up beneath the beard hair (source). 

With that said, only a small amount of research has been done concerning the direct application of tea tree oil to treat acne. There is an indication of benefits but not a definitive scientific conclusion. 

Controls Dandruff

In addition to its potential to kill bacteria, tea tree oil is also valued for its antifungal properties. This, in turn makes products like tea tree beard oil or tea tree oil shampoo useful in controlling dandruff (or “beardruff”), which is in part a product of fungus. 

In this space, scientific studies have been more conclusive. Results have indicated that the slightly acidic quality of tea tree oil –– particularly in formulations containing substances like salicylic acid and sodium lauryl sulphate –– is effective (source). The substance can help to mitigate the build-up of beard dandruff. 

Helps Manage Psoriasis

Psoriasis is a skin condition that leads to redness and itching (as well as joint pain in some instances). It is an autoimmune condition that is often genetic, but it can also be caused by stress, infections, or excessive alcohol consumption.

Tea tree oil is not a cure for psoriasis. However, it is known to have anti-inflammatory properties that may help to ease psoriasis symptoms. 

How Tea Tree Oil May Hurt Your Body & Facial Hair

Poisonous Substance

Tea tree oil is toxic when ingested. Specifically, the American Cancer Society has listed weakness, confusion, hallucination, rashes, and even comas among the potential side effects of ingestion. 

For this reason, tea tree oil should never be applied on or around the mouth, as can happen when one is using a beard care product.  

May Inhibit Beard Growth

As mentioned previously, tea tree oil is sometimes turned to as a natural alternative to products like minoxidil –– a substance that is most commonly associated with hair growth. However, there have been studies indicating that application of tea tree oil may in fact lead to the inhibition of facial hair growth.

Specifically, it has been shown that tea tree oil and lavender oils can cause Prepubertal Gynecomastia –– otherwise known as the breast growth in males (or the development of “man boobs”). The studies also showed that patients who stopped applying tea tree and lavender oils saw a reduction in the breast tissue (source). 

The studies concerning Prepubertal Gynecomastia revealed that tea tree oil activated estrogen receptors (female hormones) and blocked androgen receptors. Because facial hair is androgenic hair, this indicates that the application of tea tree oil can actually slow or inhibit beard growth. 

Asthma Attacks

While not related to the direct application of oils, data has indicated that essential oil diffusers using tea tree oil, eucalyptus oil, and lavender oil can cause asthma attacks. While there are no published scientific studies on the matter, it is known that these diffused oils release terpenes, toluene, and benzene, among other VOCs (volatile organic compounds) into the air (source). 

Terpenes are associated with numerous respiratory problems in people both with and without asthma. 

Skin Irritation

While this is not a problem that is specifically associated with tea tree oil, the FDA has disclosed that some essential oils may cause skin irritation. This is due to the fact that the plant’s essential oils are drawn from can contain toxic or irritating substances. Cumin oil and citrus oils are cited as specific examples of potentially irritating substances, but other essential oils can cause issues as well. 

Conclusion

Like many essential oils, tea tree oil is sought after for natural properties that have shown the potential to offer certain benefits. Most notably, the oil is used to combat bacterial and fungal build-up. These benefits can be useful for people seeking optimal beard health in that they can mitigate acne beneath the hair, or dandruff in it. 

With that said, benefits are limited, and there are drawbacks and side effects to consider. Tea tree oil too close to the mouth can be toxic. Additionally, the application of tea tree oil can inhibit beard growth, irritate the skin and respiratory system, and lead to hormonal imbalances. 

Adam Williams

As the lead editor of Tools of Men, Adam is an expert in all things men's grooming and style. When you don't find him reading up on the latest style trends, he likes to go jogging, attempt to distinguish the differences between IPAs, and play sports with his kids.

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