Friday, October 26, 2012

Natural Skin and Scalp Therapy With Tea Tree Oil

Melaleuca alternifolia
For years, I have struggled with an itchy scalp and red, sensitive skin that is prone to irritation. I've tried it all for relief, from prescription creams to oatmeal baths to hydrocortisone sprays. The one thing I have recently discovered to help calm my skin and scalp is Tea Tree Oil, from the Australian plant Melaleuca alternifolia.

To be more precise, I should say, rediscovered Tea Tree Oil; as a soap maker, I have know about it for years, but I shied away because of the potent, medicinal smell. Honestly, when I tried it years ago in a facial soap, I found the scent to be overwhelmingly herbal and somewhat strong and offensive. After getting desperate to find something that would help my itchy, burning skin, I decided to give tea tree a second try. Much to my delight, it worked so well for my scalp, that I was soon adding it to lotion and dabbing directly on blemishes! I got better relief from adding Tea Tree Oil to my haircare products than I have from any RX or over the counter medication. With relief like that, I can certainly put up with the stench. In fact, the smell is actually growing on me.

So, how does one go about using Tea Tree Oil and where can it be purchased? I bought mine at Walgreen's for 8 dollars an ounce. You can find it much cheaper on the Internet in bulk. Make sure you are purchasing 100% Tea Tree Essential Oil. Do NOT buy "fragrance oil", "scented oil", or "potpourri oil". Only buy 100% pure essential oil.

I began my experimentation by adding 1/2 oz of the essential to my shampoo and conditioner (16 oz bottles). This is enough to counter the scalp itch and not make my haircare products too runny. Now, I am using the full 1oz of essential oil in a 16oz bottle of conditioner, but it does make the product noticeably thinner and more watery. For intense scalp itch, I apply a liberal dose of the conditioner after washing and massage it vigorously into the scalp. Then, I put on a plastic shower cap and let the conditioner remain on my scalp for 2-3 hours before showering it out with a long rinse. Other ways to use it are to apply directly on blemishes with a q tip or to use a dropper to mix some in with lotion. Advanced bath and body makers can use the essential oil in cold process and melt and pour soaps and in made from scratch lotions and hair products. You will need professional emulsifiers and preservatives to make your own body care.

If you find the smell too pungent and herbaceous, there are a few essential oils you can blend with tea tree to counter the smell. The downside is that many essential oils are more expensive and that you will cut down on the potency of your homemade beauty product by diluting the tea tree with other essential oils. Some essential oils react poorly with sunlight if used on the skin, as well, mostly citrus oils. Always research the safety of essential oils you purchase before using them on the skin. A few essential oils that might counter the medicinal smell of tea tree are patchouli, lavender, and lemongrass.

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