Does Tea Tree Oil Help Acne?
Tea tree oil offers a wide range of benefits for the skin, but does tea tree oil help acne? Learn more about this essential oil as we investigate the research.
If you’ve ever searched for a natural treatment for acne, then you’ve probably come across tea tree oil. Known for its impressive healing properties, this essential oil has been used for thousands of years to treat all sorts of skin ailments.
In modern times, tea tree oil has become the go-to natural remedy for acne. When used topically, it’s been said to combat oily skin and reduce acne breakouts.
Is there any truth to these claims? Does tea tree oil help acne?
Here are three things you need to know about tea tree oil and acne:
- Tea tree oil has been used for more than a century for medicinal purposes
- Tea tree oil has anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties that can help acne
- Tea tree oil may cause skin reactions and should be used with caution
To find out the truth about tea tree oil and acne, we dug into the research. Here’s everything we discovered about tea tree oil and its potential to help improve acne.
What Is Tea Tree Oil?
Tea tree oil (also known as melaleuca oil) is an essential oil that comes from the leaves of Melaleuca alternifolia, a small tree commonly found in New South Wales and Queensland, Australia. Before tea tree oil gained widespread popularity, it was first used by indigenous Australians who would crush the leaves and use the extracted oil to treat a variety of common ailments.
Specifically, the topical application of tea tree oil has been used to treat a range of skin disorders including acne, nail fungus and dandruff. When taken orally, tea tree is poisonous. As such, it should never be used to treat problems in or around the mouth.
Does Tea Tree Oil for Acne Work?
Tea tree oil is often touted as a natural treatment for acne blemishes, but is there any research to back it up? As it turns out, there is indeed some evidence that tea tree oil can help acne.
Tea tree oil has been shown to have antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties, both of which can potentially benefit acne sufferers. Let’s take a closer look into the research.
Tea tree oil is particularly well-known for its strong antimicrobial properties that can potentially combat acne-causing bacteria. Scientists have previously attributed tea tree oil’s antimicrobial properties to a component called terpinen-4-ol, an isomer of terpineol.
However, research shows that terpinen-4-ol isn’t the only component in tea tree oil to have acne-fighting abilities. In a 1995 study published in Letters in Applied Microbiology, scientists singled out not one, but three components of tea tree oil that were active against P. acnes: terpinen-4-ol, alpha-terpineol and alpha-pinene (see claim: “This study supports the use of tea-tree oil in the treatment of acne, and demonstrates that terpinen-4-ol is not the sole active constituent of the oil.”)
Tea tree oil may be beneficial in treating specific types of acne such as pustules and papules (aka, inflammatory acne). In a 2000 study published in Inflammation Research, scientists found that tea tree oil can suppress the body’s inflammation response, which could help reduce redness and swelling in acne sufferers (see claim: “The water-soluble components of tea tree oil can suppress pro-inflammatory mediator production by activated human monocytes.”)
Other research has supported the claim that tea tree oil can help acne. In a 2007 study published in the Indian Journal of Dermatology, Venereology and Leprology, researchers concluded that tea tree oil was an effective treatment for mild to moderate acne (see claim: “Topical 5% tea tree oil is an effective treatment for mild to moderate acne vulgaris.”)
Finally, a comparative study published in The Medical Journal of Australia found that both tea tree oil and Benzoyl Peroxide were effective in treating acne lesions, with tea tree oil producing fewer side effects (see claim: “…fewer side effects were experienced by patients treated with tea-tree oil.”)
Is Tea Tree Oil Harmful?
As we previously stated, tea tree oil should not be applied in or around the mouth due to its toxicity to humans. So if you have stubborn acne around the mouth that you’d like to get rid of, tea tree oil may not be the safest choice.
Additionally, tea tree oil can also cause adverse skin reactions, especially in those with sensitive skin. To use tea tree oil properly, you should always dilute it with a carrier such as almond oil or Kukui Nut Oil before applying it to the skin.
The Bottom Line
Does tea tree oil help acne? While these studies show some evidence that tea tree oil can benefit acne sufferers, it may not be the best choice for everyone.
If you decide to give tea tree oil a try, remember to perform a patch test on your skin first. If your skin reacts poorly to tea tree oil, it may be best for you to stick with an over-the-counter acne treatment system formulated for sensitive skin.
Raman, A., et al. “Antimicrobial Effects of Tea-Tree Oil and Its Major Components on Staphylococcus Aureus, Staph. Epidermidis and Propionibacterium Acnes.” Letters in Applied Microbiology, vol. 21, no. 4, Oct. 1995, pp. 242–45. PubMed, doi:10.1111/j.1472-765x.1995.tb01051.x.
Hart, P. H., et al. “Terpinen-4-Ol, the Main Component of the Essential Oil of Melaleuca Alternifolia (Tea Tree Oil), Suppresses Inflammatory Mediator Production by Activated Human Monocytes.” Inflammation Research: Official Journal of the European Histamine Research Society ... [et Al.], vol. 49, no. 11, Nov. 2000, pp. 619–26. PubMed, doi:10.1007/s000110050639.
Enshaieh, Shahla, et al. “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, vol. 73, no. 1, Feb. 2007, pp. 22–25. PubMed, doi:10.4103/0378-6323.30646.
Bassett, I. B., et al. “A Comparative Study of Tea-Tree Oil versus Benzoylperoxide in the Treatment of Acne.” The Medical Journal of Australia, vol. 153, no. 8, Oct. 1990, pp. 455–58.