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Markets & trends

With its antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties, Melaleuca oil takes the cosmetics industry by storm

Amid a growing interest in natural ingredients, this versatile oil already being used in skin, hair and nail care products, as well as dental hygiene products. Melaleuca oil is extracted from the leaves of the melaleuca alternifolia, an Australian tree also known as tea trees. The oil has been used commercially since 1920, but the aboriginal people have been aware of the oil’s antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties long before then.

The essential oil is used externally to treat problems on the nails, skin and scalp - such as mycoses, acne and dandruff - and it is currently being used as a raw material for a multitude of cosmetics and personal care products.

Karina Meyer, marketing director at The Body Shop

Karina Meyer, marketing director at The Body Shop

"Tea tree oil is one of the most versatile ingredients in the beauty industry. With properties that fight fungi and bacteria, the oil is an excellent purifier, decongestant, cicatrizing and it also fights oiliness," says Sophia Kowarick, marketing coordinator for Biossance. The American brand that specializes in sustainable skincare has just launched a line of products with a cleansing gel, a balance oil and a detox mask in Brazil - all with tea tree oil produced in Australia. "There is no other ingredient like melaleuca oil," she says.

Another brand taking a chance on the ingredient is The Body Shop. The British brand focused on natural cosmetics - which was bought by Brazilian company Natura in 2017 - created the collection Tea Tree, with an exfoliant, cleansing tonic and facial oil and serum. "Our oil is from the Kenya Organic Oil Farmers’ Association (KOOFA). At the bottom of Mount Kenya, small local farms manually harvest the leaves of the tea tree, which are then slowly distilled in vapor - using the shells of the macadamia nuts as a sustainable source of heat - and it releases its essential oil", says Karina Meyer, markerting director for The Body Shop.

Bucking the skincare trend, Boni Natural developed oral hygiene products and a deodorant with melaleuca. "One of the benefits of the plant’s oil is bacterial control. Therefore, it is not only beneficial for nails or for the skin, but also for any type of care that requires asepsis," says Eliane Santana, marketing manager at Classy Brands, Boni Natural’s distributor.

According to Santana, when used in dental cream and in mouthwash, the ingredient fights the bacteria that causes dental problems, helping to prevent cavities, plaque and bad breath. In the deodorant, the tea tree oil helps to prevent the proliferation of bacteria that causes body odor.

In Brazil, tea tree oil can also be found in soaps, shampoos and conditioners and it will likely be used in the formulation of many other products. "The cosmetics industry is increasingly looking for natural ingredients that have the same effects as synthetic raw materials, which are often harmful to consumer’s health. That is why I believe tea tree oil, like many other plant-based oils, will be used in new formulas," says Santana. Boni Natural already has plans to do so. "The melaleuca oil is one of our favourites and we will certainly release more products with the ingredient."

Dermatologist Daniela Neves agrees with the marketing manager on how the market is moving towards natural ingredients. However, she gives a warning: "There is data documenting the benefits of the melaleuca oil, but there are no controlled or randomized studies proving how efficient it is for most dermatological conditions." According to her, as studies are developed, more cosmetic products will be formulated with the ingredient.

Renata Martins

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