Tea Tree Oil For Dandruff: Benefits, How to Use & Risks

Medically reviewed by Dr. Shruti Chavan
by Arshiya Syeda

Once considered to be a type of alternative treatment, tea tree oil is now becoming more mainstream, finding widespread applications in shampoos, massage oils, shower gels, and lotions. It is quite a popular remedy for treating dandruff.

Tea tree oil is extracted from the leaves of the Australian plant Melaleuca alternifolia by the process of steam distillation. It is a strong and potent essential oil that is available in diverse concentrations. It is often used to get rid of head lice and acne and treat dry skin, athlete’s foot, cuts, insect bites, and nail fungus.

So, does tea tree oil help with dandruff? Keep reading to find out!

Benefits Of Tea Tree Oil For Dandruff

It is generally believed that tea tree oil can help treat dandruff. Here are its top two scientifically-backed benefits in this regard:

1. Helps Reduce The Growth Of Mallesezia On The Scalp

Malassezia is a fungus that lives on everyone’s scalp, albeit in small quantities. However, in some cases, this fungus can grow uncontrollably. This can happen due to poor hygiene habits – such as not shampooing regularly – or if you have an underlying medical condition.

According to a study conducted at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital (Australia), using a shampoo with 5% tea tree oil is effective for treating dandruff. The study further suggests that tea tree oil shampoo users demonstrated a 41% reduction in dandruff severity as opposed to the ones on the placebo (1).

Since tea tree oil is quite potent, you will need to mix it with a carrier oil – like coconut, olive, or almond oil – before applying it to your hair.

2. Reduces Dandruff-Related Symptoms

Anecdotal evidence suggests that tea tree oil can reduce the itchiness, greasiness, and lesions that come with the onset of dandruff. It is said to moisturize your scalp, eliminate toxins, and improve blood flow. Moreover, it may provide your scalp all the essential nutrients to prevent hair fall, another side-effect of dandruff. However, there is no scientific evidence that proves these claims.

To alleviate these symptoms, you can try a tea tree oil hair mask for dandruff. You can use avocado paste and yogurt as a base and add honey along with a few drops of tea tree oil. Apply this mask and massage your scalp in gentle strokes. Rinse it off after 15-20 minutes.

Aside from using tea tree oil for dandruff and hair loss, you can also apply it to get rid of head lice. A study noted a 100% mortality rate against head lice after applying a 1% concentration of tea tree oil for 30 minutes (2).

Note: Keep in mind to use tea tree oil for head lice in kids only after consulting a doctor.

Now that you know all about the benefits of tea tree oil for treating dandruff, let’s check out how to use it.

How To Use Tea Tree Oil For Dandruff?

Tea tree oil is one of the most effective essential oils when it comes to treating dandruff. If you are keen on knowing how to use tea tree oil to remove dandruff, here’s a list of its wide-ranging applications:

  • Use a ready-made shampoo that already contains 5% tea tree oil.
  • If your preferred shampoo does not list tea tree oil as an ingredient, you can add 5-10 drops of the oil to the bottle yourself. Make sure to shake the bottle well. Then, simply massage this mixture into your scalp in circular motions and wash it off with cold water.

Make your own DIY tea tree oil shampoo for dandruff. For this, you will need 1/2 teaspoon virgin cold-pressed olive/coconut oil, 2/3 cups of baking soda, 1/4 cup of filtered water, 1/2 teaspoon vitamin E oil, 1/8 cup of coconut milk, and 20 drops of tea tree oil. Mix all ingredients in a glass jar, shake vigorously, and use a teaspoon of the mixture each time you wash your hair.

Precaution: Avoid using tea tree oil if you have eczema.

You can store this shampoo for up to a month. Just remember to shake the jar well before use. Also, make sure to use the tea tree oil shampoo for at least four weeks to treat dandruff effectively.

Though tea tree oil is an effective treatment for dandruff, it can cause certain side effects. Find out more in the next section.

Side Effects And Risks Of Using Tea Tree Oil

Although tea tree oil can help with dandruff, its use comes with a set of precautionary measures. Additionally, remember the following pointers:

  • Toxic If Swallowed: The National Capital Poison Center claims that tea tree oil can be poisonous if swallowed (3). Hence, avoid using it anywhere near the mouth. Its oral consumption can also cause serious symptoms like confusion, loss of consciousness, and ataxia (loss of muscle coordination).
  • Can Cause Irritation/Redness In The Eyes: Take care when using tea tree oil on your scalp to not let it run into your eyes. In case it enters your eyes, make sure to splash warm water and flush it out. If your eye becomes red or irritated, call your doctor immediately.
  • Can Cause Skin Irritation Or Scalp Itching: As a thumb rule, avoid using concentrated tea tree oil directly on your skin/scalp as it can lead to irritation/itching.
  • Can Cause Unknown Allergic Reactions: According to an Australian study, the prevalence of tea tree oil allergy is 1.8% (4). Doing a patch test before using the essential oil on your scalp is a must as you may develop contact dermatitis, an allergic skin rash.

Other rare but notable side effects of tea tree oil include:

  • Stinging
  • Burning
  • Scaling
  • Dryness

When Should You See A Doctor?

Dandruff is not a medically serious condition. However, it may point to an underlying condition with similar symptoms. Either way, consult a doctor about your dandruff if:

  • It does not go away with over-the-counter solutions like anti-dandruff shampoos.
  • Shampooing often is not helping.
  • The itching on your scalp is getting out of control and disrupting your daily life.
  • Your scalp is red, swollen, or showing open sores.

Tea tree oil has been widely used over the years to naturally treat skin conditions like dandruff. If you are looking to cleanse your scalp without drying out or damaging your hair, tea tree oil is the way to go.

That said, this essential oil is potent and should be diluted before using. Before using tea tree oil for dandruff removal, do a patch test on a small area. Try these time-tested strategies and let your hair down!

Expert’s Answers For Readers’ Questions

Can tea tree oil be diluted and used for dandruff?

You can treat dandruff by using a shampoo with 5% tea tree oil. Alternatively, you can dilute tea tree oil with a carrier oil in a 1:10 ratio and apply this mixture every day to your scalp.

Is it okay to leave tea tree oil in your hair? For how long?

You can leave diluted tea tree oil in your hair overnight to benefit from its anti-dandruff properties. If not, you may leave it on for about 30 to 40 minutes and rinse it off with an herbal shampoo. Additionally, you can apply a tea tree oil spray as a leave-in conditioner.

How to dilute tea tree oil with coconut oil?

tree oil needs to be diluted with a carrier oil, such as olive, coconut, or almond oil. In terms of the ration, you can mix 1 to 2 drops of tea tree oil in 12 drops of your preferred carrier oil.

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Arshiya Syeda

Arshiya Syeda is an editor and certified counselor. Ever the lover of the written word, she served on the editorial boards of her school and college newsletters. Writing articles on hairstyles, hair care, and nutrition helped her combine her love for reading, writing, and research. As an editor, she helps her team members deliver polished and meticulously researched content. Arshiya is fluent in English, Urdu, and Hindi and aims to become a multilinguist by learning German and teaching herself American Sign Language (ASL).
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