When it comes to choosing what you do and do not put into your hair what guides your decision making?
For a lot of people, it might be the brand that they are loyal too, or maybe the packaging? How about the nice smell? It could be the promise of “all day shine” that gets you to pull out your wallet. But, for people who are experiencing androgenic alopecia (AGA; pattern hair loss) it is extremely important to pay very close attention to the ingredients that you are putting in your hair, here’s why:
When you are using hair loss treatments such as finasteride, minoxidil, and more, your main goal is to protect your vellus hair. Vellus hairs are the thin, short, unpigmented hairs that take place of your healthy hair. The only way to regrow hair is to, through using treatments, nurture your vellus hair back into healthy terminal hair.
A very important factor that you need to take into account when trying to overcome hair loss is that your vellus hair is very sensitive. It is hair that is in a weakened state, meaning it can be more easily damaged by chemicals that are in a lot of products we put into our hair, which is why it is best to opt for natural ingredients when it comes to hair care, especially if you are trying to overcome hair loss.
In this article, we are going to talk about a natural oil that may not only have several benefits for hair, but also will not hurt your sensitive vellus hair. It may be a great substitute for many of the harmful chemicals included in traditional hair products, it’s called tea tree oil.
What is tea tree oil?
Tea tree oil, also called melaleuca oil, is derived from the melaleuca alternifolia tree native to Australia. It is an essential oil, which basically means that it is the oil compound that is extracted from the plant and is very potent.
For many centuries it was use by native Australians as a remedy for colds, coughs, and skin conditions. Eventually, it was adopted worldwide as a treatment for acne, athletes foots, lice, fungus, insect bites, and more. These benefits are fairly well understood, but there are also benefits for hair, and specifically hair loss, that can also be derived from this powerful oil.
Benefits of tea tree oil for hair
Ditching the harmful chemicals in popular hair products is only the first step, you then need to find natural ingredients to replace them that will boost your hair health, and tea tree oil is a great option for a number of reasons.
Tea tree oil contains anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and antimicrobial properties, all of which can benefit your hair in different ways. Let’s take a look at the different scalp and hair conditions that tea tree oil can benefit…
Although dandruff has several causes, it is most commonly brought on by a fungus called malassezia.
Malassezia is a yeast-like fungus that feeds off the oil on our scalp and hair. When it does so, it releases oleic acid as a byproduct. This can cause skin irritation which leads to rapid cell turnover and eventually dandruff. But applying tea tree oil may be able to prevent this.
Again, tea tree oil has antimicrobial properties (1), meaning that it can potentially reduce malassezia on the scalp. One study (2) with 126 male/female participants compared 5% tea tree oil shampoo to a placebo, both of which were used daily for 4 weeks. Dandruff was assessed based on a “quadrant-area-sensitive-scale” and patient self-analysis’. After the 4 weeks it was found that the tea tree oil group showed a 41% improvement in dandruff compared to the 11% in the placebo group based on the quadrant severity scale findings.
Another study (3) found that tea tree oil reduced microbial growth by 78%.
To preface: saying that anything affects androgenic alopecia directly is a strong statement that needs to be backed with a lot of research. Tea tree oil does not have enough research behind it to definitively say that it affects pattern hair loss or not.
That being said, there was a study done that showed promise for tea tree oil in relation to hair loss (4). Tea tree oil was tested in combination with minoxidil against minoxidil alone and a placebo. 32 men participated in the study where they were divided into three groups and assigned a treatment to which they applied twice daily for 32 weeks. Efficacy was measured by looking at mean hair count, thickness, and weight in the target areas (i.e. temples and crown).
Once the study had concluded it was found that the formulation containing minoxidil and tea tree oil was “significantly superior” to the other two groups. Additionally, there was no significant difference in side effects reported between the three groups.
This study definitely shows promise for tea tree oil but it needs to be isolated in a study to measure its true potential benefits for hair loss.
Since tea tree oil can reduce inflammation and oxidative stress, it may be able to protect hair against their damaging effects, although it is important to note that this is purely hypothetical until a study confirms it.
Though the research is not as abundant as some other hair loss remedies, the research that we do have available indicates that tea tree oil may be able to benefit people suffering from hair loss in several ways.
An important factor in overcoming hair loss is protecting your vellus hair. By reducing dandruff, inflammation, and oxidative stress, tea tree oil could be giving your hair the protection it needs to turn back into healthy terminal hair. Additionally, one study showed that it seemingly improved the effectiveness of minoxidil, making the case for trying it even stronger.