Can Tea Tree Oil Treat Acne?
Tea tree oil is effective against acne, thanks to its antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and antimicrobial activity. TTO can fight 27 of the 32 strains of the bacteria that cause pimples. While it works well against mild-to-moderate acne, a study on cystic acne has shown only negligible improvement. TTO is also found to be effective against acne scars and blackheads. To make the most of the oil, use only 5 percent of the oil and in combination with other oils or ingredients like witch hazel or aloe vera gel.
Check out the beauty shelf in any supermarket and you will find a slew of products with tea tree oil (TTO) for acne. And with nearly 85 percent of the US population in the age group of 12-24 afflicted by this agonizing skin condition,1 there is bound to be a lot of products that promise to treat it. But what makes TTO so revered in acne treatment?
Tea tree oil has its origins in Australia. The wonder oil from Down Under was once considered so valuable for its sundry medicinal uses that it was distributed to Australian soldiers during World War II as a part of their military kits. The oil is derived from steam distilling the leaves and bark of the tea tree first discovered on the Australian coast. Tea tree oil has nothing to do with tea but it has almost just as many beauty and medicinal uses. It promises to treat a range of ailments, from acne and warts to fungal nail infections and dandruff.
The tea tree essential oil is highly concentrated and you need very little of it (hence the small bottles). It is mostly used after diluting it with water or carrier oils like olive, sesame, and coconut. The 100 percent TTO for acne should not be applied directly to the skin as it is very potent. Care should also be taken to not apply it anywhere near the mouth since it can be toxic if ingested. TTO’s efficacy is protected well if it is stored in a cool, dry and dark place (hence the dark-tinted glass bottles).2
How Effective Is Tea Tree Oil Against Acne?
Many studies back the use of tea tree oil for acne treatments. Tea tree oil is known to possess antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and antimicrobial activity–all of which help our cause. To reap the benefits of tea tree oil for acne, most formulations with the native Australian ingredient use only 5 percent of the oil and have proven to manifest great results.3
So how does tea tree oil help acne? Scientists have observed that tea tree oil is effective against 27 of the 32 strains of Propionibacterium Acnes bacteria that live on the skin and cause pimples.4
Tea tree oil has also proven to be better, albeit slower, than formulations with benzoyl peroxide, which is used in scores of anti-acne products. In a study that compared benzoyl peroxide with tea tree oil for acne, it was concluded that both were equally as effective. Even though tea tree oil was a tad slower, it resulted in lesser side effects than benzoyl peroxide. So using tea tree oil for acne is something everyone with acne-prone skin should try at least once.5
Does Tea Tree Oil Work On All Kinds of Acne?
Most studies concerning tea tree oil for acne involve mild-to-moderate acne. Few studies have tested it on severe types of acne like cystic acne or nodular acne. Cystic acne is a severe kind of acne wherein overproduction of sebum leads to large, inflamed and often painful pimples. Only one study tested tea tree oil on cystic acne treatment which showed negligible improvements after four weeks of treatment. There are few data to indicate that topical tea tree oil would be beneficial for severe acne. For cystic acne, you may require systemic therapy under the supervision of a dermatologist.6
What About Tea Tree Oil For Acne Scars And Marks?
For some of us, the annoying phase of pimples and zits often ends with adolescence but leaves behind acne scars. These marks or blemishes are a nasty reminder of those agonizing times and are sometimes the only roadblock to a flawless complexion. According to a study, there seems to be a potential benefit of tea tree oil compared with placebo in improving total skin lesion counts in the acne-afflicted skin.7
Also, Fights Blackheads
Those afflicted with acne mostly also suffer from blackheads and whiteheads. They are undoubtedly an offshoot of acne and are mostly seen around the T-zone (nose, forehead, and chin). According to a 45-day study, 5 percent tea tree oil gel was found to be effective in reducing comedones (blackheads and whiteheads). A 40.24 percent reduction in blackheads and whiteheads was observed after the application for 20 minutes twice daily before washing off with tap water.8
Best Partners For Tea Tree Oil
Since tea tree oil is too potent to be applied directly, it is often used with carrier oils like olive, sesame or coconut oil. For treating acne, there are certain ingredients that go well with tea tree oil. We derived at these combinations from user reviews; these are not backed by studies. Here are some such combinations:
1. Witch hazel
Witch hazel with tea tree oil is a winning combination. Witch hazel’s astringent and antioxidant properties9 combine with tea tree oil’s antibacterial and anti-inflammatory qualities to fight acne.
How To Use: Blend a few drops of tea tree oil with 20 to 40 drops of witch hazel, and apply to the skin once or twice a day with a cotton swab on the pimple spots. Try not to overuse it as it can dry out the skin.
You can also use witch hazel and blend it with a few drops of pure tea tree oil and lavender oil along with filtered water to make your very own DIY tea tree oil toner for acne.
2. Aloe vera
This combo is very soothing and takes care of itchiness, irritation, and inflammation.
How To Use: You can blend 2-3 drops of tea tree oil with aloe vera gel or dilute it with the aloe vera carrier oil.
Aloe vera gel can also be used for a tea tree oil overnight acne treatment by mixing 2-3 teaspoons of the gel with 2-3 drops of tea tree essential oil. Use this tea tree oil mask for acne regularly for results.
3. Various oils
Organic or 100 percent tea tree essential oil for acne is also often blended with other acne-fighting and inflammation-soothing oils. It blends particularly well with cinnamon, clary sage, clove, geranium, lavender, lemon, myrrh, rosewood, rosemary, and thyme.
How To Use: To your bath water or unscented body lotion, add a few drops of tea tree oil for body acne. You can add another one like lavender or lemon for fragrance. It can also be your tea tree oil back acne fix. It is a natural antibacterial and antiseptic, so it won’t harm you in any way – just protect your eyes, though.
References [ + ]
|1, 3, 8.||↑||Enshaieh, Shahla, Abolfazl Jooya, Amir Hossein Siadat, and Fariba Iraji. “The efficacy of 5% topical tea tree oil gel in mild to moderate acne vulgaris: a randomized, double-blind placebo-controlled study.” Indian Journal of Dermatology, Venereology, and Leprology 73, no. 1 (2007): 22.|
|2.||↑||Carson, C. F., K. A. Hammer, and T. V. Riley. “Melaleuca alternifolia (tea tree) oil: a review of antimicrobial and other medicinal properties.” Clinical microbiology reviews 19, no. 1 (2006): 50-62.|
|4.||↑||Kapoor, Shweta, and Swarnlata Saraf. “Topical herbal therapies an alternative and complementary choice to combat acne.” Res J Med Plant 5, no. 6 (2011): 650-9.|
|5.||↑||Bassett, I. B., D. L. Pannowitz, and R. S. Barnetson. “A comparative study of tea-tree oil versus benzoylperoxide in the treatment of acne.” The Medical Journal of Australia 153, no. 8 (1990): 455-458.|
|6.||↑||Hammer, K. A. “Treatment of acne with tea tree oil (melaleuca) products: A review of efficacy, tolerability and potential modes of action.” International Journal of Antimicrobial Agents 45 (2015): 106-110.|
|7.||↑||Cao, Huijuan, Guoyan Yang, Yuyi Wang, Jian Ping Liu, Caroline A. Smith, Hui Luo, and Yueming Liu. “Complementary therapies for acne vulgaris.” The Cochrane database of systematic reviews 1 (2015): CD009436.|
|9.||↑||Graf, J. “Herbal anti-inflammatory agents for skin disease.” Skin Therapy Lett 5, no. 4 (2000): 3-5.|