Tea Tree Oil


Fragrance Synthetic and Natural

Tea Tree Oil at a glance

  • Essential oil with a distinctive herbal/medicinal scent even at low concentrations
  • Contains volatile compounds that are known to be skin sensitizing
  • May help visibly improve breakout-prone skin (when properly incorporated)
  • Has antimicrobial, anti-viral, antifungal, and anti-inflammatory properties
  • Irritation risk increases when tea tree oil oxidizes—proper storage is essential

Tea Tree Oil description

Also known as Melaleuca, from the name of its native Australian plant source, Melaleuca alternifolia. Tea tree oil has skin-soothing properties and is also an antioxidant. However, as with most fragrant plant oils, tea tree oil contains volatile components (such as linalool, limonene, and eucalyptol) that can be sensitising, particularly if you apply 100% pure tea tree oil.For improving skin concerns such as breakouts, tea tree oil concentrations of 2.5% to 10% are recommended. However, the amount present in most skincare products is usually less than 1%, as higher amounts impart a strong scent many people find intolerable, not to mention these higher amounts increase tea tree oil’s potential to sensitise and redden skin.Careful use and storage of tea tree oil is advised; like all plant oils, it should be protected from routine exposure to light and air. Tea tree oil’s potential to sensitise skin increases when it is exposed to air because the oxidation makes the volatile components more potent.

Tea Tree Oil references

  • Biomedica, December 2020, pages 693–701
  • Contact Dermatitis, September 2016, pages 129–143
  • Dermatologic Therapy, May 2015, page 404
  • International Journal of Antimicrobial Agents, February 2015, pages 106–110
  • International Journal of Dermatology, July 2013, pages 784–790
  • Journal of Food and Drug Analysis, June 2013, pages 169–176
  • Chemical Research in Toxicology, March 2012, pages 713–721

Peer-reviewed, substantiated scientific research is used to assess ingredients in this dictionary. Regulations regarding constraints, permitted concentration levels and availability vary by country and region.

Ingredient ratings


Proven and supported by independent studies. Outstanding active ingredient for most skin types or concerns.


Necessary to improve a formula's texture, stability, or penetration.


Generally non-irritating but may have aesthetic, stability, or other issues that limit its usefulness.


There is a likelihood of irritation. Risk increases when combined with other problematic ingredients.


May cause irritation, inflammation, dryness, etc. May offer benefit in some capability but overall, proven to do more harm than good.


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Not rated

We have not yet rated this ingredient because we have not had a chance to review the research on it.