Tea trees (melaleuca) in Karijini National Park, Western Australia
In online forums about acne and skincare, tea tree oil is often discussed as a treatment option. As one of the ingredients in our Acne Control Complex, we think the essential oil derived from the leaves of an Australian tree is awesome. Here’s why.
Several recent studies show that tea tree oil is an effective treatment for acne. One in particular, by researchers at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Australia, showed that it delivered similar results to benzoyl peroxide.
They compared the use of a daily 5 percent tea tree oil treatment with use of a 5 percent benzoyl peroxide solution. Tea tree oil worked more slowly but both treatments, ‟had a significant effect in ameliorating the patients’ acne by reducing the number of inflamed and noninflamed lesions,” said the researchers.
Compared to 5 percent benzoyl peroxide, tea tree oil causes fewer side effects, a fact witnessed by researchers in the Australian study. That means less redness, stinging, drying and peeling. Since adult acne is best controlled with consistent, long-term treatment, this ingredient’s slower and gentler nature is ideal.
It's commonly known that bacteria is one of the factors behind acne. With over 98 compounds contained in tea tree oil, its antimicrobial activity is credited to a chemical known as terpinen-4-ol. In fact, tea tree oil seems to work especially well for the acne-causing bacteria propionibacterium acnes, which has recently shown resistance to conventional antibiotic medications.
The antimicrobial virtues of tea tree oil are important but its acne-fighting benefits don’t stop there. Tea tree oil also has a slight oil-drying effect. That’s right: this oil actually helps control skin oiliness.
When it comes to my own acne, many treatments make my already angry-looking pimples look even angrier. But tea tree oil is different. Known as a traditional herbal medicine for centuries, the overall experience of using it, including its camphorous smell, just makes me feel good. Skin seems to like it too: tea tree oil can soothe and nourish stressed skin without clogging pores. Even its scientific name, melaleuca alternifolia, sounds relaxing.
Tea tree oil sounds amazing, but are its effects too good to be true? The Mayo Clinic notes that when used in high concentrations, some people may develop allergic rash or itching and it may irritate eczema or other skin conditions.
That said, you also have to consider the side effects of over-the-counter and prescription acne treatments. Conventional products may contain preservatives and other synthetic compounds that may not be safe for long-term use or, in the case of some prescriptions, play a role in antibiotic resistance. Like anything, you have to weigh the risks and make the choice that is best for you.
It can be hard to find products made specifically for acne (or blemishes*) that contain tea tree oil. Many people buy a small bottle of pure essential oil and add a drop to their facial moisturizer.
But be careful: applying tea tree oil directly to the face is not recommended. (Straight out of the bottle is a 100 percent concentration and 5 percent was shown effective). Of course, our treatment product features tea tree oil and we think it's great. For unbiased opinions, check our customer reviews and decide what's right for you.