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Adding tea tree oil to my oil cleanser?

Hi beauty brains

I want to do some cosmetic alchemy of my own!
Just kidding, we're scientists, there's no such thing as alchemy! Only chemistry :)

I know tea tree oil at a 2% concentration is beneficial for acne prone skin, so I would like to incorporate it into my skin care regimen by adding it to my oil cleanser. I'm not sure if this is a good idea, or if it is even soluble in an oil cleanser.

Does tea tree oil have any benefits in a cleanser? I remember episode 25 where you guys discussed if cleansers can deliver active ingredients. I'm thinking this would work by coacervation and dilution deposition: tea tree oil is not water soluble, so will it deposit on my skin when rinsed with water because it is hydrophobic. This would mean that I should add more than 2% v/v, because only a select amount of it would stay on my skin.

Another concern is that adding more oil to my oil cleanser throw off the ratio of polyglyceryl-2 to oil. I'm worried that if I add more oil it won't emulsify and rinse off when I splash my face with water. Does an oil cleanser need a certain ratio of oil to emulsifier to be effective?

Oil cleanser ingredients: Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Crambe Abyssinica Seed Oil, Isoamyl Laurate, Polyglyceryl-2 Sesquioleate, Fragrance, Polyglyceryl-2 Caprate, Argania Spinosa Kernel Oil, Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Oil, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil, Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Leaf Extract, Tocopherol

P.S. If I can't add it to my oil cleanser, can I add a few drops to a moisturizer or something? I have far to many products in my regime to add something else just for the tea tree oil.


  • Hmmm. Are you sure tea tree oil is worth all this work? There's not a lot of data showing that it's really effective against acne. (At least not that I've seen.) 

    The couple of studies that I have seen referenced used tea tree oil at 5% from a leave on product. 

  • One thing for sure I use it to fight foot odor :)

  • That's an entirely different issue.
  • I use it on my feet too! I have this mildly fungus-ie little toenail and I heard tea tree oil is anti-fungal; works pretty well :)

    Tea tree oil not effective against acne? :-$ Really? But it's so common in anti-acne products. Is it just hype?
    It has pretty stellar reviews on (but then again, people rated lemon juice and urine therapy well too, yikes!)

    Randy, do you have access to PubMed past the paywall? My Uni log in doesn't work :(
    I really thought there was solid data....

  • There is data but I don't know how solid it is. There are studies showing is has some antibacterial efficacy in vivo and some small studies on actual acne lesions. Of course none of these studies compare it to proven active ingredients. 

    One of the studies you linked to was a review of all the randomized clinical studies and it concluded "so far, there is no compelling evidence to show that TTO is efficacious in any dermatological condition. However, in view of promising findings, TTO deserves to be investigated more closely." 
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