It’s no secret that coconut oil’s powers extend far beyond the kitchen, but it’s not the only multitasking oil on the block.
Need proof? Pick up a bottle of tea tree oil. The essential oil has antimicrobial and antifungal properties, meaning it can vanquish a pimple just as quickly as it can rid your gym clothes of their, um, signature scent.
“Tea tree oil has been found to have 100 different chemical compounds with antiseptic properties,” says Christine Allmer of natural beauty brand Desert Essence, which incorporates the ingredient into many of its products. “It has long been used by native people of Australia for its therapeutic benefits, something even modern science can attest to,” Allmer adds.
While you can’t add it to your smoothies (the oil, sourced from trees and plants Down Under, is considered toxic when ingested), there are still plenty of ways that you can get a healthy boost from it.
Ready to unlock the full potential of tea tree oil? Keep reading for five ridiculously smart ways to use it.
1. As an all-natural scalp and hair treatment
If you’re all about washing your hair every single day or you’re a product junkie, you’ve probably got a bit of build-up on your scalp. And remember: healthy follicles = thick, shiny locks.
So the next time you lather up, Allmer suggests adding a few drops of tea tree oil into your regular shampoo. It’ll help break down any product that’s been left behind and is especially useful if your scalp is dry and itchy, or if you’ve got full-fledged dandruff. It’s calming, Allmer says, and can cut through any fungus that may be causing your flakes.
2. As a natural laundry detergent for your much-loved activewear
It’s so obvious it seems silly to point out, but your sports bras, leggings, and sports socks get more of a, well, workout than the rest of your wardrobe. Thankfully, tea tree oil has an “incredible ability to freshen” super-sweaty clothes, Allmer says. It can help remove odors and launder at a microbial level. She recommends adding two teaspoons of tea tree oil to your wash load to give an extra-deep clean and keep your treasured athleisure pristine.
3. As a toothbrush freshener
Regular brushing is key for a healthy smile, but it also means your toothbrush—which fights the good fight on behalf of your teeth and gums every day—could use a regular cleaning of its own. Again, that’s where tea tree oil comes in. “Mix a few drops into a cup of water and place the brush into the solution for a several minutes,” Allmer advises. Rinse thoroughly, and you’re good to go.
4. As a chemical-free nail treatment
Even if you know how to get a truly non-toxic mani and pedi, simply wearing polish 24/7 can take its toll. Allmer says that adding a few drops of tea tree oil to an all-natural hand cream can help lead to happy cuticles and stronger nails, which is why she advises slathering it on regularly. Plus, studies have shown that tea tree oil may be effective in treating nail infections, too.
5. As the ultimate sunburn soother
While aloe vera may be the first natural remedy you think of to treat sensitive sunburned skin, tea tree oil is an excellent option, too. When mixed with a moisturizer, it can help reduce discomfort and itchiness, Allmer explains—and you can use it in conjunction with aloe for a one-two punch.
Just remember: Unless you’re spot-treating pimples, always be sure to dilute tea tree oil with your favorite moisturizer or a carrier oil, like jojoba or almond, to avoid irritation. It’s powerful, which is what makes it such a wellness workhorse.