From teens to adults, acne is synonymous with a nightmare to all. No matter how you deck up for an event or get your makeup done, your acne-prone skin can ruin the charm of your beauty in minutes. There are tons of drugstore and prescription acne treatments and commercial acne-busting products available in the market that you can give a try. But almost all of them contain harsh chemical compounds, which strip natural oils out of the skin. Choosing natural acne-treating alternatives like essential oils may help you prevent damage to your skin further. Tea tree essential oil has a proven record of managing acne effectively. So, let us talk about why and how to use tea tree oil for acne.
What Causes Acne?
Acne is a skin condition in which the pores in our skin get clogged by excess sebum (skin oil), dead cells (skin flakes), dirt, etc., and become inflamed or infected by Propionibacterium acnes (P. acnes) bacteria (1). This bacteria buildup in the pores causes unsightly acne and breakouts like zits, pimples, red bumps, etc. While pore-clogging and acne development are primarily associated with hormonal fluctuations in teenagers, many adults also face this issue. Though acne is not fatal, it can be painful enough based on the severity. In addition, the scars left by acne may also cause low self-esteem and emotional distress.
Being the most common skin condition in the U.S., acne affects almost 50 million Americans every year (2). It is mostly seen on the face, neck, back, chest, and shoulders. Acne can be both inflammatory and non-inflammatory. For example, whiteheads and blackheads are non-inflammatory acne, known as ‘comedones.’ Inflammatory acne lesions include papules, pustules, nodular, and cysts, which tend to leave the skin scarred.
Essential Oils for Acne Treatment
Traditional folk medicine has long been using plant extracts as an indispensable part of it. Essential oils are nothing but volatile chemical compounds extracted from several parts of plants (stems, roots, leaves, flowers, and seeds) through the process of steam distillation. Modern medicine has also studied essential oils and their benefits. It has been found that certain essential oils like thyme, rose, rosemary, cinnamon, etc., are highly effective in killing the acne-causing P. acnes bacteria. Some others worth considering are tea tree essential oil, lavender essential oil, oregano essential oil, and bergamot essential oil. (3)
What is Tea Tree Oil?
Tea tree oil is a pale yellow-colored oil, steam-distilled from the leaves of the Melaleuca alternifolia plant (tea tree), which is native to Queensland and New South Wales, Australia. The versatile oil has long been used for medicinal purposes like treating wounds, preventing infections, and promoting healing. Later, many of its benefits for skin, hair, and nails were backed by science.
When used with caution, tea tree oil is absolutely safe. Moreover, it is not as expensive as many other essential oils. Hence, it is widely used in commercially available cosmetics and skincare products in its diluted (5%-50%) form. You can also find 100% undiluted tea tree oil (neat oil) in the market.
Aboriginal Australians have been using tea tree oil as a traditional medicine for hundreds of years. They mostly inhale the oil extracted by crushing tea tree leaves for treating colds and coughs. The same oil is also applied to the skin directly to get rid of several skin ailments.
How Does Tea Tree Oil Work on Acne?
The germ-fighting properties of tea tree oil make it an excellent natural remedy for bacterial and fungal skin conditions (4). But how exactly does it work on acne? Well, here we have curated the findings of various studies:
- Tea tree oil contains terpinen-4-ol, which makes it a great antimicrobial agent. Hence, the application of this oil to the skin can destroy acne-causing bacteria very effectively. (5), (6)
- Terpinen-4-ol in the oil also combats germs and other foreign invaders by accelerating the activity of white blood cells. (7) This speeds up the healing of acne considerably.
- Tea tree oil is a highly effective topical antiseptic with excellent disinfecting properties. This prevents the further spread of bacterial infections by removing the damaged cells completely.
- It regulates the production of sebaceous glands, thereby putting a stop to the overproduction of sebum.
- The oil goes deep into the skin and unclogs the sebaceous glands to treat acne successfully.
- It disinfects the unblocked skin pores and dries out the blemishes to give us smooth, clear skin.
- Being a natural anti-inflammatory agent, tea tree oil helps in reducing the swelling in inflammatory acne.
- It is also effective in treating acne lesions and preventing the formation of new lesions (8).
- As a whole, tea tree oil helps in reducing the severity of mild to moderate acne breakouts, thereby slashing down the risk of scarring. (9)
There are lots of OTC and prescription anti-acne medications available in the market, and benzoyl peroxide is known to be the most common and effective among them. However, a study found tea tree oil to be as effective as it against acne (10).
How to Use Tea Tree Oil for Acne Removal?
When it comes to getting rid of acne and breakouts by using tea tree oil, the right application method is the key. You can make use of the oil in several ways to fight against acne. Check them out:
1. Undiluted Tea Tree Oil
Take a few drops of raw, organic, and 100% pure tea tree oil onto a cotton ball and apply it directly to the acne. Let it sit for 3-4 hours or leave it overnight. Then, do it regularly for faster results. This method is strictly for people who don’t have sensitive skin as the direct application of tea tree oil can affect sensitive skin considerably.
2. Diluted Tea Tree Oil
Prepare a face rinse by mixing tea tree oil and distilled water in a 1:9 ratio. Wash your face with it or apply it to the affected parts of the skin with the help of a cotton swab. Allow it to sit for the next 30 minutes and then wash off with plain cold water. Repeat the process twice every day for the best results.
3. Tea Tree Oil and Aloe Vera Gel
The antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties of tea tree oil can be increased with the help of aloe vera. Take two teaspoons of aloe vera gel and add a few drops of pure tea tree oil to it. Apply the mixture to the acne-affected areas of the skin and leave overnight. The following day, rinse off with plain cold water. Do it regularly to heal acne within a month.
4. Tea Tree Oil and Honey
Being another strong natural antibacterial agent, honey can boost the acne-curing capacity of tea tree oil to a great extent. Blend a few drops of pure tea tree oil with two teaspoons of raw organic honey. Apply the mixture to the acne directly or with the help of a cotton swab. After 3 to 4 hours, rinse with plain water and apply a moisturizer.
5. Tea Tree Oil and Yogurt
Take (1/4) cup of yogurt, pour 4-5 drops of tea tree oil into it, and mix well. Next, apply it to the troubled parts of your skin and wait for 15-20 minutes. Then, wash with tepid water. This will not only soothe irritated skin but also reduce the redness to a large extent.
6. Tea Tree Oil, Tomato, and Jojoba Oil
A tea tree oil face mask can make your face completely free of acne and that too within a few weeks. Peel off and deseed a ripe tomato and also make a smooth paste of it. Add 4-5 drops of tea tree oil and a few drops of jojoba oil to it. Mix everything well and apply it all over your face. Let it dry, and then wash off with lukewarm water after 20-25 minutes.
7. Tea Tree Oil and Egg White
When the white portion of an egg is mixed with tea tree oil, the mixture plays a crucial role in detoxifying the skin and shrinking the pores, reducing acne significantly. Separate the white section of an egg and pour 4-5 drops of tea tree oil into it. Wash well and apply to the acne-prone areas of your skin. Let it dry for 10-15 minutes and wash off with lukewarm water.
Always cleanse and wash your skin with a mild herbal cleanser before starting the tea tree oil treatment for acne. However, if you are allergic to tea tree oil, don’t give these face masks a try, as these might worsen your skin condition.
Other Potential Benefits of Tea Tree Oil
The versatility of tea tree oil makes it an excellent remedy for many other skin and hair issues. Check out other potential benefits of the ingredients below:
- When combined with cleansers, tea tree oil works as a perfect natural hand sanitizer that kills harmful bacteria and viruses like E. coli, S. pneumoniae, and H. influenzae.
- Dilute the oil with water to make a great chemical-free mouthwash with a less objectionable taste that keeps plaque, tooth decay, and bad breath away.
- Being a powerful anti-inflammatory agent, tea tree oil helps soothe irritation and inflammation caused by contact dermatitis and insect bites.
- It can also relieve the chronic autoimmune condition called psoriasis by reducing the flares and easing the symptoms.
- The oil has strong antiseptic properties, which prevent open wounds (caused by minor cuts and scrapes) from getting infected by killing S. aureus and other bacteria.
- The oil’s antibacterial properties make it a safe and effective natural deodorant by fighting against bacteria responsible for underarm odor.
- You can treat fungal nail infections by using tea tree oil alone or in combination with other natural antifungal remedies.
- Adding tea tree oil to the regular shampoo helps control the severity of dandruff.
Risks and Side Effects of Tea Tree Oil
Studies have confirmed the overall safety of applying tea tree oil topically (11). However, you must remember that it is a powerful essential oil that should always be used by diluting with one or more carrier oils (coconut oil, olive oil, or almond oil). In addition, the oil may cause irritation or allergic reactions to sensitive skin, thereby leading to redness, itchiness, hives, rashes, etc. Hence, always do a patch test before applying the oil to your skin for the first time.
Acne is a common skin condition in which the skin pores get clogged by excess sebum, dead skin cells, dirt, etc., and eventually get inflamed by P. acnes bacteria. Tea tree essential oil has been found to be a great natural remedy for this pesky skin issue. The germ-fighting and anti-inflammatory properties of the oil make it a foolproof solution for both inflammatory and non-inflammatory acne. You can combine tea tree oil with other natural ingredients like aloe vera gel, tomato, yogurt, honey, etc. for treating acne and its lesions effectively. However, make sure that you dilute the oil with one or more carrier oils before applying it to the skin, especially if you have sensitive skin.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):
When Should We Use Tea Tree Oil?
Always use tea tree oil (or any other essential oil) at night before going to bed. This does not make your skin photosensitive, and hence, you can stay away from sun damage.
Can We Apply Tea Tree Oil Directly on Acne?
Generally, no essential oil should be applied directly to the skin as they are extremely strong and powerful. However, if you have normal skin with zero sensitivity, you can give it a try.
How Long Does It Take for Tea Tree Oil to Work on Acne?
It may take almost 10 to 12 weeks for tea tree oil to show visible results on acne.
Can I Leave Tea Tree Oil on My Face Overnight?
You can. Leaving a tea tree oil mask on the face overnight can help you reap the maximum benefits of the ingredients. Make sure that you wash your face thoroughly in the morning with lukewarm water.
Is Carrier Oil Good for Acne?
Coconut oil, almond oil, olive oil, etc., are good carrier oils for diluting any essential oil. They are suitable for our skin too. For acne-prone skin, jojoba oil also works as a potent carrier oil as it helps control the excess production of sebum.
- “What Causes Acne?”, HealthLine.com
- “Skin Conditions By Numbers,” AAD.org
- “Activities of Ten Essential Oils towards Propionibacterium acnes and PC-3, A-549 and MCF-7 Cancer Cells”, MDPI.com
- “Tea Tree Oil”, NCCIH.nih.gov
- “Melaleuca alternifolia (Tea Tree) Oil: A Review of Antimicrobial and Other Medicinal Properties”, PubMed.NCBI.nlm.nih.gov
- “The Dynamics and Mechanism of the Antimicrobial Activity of Tea Tree Oil Against Bacteria and Fungi”, PubMed.NCBI.nlm.nih.gov
- “Biological Activity of Melaleuca alternifolia (Tea Tree) Oil Component, Terpinen-4-ol, in Human Myelocytic Cell Line HL-60“, PubMed.NCBI.nlm.nih.gov
- “The Efficacy of 5% Topical Tea Tree Oil Gel in Mild to Moderate Acne vulgaris: A Randomized, Double-Blind Placebo-Controlled Study”, PubMed.NCBI.nlm.nih.gov
- “Tea Tree Oil Gel for Mild to Moderate Acne; A 12 Week Uncontrolled, Open-Label Phase II pilot Study”, PubMed.NCBI.nlm.nih.gov
- “A Comparative Study of Tea-Tree Oil versus Benzoyl Peroxide in the Treatment of Acne”, PubMed.NCBI.nlm.nih.gov
- “A Review of the Toxicity of Melaleuca alternifolia (Tea Tree) Oil”, PubMed.NCBI.nlm.nih.gov