While science has given us a plethora of great ingredients to help in the fight against breakouts, Mother Nature also has a few tricks of her sleeve. One of the biggest and best known of those beneficial botanicals is tea tree.
The ingredient comes from the Melaleuca alternifolia plant, which is native to Australia. It was reportedly used by the indigenous people to treat wounds and skin infections, and in the 1920s, an Australian chemist named Arthur Penfold published a series of papers that documented the antimicrobial effects of tea tree oil. Suddenly it was everyone’s favorite homeopathic remedy.
Although tea tree has historic roots, it’s far from ancient history. Thanks to its anti-septic, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory, and anti-viral properties (that’s a lot of anti-), it’s become a skincare superhero. And, all those bacteria-killing attributes are what make it so great at fighting pimples: One of the main culprits of blemishes is an overabundance of bacteria.
It’s so well-known that you’ve probably already used it before. Some of us of a certain age remember pulling out the trusty ‘ol tea tree rollerball every time a pimple appeared. But, according to Boston-based dermatologist Dr. Papri Sarkar, we might not have been using this wonder ingredient to our best benefit. Tea tree oil, she notes, can cause irritation for some people as it can be too drying on the skin. Tea tree extract, on the other hand, is less concentrated and therefore better tolerated, even for those with the most sensitive skin.
Which is why you’ll see that the most effective tea tree products on the market today — like Leegeehaam’s Grow Tea Tree line — all feature the extract.
While studies haven’t been done specifically on the antibacterial properties of the extract, skincare products containing it have gained a major following for helping to prevent and get rid of acne. In fact, Korean skincare brand Leegeehaam just reformulated its OG hero tea tree product range with an even more powerful essence, cleanser, spot treatment, moisturizer, and BHA toner. Each product is formulated with a different percentage of tea tree extract, so you can find the concentration that works best for you. (Dr. Sarkar still recommends doing a patch test first to rule out an allergic reaction.)
It’s not only the percentages of extracts that are being used that make today’s tea tree products so revolutionary, either. Chemists are also finding new ways to combine the extract with other skin-clearing and skin-soothing ingredients. Take the Grow Tea Tree 70 BHA Toner, for example. It has 70 percent tea tree extract and 5 percent willow bark extract to treat and prevent breakouts, but it also boasts a 0.9 percent BHA (beta-hydroxy acid), which gently exfoliates for a major glow.
Regardless of where in your routine you choose to incorporate tea tree, whether it’s as your new cleanser, toner, spot treatment, essence, or moisturizer, we bet you’ll have a new appreciation or the age-old ingredient.
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