Main Camp Marketing Pty Ltd, Ballina NSW, Australia
On every continent, in many countries, new cosmetics and personal care products containing Australian tea tree oil (oil of Melaleuca alternifolia) are being launched at an ever increasing rate.
Since the pioneering launches of personal care products in the 1980's by companies such as Thursday Plantations, Melaleuca Inc. and Dessert Essence, the 90's has seen an explosion of products containing Australian tea tree oil.
Leading the way is the Body Shop, the tea tree oil range of which has been an outstanding success worldwide. Following closely is L'Oreal in France with the successful Ushuata shampoo and body wash.
Numerous other companies, including Clarins, Yves Rocher, Ella Bache, Boots, Aveda, Unilever, Carter Wallace, Colgate, Benckiser, Reckitt and Colman, Rhone Poulenc, Australian Bodycare and Blackmores Laboratories now market cosmeceutical products containing tea tree oil.
The reason for this is that tea tree oil is not only natural, but is one of the few active ingredients that really works. It is a proven natural antiseptic with broad spectrum activity, effective against a wide range of gram positive and gram negative bacteria, yeast, moulds and fungi. At concentrations of 5% and more, it is used therapeutically world wide for antiseptic, antifungal and acne treatment. At lower concentrations, tea tree oil adds efficacy to a wide range of cosmetics and personal care products—products for use from head to toe, and from baby products to treatments for aged and damaged skin.
In addition to its germicidal properties, there have been numerous anecdotal reports of the anti-inflammatory activity of tea tree oil—including reduction of itch and swelling from insect bites, and erythema in pimples and sunburn. In a clinical study on tinea, Professor Ross Barnetson, one of Australia's leading dermatologists, reported the amelioration of symptoms with a 10% tea tree oil cream but not the underlying fungal infection, and suggested that these results were due to an anti-inflammatory effect rather that anti-fungal action (Tong et al. 1992).
Investigating the potential for tea tree oil in oral hygiene, researchers at the Dental Faculty of the University of Tennessee have found that tea tree oil suppresses superoxide which is normally released by neutrophils in the presence of bacterial lipopolysaccharide fragments
from cell walls. This superoxide release, a natural defence mechanism against invading micro-organisms, can induce a strong inflammatory response, resulting in erythema, swelling, pain, blisters, and initiation of free radicals which cause skin damage.
The germicidal and anti-inflammatory properties, along with excellent solvency, dermal penetration and green image, form the basis for use of tea tree oil in cosmetics and personal care products which typically contain 0.5-5% of the oil.
An important factor in the growth in popularity of tea tree oil is that a guaranteed supply of ultra pure, high quality, pharmaceutical grade tea tree oil is now available from plantations. High quality tea tree oil is crystal clear, highly active, almost non-irritant and mild in odour.
In this chapter, Australian tea tree oil is seen as an extremely versatile natural ingredient. As one of the few natural ingredients that work, Australian tea tree oil is an important ingredient for formulators of cosmeceutical products.
Its potential for use in a wide range of cosmeceutical products is discussed along with rationales for use. These include hair care (including dandruff), acne and problem skin, lips and face, oral care, shave, after sun, hand and body treatments, cleansers, leg and foot products, natural deodorants and preservatives.
The activity of Australian tea tree oil is dose dependant. At higher doses (>5%) it is used as a treatment for a variety of bacterial and fungal infections, and at lower doses (0.5-3%) to control microorganisms and maintain healthy skin, hair and nails.
Consequently, this chapter outlines the widespread use of Australian tea tree oil in products from head to toe which demonstrate the versatility of this unique ingredient.
Hair care products with tea tree oil are usually positioned for oily hair (utilising the solvent properties of tea tree oil), or for anti-dandruff and contain 1-5%.
Recent tests have been carried out on Main Camp's pharmaceutical grade tea tree oil by the University of Western Sydney demonstrate a minimum inhibitory concentration (MIC) of 0.5% against Pitryosporum ovales, the fungal cause of dandruff.
In formulating a product range, it may be necessary to position shampoos and conditioners as products for prevention, supplemented by higher strength treatment products designed to allow longer contact time with the scalp.
Treatment and preventative products are also marketed for use against head lice (Pediculus capitis). Many insects and mites are either repelled or killed by tea tree oil and the solvent properties of tea tree oil if properly formulated, should assist greatly in removal of the eggs.
Cosmetics for problem skin utilise the germicidal activity of tea tree oil against Propionibacterium acnes in pimples and acne and other bacteria which may be involved in secondary infection—for example Staphylococcus species. The anti-inflammatory activity also provides a calming effect, reducing erythema and swelling around pimples. At 5%, effective treatment products can be formulated, while prevention and maintenance products for daily use, such as night cream, moisturisers, toners and cleansers should normally contain 0.5-1%.
Lip balms and sticks containing 1-3% tea tree oil are particularly effective in the prevention and treatment of sore and cracked lips resulting from sun and windburn.
Australian tea tree oil is increasingly being found in oral hygiene products—as a natural anti-plaque agent in toothpastes and mouthwashes. Although taste can be difficult to mask at concentrations over 0.5%, higher levels are predicted for use in products for sensitive teeth due to efficacy against the microflora of the mouth (Walsh and Longstaff 1987; Carson and Riley 1993), anti-inflammatory action and local anaesthetic properties on mucous membranes.
Obviously shave products would benefit from the germicidal and soothing properties of tea tree oil. The addition of 1% tea tree oil to shave creams, sticks, foams and after shave products will sooth irritated skin caused by the action of shaving.
After-sun lotions containing 1% Australian tea tree oil are effective in reducing redness and soreness of sunburn. The inclusion of tea tree oil in sunscreen products could enhance its Sun Protection Factor by suppression of erythema, although the benefit of this might be debatable.
The broad spectrum germicidal activity provides excellent cleansing and deodorancy at 1-2% in bar soaps, liquid soaps, bath oils and shower gels. In addition, the anti-fungal activity assists in the prevention and control of various fungal-based conditions prevalent in hot, humid climates of Asia, Africa and Central and South America.
Australian tea tree oil is also finding application as a natural deodorant in underarm antiperspirants and deodorants. Usually concentrations of 2-3% are required together with suitable perfume type fixatives to reduce the vapour pressure and extend time of effectiveness. Products include aerosols, sticks, roll-ons, deo-sprays, and talcs.
Protective barrier creams (1%) and treatment creams for hands and nails (3-5%) are both applications for tea tree oil. In treatment creams, tea tree oil's antifungal and anti-inflammatory properties can be of great benefit to dry and cracked hands and nails.
The irritation caused by hair removal products for legs and bikini line—shave, wax and depilatory creams—is substantially reduced by the addition or tea tree oil (1-2%).
Powders, creams and sprays containing tea tree oil (1-3%), can provide excellent deodorancy and assist in prevention of 'athletes foot'.
Finally, formulating tea tree oil into a product at 0.5% or greater may eliminate the need to add a preservative. Studies previously reported by the author demonstrated that Main Camp pharmaceutical grade tea tree oil could be successfully used in a range of formulations as a natural preservative at 0.5% and meet the requirements of both the USP and BP Preservative Challenge Tests.
In summary, tea tree oil is an effective active ingredient due to its broad spectrum antimicrobial properties, anti-inflammatory action and low toxicity. This versatile ingredient has a place in cosmetic and personal care products from head to toe.
It is an active ingredient that happens to be natural—particularly suited to products for problem skin. It is used in treatment products at higher concentration of 3-5% and as a preventative, deodorant and natural preservative at lower concentrations (0.5-34%).
Modern plantation oil is pure, colourless and low in odour. It can be easily perfumed to be virtually undetectable to the consumer or it can be left unperfumed to capitalise on its natural clean, green, environmental image.
Carson, C.F. and Riley, T.V. (1993) Anti-microbial activity of the essential oil of Melaleuca alternifolia.
Lett. Appl. Microbiol., 16, 49-55. Tong, M.M., Altman, P.M. and Barnetson, R.St.-C. (1992) Tea tree oil in the treatment of Tinea pedis.
Australasian J. Dermatol., 33, 145-149. Walsh, L.J. and Longstaff, J. (1987) The anti-microbial effects of an essential oil on selected oral pathogens. Periodontology, 8, 11-15.
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