I absolutely love using tea tree oil for acne! It’s one of the most effective natural acne treatments out there.
Not familiar with this little miracle oil? Here’s a little background info:
Tea tree oil is extracted from the Australian narrow-leaved tea tree (melaleuca alternifolia).
The Australian Aborigines were the first people to realize the benefits of the tea tree…
They chewed the leaves to relieve headaches and used the plant for other medicinal purposes.
Why Use Tea Tree Oil for Acne?
Using tea tree oil for acne helps address two of the major causes of pimples:
- Bacteria – The number one reason to use tea tree oil for acne is because it kills acne bacteria. Studies have shown that tea tree oil has very strong antimicrobial properties. Tea tree oil also has antiviral and antifungal properties.
- Inflammation – Another great reason to use tea tree oil for acne is because it helps reduce inflammation caused by acne. It does this by inhibiting the production of inflammation-causing cytokines in the skin. This can help to reduce the redness and irritation caused by acne.
Research on Tea Tree Oil and Acne:
A recent article published in the International Journal of Antimicrobial Agents took a look at several studies done on tea tree oil and acne completed between 2005 – 2014.
The authors concluded that, when using products containing tea tree oil for acne, you can expect a reduction of acne lesions by between 23.7% and 62.1%.
In another study, comparing 5% tea tree oil gel with 5% benzoyl peroxide cream, it was shown that both products significantly reduced the occurrence of open and closed acne lesions over a three month period.
Although using tea tree oil for acne took longer to show results, there were much fewer side effects…
The benzoyl peroxide group reported side effects in 79 percent of participants, including itching, burning, stinging, and dryness.
How to Prepare a Tea Tree Oil Acne Treatment
There are several ways to use tea tree oil for acne. Depending on your skin type, and how you react to tea tree oil you will need to experiment a bit to find what works best for you.
Tea tree oil is very strong, and most people will want to dilute it.
You can dilute it with other oils such as jojoba oil, olive oil, or others. Witch hazel also works very well.
I don’t recommend using water because oil and water don’t mix. The tea tree oil will just float on the surface like an oil slick.
Even if you shake it up, it will just break into smaller oil droplets which will quickly come back together.
You will want to dilute the tea tree oil to a 5-10% mixture with whatever other ingredients you decide to use.
What You Will Need:
- Tea Tree Oil
- A Washcloth
- Hot Water
Choose One or More to Mix With Your Tea Tree Oil
- Aloe Vera
- Emu Oil
- Evening Primrose Oil
- Jojoba Oil
- Lavender Oil
- Olive Oil
- Other Essential Oils
- Witch Hazel
- To create a 5 – 10% tea tree oil application, combine 5 – 10 drops of tea tree oil per 1 teaspoon of whatever you are combining it with. For example, you could do 5 – 10 drops TTO with 1 teaspoon of jojoba oil, or you could combine 10 – 20 drops TTO with 2 teaspoons of aloe vera (or 1 tsp. of jojoba oil and 1 tsp. aloe vera). Experiment to see what combination and TTO percentage works best for your skin.
- Gently wash your face before you apply the tea tree oil mixture.
- Soak a washcloth in hot water and cover your face with it to give it a good steam and open up your pores. This will make it easier for the tea tree oil to penetrate deep into your pores where it can kill more bacteria and be most effective.
- Using your fingers, apply the mixture all over your face. Use slow, firm, circular motions to massage the oil into your skin.
- Let it dry, and don’t wash your face afterward.
You can do this at night before going to bed, or in the morning. After it dries you can easily apply makeup with no problems.
Combine Tea Tree Oil with Other Treatments for Best Results
Tea tree oil only targets two of the major causes of acne (bacteria and inflammation).
Try combining TTO with other treatments that target the other major causes of acne, such as excessive oil production, dead skin cells, and clogged pores.
Good options include benzoyl peroxide, retinol, and salicylic acid. Take a look at our full list of 61 ways to get rid of acne to find many others.
Precautions and Side Effects
NEVER ingest tea tree oil!
Tea tree oil is toxic when swallowed and can cause severe symptoms such as hallucinations, coma, confusion, unsteadiness, drowsiness, and a range of others. Keep it away from children and pets!
Tea tree oil can cause mild skin irritation such as:
However, studies that compared TTO to antibiotics and benzoyl peroxide found that tea tree oil caused less common and less severe side effects than the other two.
Also, some people may experience an allergic reaction when using tea tree oil.
Never use less than 4% tea tree oil in any treatment because it may fail to kill the bacteria, and end up creating resistant bacteria that are less sensitive to tea tree oil and even some antibiotics!
Don’t Buy Impure, Adulterated Tea Tree Oil
Tea tree oil knockoffs are becoming increasingly common. These “fake” tea tree oils are made by either diluting actual tea tree oil or creating a completely synthetic product.
…knockoffs are becoming increasingly common.
Sometimes actual tea tree oil will be diluted with cheap fillers such as pine oil, eucalyptus oil or others. The Australian Tea Tree Industry Association (ATTIA) reports that up to 50% of commercially sold tea tree oil is adulterated to some degree.
This adulterated tea tree oil is much less likely to provide the desired benefits of tea tree oil, and it may even contain toxic or otherwise harmful ingredients.
Many Products Contain Too Little Tea Tree Oil
Many over-the-counter beauty products contain tea tree oil as one of their active ingredients. Unfortunately, these products usually contain a very small amount of TTO, usually less than 0.5%.
This amount is much too little to have any therapeutic value. It’s just a marketing ploy that allows sellers to claim their products contain tea tree oil.
…a [Tea tree oil] concentration of 5% is necessary to ensure effectiveness.
Most studies on tea tree oil agree that a concentration of 5% is necessary to ensure effectiveness.
I recommend purchasing pure, undiluted tea tree oil. Then you can combine it with any other products you like -making sure that you always have an effective 5% TTO concentration.
How to Find the Best Tea Tree Oil for Your Acne
Here are several things you can do to ensure that you purchase only the highest quality tea tree oil, made with pure ingredients and free of any harmful fillers.
- Look for Tea Tree Oil Made in Australia – The best tea tree oil comes straight from the source, Australia. Australian TTO products are held to very high quality standards at every step of their production – from the oil growers/producers to the final product manufacturers.
- Get the Right Bottle and Dropper – Look for tea tree oil sold in a very dark bottle. A clear bottle will easily let in sunlight, which can degrade the quality of the oil. Studies have shown that sunlight can cause terpinen-4-ol to rapidly oxidize. Exposure to sunlight also increases levels of para-cymene which is a known skin irritant. Also, look for a glass dropper, because plastic droppers tend to dissolve over time.
- High Levels of Terpinen-4-ol – Terpinen-4-ol is the main ingredient responsible for tea tree oil’s antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, and other beneficial qualities. Look for TTO with high levels of terpinen-4-ol, preferably between 30-40%. Levels above 40% are very rare and often mean the oil has been “tampered” with to artificially boost the terpinen-4-ol levels.
- Low Levels of Cineole – Some variants of the Australian tea tree (melaleuca alternifolia) produce tea tree oil with lower terpinen-4-ol levels. These plants also have higher levels of 1,8 cineole. To prevent tproduction of this lower quality TTO, international and Australian standards have set a limit of 15% 1,8 cineole in Australian TTO.
Best Brand of Tea Tree Oil for Acne
When looking for a good brand of tea tree oil, it’s always best to get something made in Australia. You can also look for products that are ATTIA certified.
Of course, you also want to follow all the guidelines mentioned in the previous section of this article.
My favorite brand of tea tree oil fits all of these requirements and then some. It’s Thursday Plantation’s 100% Pure Tea Tree Oil.
Thursday Plantation is the Australian company that pioneered the modern tea tree oil industry over 40 years ago.
They produce some of the absolute highest quality tea tree oil on the market. Their tea tree oil has a very high minimum terpinen-4-ol level of 36%.
It has a much smoother, sweeter smell than many other tea tree oils, another sign of purity and high quality.
It also conforms to all the quality standards set by the Australian Tea Tree Industry Association (ATTIA was actually founded by the owners of Thursday Plantation).
Tea tree oil can be an amazing addition to your acne treatment. Just watch out for fake, diluted, or otherwise “low quality” products.
Always use at least a 5% concentration of tea tree oil – to ensure it’s strong enough to kill the bacteria. And of course, keep it away from children and out of anyone’s mouth (it’s toxic when ingested).
If you’ve been successful with tea tree oil, please tell us about it down in the comments. Good luck!