Tea tree essential oil has long been used as an alternative treatment to combat acne and its symptoms. Tea tree oil is extracted from Melaleuca alternifolia, an evergreen shrub native to Australia. Tea tree oil contains hundreds of compounds that act on skin cells, giving tea tree its antibacterial, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, and antimicrobial properties, making it effective in treating acne. Its pleasant smell makes it seem like more of a spa treatment than a skincare product!
This article breaks down the science behind tea tree oil’s effectiveness, what kind of tea tree oil to buy, how to use it on your skin, and common side effects associated with tea tree oil’s use on acne-prone skin.
What is Acne?
Acne is a skin condition that affects people of all ages. It occurs when hair follicles on your face, chest, neck, shoulders, and back become clogged with oil from your sebaceous glands. That’s why so many young people develop acne during puberty – their bodies produce more sebum (the oily substance in the skin) than ever before.
What is Tea Tree Oil?
Tea tree oil is a essential oil extracted from tea tree leaves. Tea tree oil has been used for centuries by Australian Aborigines as a cure-all remedy; however, its powerful properties were only discovered in 1867 when chemist Arthur Penfold isolated terpinene-4-ol (found in high concentrations in tea tree oil) from its foliage.
Today, tea tree oil is distilled from fresh leaves of Melaleuca alternifolia, one of more than 150 species in the Melaleuca genus. While other essential oils are extracted using steam distillation or solvent extraction techniques, tea tree oil is produced via cold press infusion (meaning no heat or solvents are used). A cold press is designed so that all materials within it remain cool during production.
Scientific Research of Tea Tree Oil for Acne
A small study done in Australia has shown that tea tree oil can reduce acne by clearing bacteria. The antibacterial properties of tea tree oil are believed to be effective in inhibiting acne. A 2008 study found that tea tree oil is effective in killing two species of Propionibacterium which are associated with acne vulgaris.
Tea tree oil has also been shown to speed up wound healing by increasing collagen formation and reducing inflammation. As a result, you may find that your pimples heal faster than they would otherwise.
Benefits of Tea Tree Oil for Acne
Tea tree oil has an antimicrobial properties that can kill acne-causing bacteria on contact. In fact, studies show that tea tree oil is more effective at killing acne-causing bacteria than benzoyl peroxide (another popular ingredient in over-the-counter products).
Tea tree oil kills bacteria so effectively it’s often recommended as a natural alternative to antibiotics for treating acne breakouts. But before you go ahead and apply tea tree oil or any other topical product containing tea tree oil around your eye area – because of its powerful antibacterial activity – be sure you read up on tea tree oil eye safety.
Tea tree oil also contains anti-inflammatory agents like terpinen-4-ol and cineole that help reduce irritation and redness. These anti-inflammatory properties are why tea tree oil is sometimes used to treat conditions like dermatitis and psoriasis.
Treat all types of acne
The anti-inflammatory properties in tea tree oil makes it a good choice for treating all types of acne. However, tea tree oil is most effective at treating mild-to-moderate forms of acne like whiteheads and blackheads. On severe forms like cystic breakouts or even nodules or pustules (which are sometimes caused by prescription medications), tea tree oil treats comedo and mild to moderate inflammatory acne, including pimples and pustules.
In fact, some studies suggest that applying tea tree oil in combination with benzoyl peroxide can improve treatment outcomes in acne patients on oral antibiotics when compared to using benzoyl peroxide alone—the reason being that benzoyl peroxide doesn’t penetrate deep enough into pores while tea tree oil does when applied topically.
Lastly, tea tree oil may help reduce skin’s natural oil production, making your skin less oily overall. Some studies show that combining tea tree oil with other acne-fighting ingredients can help reduce excess sebum more effectively than just using tea tree alone. As a result, you should get fewer breakouts if you are already dealing with oily skin or trying to prevent acne in areas where your pores tend to be more visible.
Tea tree essential oil also has a drying effect on pores, so those with oily or combination skin will benefit from its exfoliating effects.
Other Benefits of Tea Tree Oil
Tea tree oil may be useful in treating scalp conditions like dandruff. Not only does tea tree oil have antifungal properties that can kill scalp fungus; it also helps improve circulation on your scalp, which can lead to more oxygen getting into your hair follicles. As a result, your hair should grow faster and thicker since each hair follicle will be healthier.
Antiseptic and antifungal
Tea tree oil is known to have natural disinfectant properties that help kill bacteria and fungus. Not only does tea tree oil kill acne-causing bacteria, some studies suggest that tea tree oil can also be used as a substitute for antibacterial mouthwash. One study shows that applying 5% tea tree oil directly on your teeth three times a day helps treat gingivitis or gum disease.
When you have an infected cut or wound, applying tea tree oil can speed up healing time by helping kill bacteria in your wound faster than leaving it open.
Tea tree oil is thought to be more effective at treating skin conditions like boils than using over-the-counter remedies. Boils can develop on your body when you have blocked sweat glands or dead skin cells. When your pore gets clogged, bacteria can enter through a hair follicle and start multiplying underneath your skin.
If you notice a red bump appearing on your body that appears similar to acne or even begins oozing pus-like with an infected pimple, applying tea tree oil directly onto it could speed up healing time. Many doctors suggest treating boils by dabbing tea tree oil on them twice a day until they are completely gone.
How to Use Tea Tree Oil for Acne
Tea tree oil can be applied directly to your skin. Apply small amount of tea tree oil directly onto each blemish once or twice daily. You can also add a small drops of tea tree oil into a carrier oil such as jojoba or coconut oil and then apply that mixture topically to any acne-affected areas.
Many people prefer using tea tree oils by mixing with water; simply mix 4-5 drops of tea tree essential oil with one cup of water before application. Tea tree oil is very potent, so dilution is recommended. Tea tree oil may cause stinging upon application to sensitive skin, so test it on a small area first.
Even if you have not yet tried tea tree oil for acne treatment routine, most dermatologists do agree that tea tree essential oils are generally safe when used correctly.
Side Effects and Precautions of Tea tree oil
Tea tree oil is generally well-tolerated, but can cause minor side effects in some people. The most common side effect is a tingling sensation upon application. People with sensitive skin should test tea tree oil on a small patch of skin before using it regularly.
Tea tree essential oil should not be used by pregnant a woman or women who are breastfeeding, as studies have shown that applying tea tree oil topically can result in abnormalities in a developing fetus.
Tea tree oil should also not be applied directly to cuts or broken skin; since tea tree oil can slow down healing, you should use a barrier like petroleum jelly (Vaseline) if you need something stronger than water on wounds or cuts. Also, note that tea tree oil has an unpleasant smell.
Tea tree oil smells bad when first applied, so either mix it with a less offensive substance like olive oil or coconut oil, which will dilute its scent and give your face a moisturizing boost at the same time. The smell goes away after a while (usually after several minutes), so try not to judge tea tree oil based on its initial odor. If you can’t get past its smell, don’t worry—there are plenty of other natural treatments out there that may work better for you!
Tea tree oil may be drying to the skin; if your acne tends to leave dry patches behind after clearing up, look into moisturizers specifically designed for acne-prone skin instead of those made for combination or oily skin types. Dry skin prevents pimples from healing properly, making them more likely to recur.
To prevent tea tree oil from irritating existing pimples, apply a very thin layer of tea tree oil twice daily until new growth subsides. Once new growth stops increasing, decrease applications to once daily for two weeks; reduce applications further as needed until pimples clear completely.
Tea tree oil can take couple of months to start working, depending on how severe your condition is, so be patient and wait at least four weeks before deciding whether tea tree oil is effective for you or not. Tea tree essential oils interact with certain pharmaceutical drugs in unusual ways; talk to your doctor about any medications you’re taking before beginning tea tree therapy.
How often should you use it
Once you have found an effective mixture of tea tree oil for acne, make sure that you do not abuse its power. Using too much can leave you with dry skin. Tea tree oil is a potent ingredient and will require more delicate care when mixing. Once or twice a day should be enough to keep acne under control while still moisturizing your skin.
People’s number one mistake in using tea tree oil for acne treatment is applying it undiluted. You must dilute tea tree oil with water or carrier oil before applying it to your skin because it can cause irritation on some people’s skin if they use high concentrations.
What to look out for before buying tea tree oil
Tea tree oil is perhaps one of the most versatile oils that you can find on store shelves or online. However, before you go out there to purchase tea tree oil products or other essential oils with tea tree oil in them, you should be aware of some things.
First, not all brands are created equal, so if you are planning to buy a certain tea tree oil product, do your research and check reviews online before purchasing. Second, know what kind of tea tree oil is best for your skin type (for example, acne-prone skin) before purchasing any specific product.
You might want to consult a professional or skin care specialist if you have never tried any essential oils prior to using one.
What Kind Of Tea Tree Oil Is The Best?
The quality of tea tree oil depends on a few factors. The first factor is where did you get your tea tree oil from. Some oils are pure essential oils, while some contain other ingredients such as carrier oils or fragrances. The other factor is how much terpinene-4-ol does your tea tree essential oil contains? Terpinen-4-ol provides antifungal benefits in addition to antibacterial properties. Therefore, always be sure that you look at these two things when purchasing tea tree essential oils.
How long does it take to work?
While you can expect to see results within a few days of using tea tree oil for acne, it typically takes several weeks before you can tell whether or not tea tree oil will work as an acne treatment in your particular case. In most cases, however, severe acne is seen gradually clearing up within two months.
However, if tea tree oil is not working for you after four weeks, we recommend that you stop applying tea tree oil to your skin as chances are it won’t help and may even worsen any active breakouts.
Should I Be Using TTO Topically Or Internally?
Tea tree oil comes from a plant native to Australia. Tea tree oil has long been used topically (meaning on your skin) in treating acne. A 2009 study found that 5% tea tree oil was more effective than 1% benzoyl peroxide in preventing acne lesions. In addition, TTO is generally considered safe when applied topically, with very few side effects reported. It can also be used internally (in your mouth) as a mouthwash or toothpaste.
Some sources report that tea tree oil is toxic when ingested; therefore, we would not recommend internal use unless under the supervision of a doctor.