How to use tea tree oil to fight dandruff and thinning hair, according to dermatologists

How to use tea tree oil to fight dandruff and thinning hair, according to dermatologists
Use tea tree oil on your scalp only in diluted form.Westend61/Getty Images
  • Tea tree oil may help stimulate hair growth because it reduces inflammation on your scalp.
  • It may also help control scalp flaking and itchiness because it fights dandruff-causing fungi.
  • You can dilute tea tree oil and leave it on your scalp for five minutes to get the benefits.

Tea tree oil is a popular essential oil that's used for everything from treating acne to scalp troubles.

This herbal remedy was originally used medicinally by the Aboriginal Australians many thousand years ago. Since then, its use has expanded globally and you can find tea tree products just about anywhere from your local grocery to the Internet.

If you're looking to use tea tree for your hair, specifically, opt for shampoos that contain tea tree oil as an ingredient or use the instructions below to make a DIY soak.

Here are three benefits of tea tree oil, as well as tips for how to use it.

1. May relieve dandruff and itchiness

Dandruff causes an itchy, flaky scalp, and can be difficult to get under control.


One of the causes of dandruff is an overgrowth of malassezia, a fungus that's similar to yeast. Tea tree oil has been shown to have antifungal properties, which means it may help fight this fungus.

"As an overgrowth of yeast is usually directly linked to dandruff, tea tree oil application can reduce the yeast, thus reducing the dandruff," says Hal Weitzbuch, MD, board certified dermatologist at the Calabasas Dermatology Center.

Plus, tea tree oil also has anti-inflammatory properties, and by reducing inflammation, you may experience relief from itching, says Nava Greenfield, MD, board certified dermatologist at Schweiger Dermatology Group.

2. May prevent further hair loss and stimulate new growth

In some cases, inflammation can contribute to your hair loss or thinning hair. Tea tree oil is anti-inflammatory, which means it may help reduce the inflammation that leads to excess shedding.

"Once the hairs are no longer experiencing inflammation, they are able to once again grow normally which is difficult to do under conditions of inflammation," says Greenfield.


A 2013 study found that using a mixture of tea tree oil and minoxidil (brand name Rogaine) was more effective at increasing hair count, weight, and thickness than minoxidil alone. During the 32 week long study, participants applied the mixture twice daily. However, Weitzbuch notes that research is lacking on tea tree oil alone as a remedy for hair growth.

3. May clarify and cleanse your scalp

Tea tree oil can help your scalp get an extra deep clean. It is antimicrobial, which means the oil can help fight any harmful germs living on your head, such as bacteria, fungi, or viruses. Greenfield says these microorganisms can disrupt the normal function of the scalp's skin and glands.

Plus, Greenfield says overgrowth of certain bacteria like staphylococcus or some strains of streptococcus can cause folliculitis, impetigo, cellulitis, all of which may lead to hair loss.

How to use tea tree oil for hair

There are two ways you can use tea tree oil for your hair: You can either buy ready-made products or create your own DIY mixtures.

There are various shampoos made with tea tree oil available to purchase.


Best tea tree oil shampoo

Insider tests and reviews tea tree oil products. Our recommendation for shampoo is from Paul Mitchell.

How to use tea tree oil to fight dandruff and thinning hair, according to dermatologistsPaul Mitchell Tea Tree Special Shampoo$19.98 FROM ULTA BEAUTY


Since every formulation is different, Weitzbuch says you should carefully read and follow the instructions for how long to leave it in your hair and how many times a week you should use it.

If you're going the DIY route, you'll need to buy some tea tree oil and liquid base, such as coconut milk or coconut oil. Do not put the tea tree oil straight on your scalp, as this can be extremely irritating to the skin.

Here's how to make it:

  1. Dilute the tea tree oil by adding 15-20 drops for every ⅔ cup of your base.
  2. Rub it onto your scalp and leave it on for five minutes.
  3. Rinse it out with water.

Insider's takeaway

The research we have on tea tree oil's antimicrobial and anti inflammatory properties is solid, but more research is needed to determine the efficacy of tea tree oil for hair and scalp health. However, you can certainly give it a try at home. If your hair concerns aren't being helped by tea tree oil treatments, consult your dermatologist for help.