One of the greatest things about the beauty world is the diversity of methods, products, and natural ingredients from all over the world—along with the amount of cultural exchange it can foster.
With my family being half Italian and half Romani (a diasporic ethnic group from India, more commonly known by the racial slur “Gypsy”), I was lucky to grow up with a lovely mish-mash of beauty rituals involving oils, flower essences, and sometimes elaborate practices.
In fact, my Romani mama is a former bikini model and aerobics instructor, so she was always looking to improve her beauty routine. In the ‘70s she discovered tea tree oil, and when I was in middle school she introduced me to it, telling me that tea tree oil was the key to clear and healthy skin, hair, nails, and even teeth. I don’t remember her having any blemishes to speak of, so I assumed it either worked well or she was a witch of some kind.
I, on the other hand, did have some blemishes to test on, and got right down to it. And it turns out that she was right! I saw noticeable improvements in my skin, and it has been a fixture in my beauty arsenal ever since.
My mother and I love it, but the science speaks for itself: Studies have found that tea tree oil has cleansing and purifying properties. In fact, people indigenous to Australia have recognized the stuff’s efficacy for a long time.
Here’s how I incorporate tea tree oil into my beauty routine. Tip: Just be sure to test it out on a small patch of skin before you use it!
1. As a cleanse
I tend to get acne if there’s even a trace of makeup left on my face at night. Since I model, I often have a full face of makeup on and get home late at night completely exhausted. I have to fight the urge to just crawl into bed, no matter how wonderful that would feel.
I find that I can get excited about my skincare routine if I’m excited about the products I’m using. This makes my beauty routine feel less like a chore and more like self-care. (FYI: An oil-based cleanser, like Shea Moisture Sensitive Skin Facial Cleansing Oil, does an excellent job of getting off tough to remove makeup.)
After I’ve removed my makeup, it’s time to cleanse with tea tree oil. I turn this into a little bit of a facial massage by rubbing together some warm water and a few drops of tea tree oil along my jawline, nose, and cheekbones. Then, I rinse.
2. As a mask
I use a tea tree oil-based clay face mask about once a week to draw out any impurities. My mother has been using Aztec Secret Bentonite Healing Indian Clay since the ’70s, and passed the secret on to me.
Like a lot of beauty gurus and bloggers do, I mix a tablespoon of the clay in a bowl with a tablespoon of Bragg Apple Cider Vinegar for clear skin (I love the fizzing sound it makes!), a dollop of royal jelly honey for moisture, and a drop or two of tea tree oil for its added benefits.
I apply the mixture to my face (it will probably tingle a little from the tea tree oil), leave it on for 10-20 minutes, and then remove with water to reveal a glow.
3. As a toner
Some toners can really dry out the skin, making oil production and acne even worse in the long run. Today, I use what my mother prefers: Thayer’s Witch Hazel Alcohol Free Toner. She taught me to swipe it—along with a drop of tea tree oil—over my face after cleansing to remove any remaining residue and to tighten my pores.
4. As a spritz
Spritzing facial mist throughout the day is one of my most beloved beauty discoveries. It keeps me looking fresh and awake. Here’s a spritz recipe I make on my own:
- 1 cup of weakly brewed and cooled chamomile tea, or rose water (both chamomile and rosewater have been used by Roma, and other cultures, to heal and calm the skin)
- 2 drops of lavender essential oil
- 1 drop of tea tree oil
I combine it all in a spray bottle, shake, and spritz my face a couple of times a day when I need a pick-me-up.
5. As dental care
Tea tree oil can also help support dental health (and it’s got a great fresh scent). I like this Desert Essence Tea Tree Oil and Neem Toothpaste in Wintergreen and their Tea Tree Oil Floss. I follow it all up with a mouthwash like Desert Essence Tea Tree Oil Mouthwash Whitening Plus.
I also like to make my own mouthwash with naturally cleansing ingredients.
- 2 cups of filtered water
- ½ a teaspoon of sea salt
- ½ a teaspoon of baking soda
- 2 drops of peppermint essential oil
- 2 drops of tea tree oil
- 1 drop of clove essential oil
6. As hair care
In the winter, I tend to get a dry, flaky scalp and it drives me absolutely crazy. Over the years, I’ve come up with a few different ways to combat it, and tea tree oil’s cleansing properties make it a star ingredient. I simply mix a few drops of tea tree oil into my shampoo or condition and then smooth it through my hair as normal.
7. to support nail health
Due to tea tree oil’s cleansing properties, it can be great for nail health. When my nails are looking a bit yellow or brittle, I add a few drops of tea tree oil to my hand and foot cream and rub into my cuticles and nails.
8. to support beauty sleep
Aromatherapy always makes me feel a little better. When I’m stressed out, I like to add three drops of lavender oil, two drops of tea tree oil, two drops of eucalyptus oil, and one drop of peppermint oil to my diffuser. I feel like it helps me breathe more deeply, reduce my congestion, and catch up on my beauty sleep.