There are a couple of different ways to dilute tea tree oil, and certain methods are better for certain purposes than others. The simplest method is usually to mix the oil with a small amount of water. A lot depends on how you’re going to use the solution. Adding water can be a good idea if you’re making something like mouthwash, but it can make it harder for your skin to absorb the oil. If your plan is to use the oil topically, perhaps as acne cleanser or as a cure for athlete’s foot, it often makes more sense to dilute it with another oil, known as a “carrier oil,” in order to keep as many of the original characteristics as you can.
Most experts recommend using a small eyedropper to mix the two substances. Getting the proportions right isn’t an exact science and can take some experimenting. Some people don’t dilute tea tree extract at all, and it’s often most effective when it’s full strength. It can also cause irritation, though, particularly on sensitive areas like the face and lips. In these cases, you’re usually best off adding a few drops of carrier oil, seeing how things go, then continuing to dilute as necessary to achieve the results that are best for you.
Tea Tree Oil Basics
Tea tree oil is an “essential oil,” which basically means that it is a potent oil derived from nature that is known to have a range of health and cosmetic benefits. It is made from the leaves and bark of the tea tree, which is native to Australia and has no relation to the tea plants that people use for brewing hot and iced beverages. It has well documented antiseptic and antifungal properties, and for this reason it is widely used in a number of home remedies for a range of problems, from cold sores to acne and foot fungus.
The oil is usually most effective when used and applied at full strength. It is an astringent, though, which means that it can dry the skin or cause a burning sensation, particularly in people who have sensitivities to begin with. Adding small amounts of other oils or water is usually the best way around this. It’s usually best to begin your dilution with a light hand, then increase the amount of water or carrier oil as needed.
For Acne and Other Skin Problems
Many find tea tree oil to be effective for treating acne and other skin problems, and acne sufferers with dry skin often have the best luck diluting tea tree oil by adding 10 to 12 drops to about 0.5 cup (118 ml) of coconut oil. Coconut oil is hydrating and will both moisturize the skin and help keep it from drying out. It also helps the tea tree extract absorb into the skin and stay put, which can make its effects more pronounced.
For oily skin, your best bet is probably to combine the tea tree oil with jojoba oil or almond oil. These typically won’t make the skin greasy and won’t further block pores the way coconut oil can. After washing your face, use a cotton ball to apply the solution to the skin. If you are really prone to breakouts, you’ll probably only want to let it sit for a few minutes before rinsing your face clean.
For Athlete’s Foot
Those with the fungal infection commonly known as “athlete’s foot” can add 10 or more drops of tea tree oil to a generous pour of olive oil, then rub this mixture into the feet. The olive oil will help the extract absorb and deeply penetrate to the root of the fungus, and can also hydrate the impacted skin. Other oils like coconut and jojoba will also usually get similar results.
As an Antiseptic
One of the most popular uses of tea tree oil is as an antiseptic, which basically means that it has the ability to kill germs on contact. It’s popular in many first aid applications as a result, and some people also use it as a mouthwash, particularly if they have bad breath — bad breath is often caused by bacteria in the mouth and throat. When you’re looking to make a mouthwash, your best bet is usually to combine 10 to 12 drops of tea tree oil with 6 ounces (about 170 grams) of water. Gargle the solution, but be careful not to swallow it.
The oil can also be used to treat minor cuts and scrapes. In these cases you’ll want to avoid using carrier oils since you don’t want to introduce any other particles or substances to a wounded area. Most experts recommend combining one teaspoon (about 5 mL) of tea tree oil with 4 ounces (113 grams) of witch hazel, which is a natural remedy that prevents swelling and inflammation; water will also usually work.