Over on the incredibly long biology-online thread, someone was going into great detail on his experiences with tea-tree oil. He posted a link to a photo album:
I’d expect a lot of fiber photos, but was surprised to find most of the photos were of things that looked like blobs of some kind of gelatinous stuff, like this:
(lots more on the site, check it out).
Intrigued, I read that all he did was rub tea tree oil on his arm, and the fibers appeared. Fibers? He must include these blobs as some kind of compressed fiber.
Anyway, I got some tea tree oil and rubbed it onto my arm – smelly stuff!
Nothing seemed to be happening for a while, I notice the small hairs stuck to the skin, maybe that’s what people were seeing. Hmm, or maybe as the oil drys, the hairs pop up?
Nothing really going on, I stared at my arm, shining a flashlight, wishing I had a magnifying glass. Then suddenly I noticed a tiny little speck at the base of one hair. Whoa! I’m infected! I pinch the skin, and gently scrape it off with a sharp knife, and transfer it under the microscope, x200.
Hey, that looks familiar – it’s a “fiber” thing. I have Morgellons!
Zoom out a little:
It’s about 1mm long, 0.25 mm wide. Not sure where that fiber came from.
Okay, so I’m not itching. I probably don’t have Morgellons. So what is this thing?
It’s a sebum plug.
Hair on your arms is rooted in little pits called follicles. Sebaceous glands in the follicle secrete an oil substance called sebum. The follicles can become blocked (both with or without a hair growing from them). A plug of sebum forms in the follicle and can harden.
Tea tree oil dissolves the material (skin and hardened sebum) blocking the top of the follicle, and allows the sebum plug to emerge. Tea tree oil is a well-known treatment for blocked pores.
Tiny fibers could quite easily become trapped in the follicle and become part of the sebum plug. Not many of the photos actually have fibers though.
Shutterfly guy – you are collecting sebum plugs.
He also has a video of a sebum plug dissoving in some alcohol. It’s quite an energetic dissolution – titled “supernova”. Sebum is fat, alcohol dissoves fat. Fat is semi-soil and dissolving it is a naturally violent reaction due to localized changes in surface tension and density.
Here’s another sebum plug (60x)
You can see how people might think it was some kind of fibrous organism.