Hour upon hour trapped inside dark, dank boots can make your toes a prime breeding ground for athlete's-foot-causing fungi. Kill them (the fungi, that is) naturally with tea tree oil, says herbal expert William J. Keller, Ph.D., chair of the department of pharmaceutical sciences at Samford University School of Pharmacy, Birmingham, Alabama. Tea tree oil also works as an antiseptic, so you can use it to prevent infection in minor cuts and scrapes. Here's what to look for and how to use it:
- Buy a product that is 100 percent tea tree oil, not oil mixed with alcohol or something else. If the label says it contains 5 to 7 percent cineole and 30 percent or more of terpinen-4-ol-the active ingredients in tea tree oil-you definitely have the right stuff. Tea tree oil has a strong medicinal odor, so if you can't smell it, there's probably not much in there.
- You can use straight oil, but it may dry your skin, plus it's expensive (a .5-ounce bottle cost us $7.65). If drying is a problem, mix one part tea tree oil with 5 to 10 parts vegetable or olive oil. Or simply apply a drop or two on a wet cotton ball.
- Apply the oil three times a day, and continue doing so until the athlete's foot disappears.
- You might be allergic to tea tree oil, so test a dab on a small patch of skin the first time you use it.