Acne is one of the most ubiquitous of all skin problems. There are a great number of treatments on the market, from cheap generic sorts with iffy results to more proven (but often expensive) and chemical based solutions.
In recent years more and more people have turned to natural remedies for acne, and one of the most successful so far has been found in tea tree oil. Tea tree oil (TTO), also known as melaleuca oil, is an extract (steam distilled) from the leaves from Melaleuca alternifolia (commonly referred to as the narrow leaved tea tree) trees unique to Australia and native to Northern New South Wales.
Are the benefits of tea tree oil for acne backed by science?
Scientific study of tea tree oil is a fairly recent development but the research clearly shows that tea tree oil is definitely an effective treatment for acne.
In 1990 a randomised clinical study carried out by the scientists at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Australia, compared the effectiveness of a 5 percent tea tree oil daily treatment with a 5 percent benzoyl peroxide solution. Both treatments resulted in reducing the patients’ acne but it was concluded that although the tea tree oil worked more slowly than the benzoyl peroxide, it produced fewer side effects.
In 2002 the Department of Microbiology and Infectious Diseases from the Flinders University School of Medicine in Adelaide, Australia did a study which found that the oil’s water soluble nature lent itself well to anti-inflammatory medicinal use, which of course goes hand in hand with treating acne. From there, the use of tea tree oil for acne removal has grown dramatically. The study was published in The British Journal of Dermatology that confirmed tea tree oil’s anti-inflammatory effects.
More recently (in 2007), a small randomised study that involved 60 patients with mild to moderate cases of acne and treated with a gel containing 5 percent tea tree oil or placebo for 45 days, found that tea tree oil worked substantially better than placebo in reducing the number and severity of acne lesions.
The way tea tree oil actually reacts with the skin is similar to topical antibacterial treatments and creams. It kills bacteria and germs and cleans pores. It is even able to fight off MRSA (Methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus), a powerful bacteria strain that has proven highly resistant against many of the more common antibiotics out there. There is mounting evidence that the oil may be useful for eliminating the topical carriage of MRSA. Needless to say, tea tree oil is quite potent and is an ideal solution to the problems acne can bring forth.
Given the commonality of acne, it is only natural that information on any effective method of treatment will be of interest to many, and in turn becomes more popular.
How to use tea tree oil for acne and spots
Once you have found a brand of tea tree oil you feel is right for you (the best brands will contain 100% pure essential tea tree oil), you will also need to find which method of application is best suited for treating your skin.
Tea tree oil can be applied in a myriad of ways: you can simply place a drop or two on a cotton bud and apply directly to the acne, mix a few drops into your favourite facial cleanser, create a home-made scrub combining your it with a carrier oil, dilute it with water and use it as a toner, or you can add a few drops to some plain yogurt for a home-made mask.
If you buy pure tea tree oil, it usually says on the label to never use it undiluted. The caution is because tea tree oil is a strong oil and can irritate the skin in some people. Applying it undiluted on really bad cystic acne will possibly be most effective but using it added to a carrier oil or even water can be a better choice for those who have very sensitive skin.
So how do you dilute tea tree oil for use as an acne treatment? For dilution, I would recommend that you add between 15-20 drops of essential oil to 40-50 mL of jojoba or almond oil. Mix it well and to apply to the affected areas. Jojoba oil is particularly good for this purpose as it penetrates the skin without clogging pores. It can be used on all skin types, contains vitamin E and antioxidants and moisturises the skin. In addition, it is also antibacterial making it great for all skin types. The jojoba oil may also promote faster healing.
Is tea tree oil effective in reducing acne scars?
Tea tree oil has strong antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral properties. Therefore it is great to use for infections and for helping to clear and minimise acne but it does not really reduce acne scars. Acne lesions, particularly cystic acne, can lead to scarring because of the substantial, collagen-damaging skin inflammation with which they are associated.
Many if not most acne scars will disappear over time. Just be patient because cystic acne injure the skin and fat and it can take up to a year for the scars to fade. As your skin is healing, new blood vessels will supply nourishment to the scared area of the skin. Also, collagen (a fibrous protein that connects and supports body tissues and is essential building block of the skin) will start filling in the injured part of skin, making it more even and looking healthy again.
If the acne scars really bother you, there are several more aggressive acne treatments available. Read on for top cosmetic and dermatological strategies for healing acne scars and keeping new ones at bay.
What is the best tea tree oil for stubborn acne and blemishes?
At present time there are numerous different brands of tea tree oil available. If you search for it online, you might find hundreds of different results. Fortunately, tea tree oil is fairly inexpensive and it can be purchased for only a few dollars.
There are also numerous products out there that take advantage of the healing properties of tea tree and contain tea tree oil as one of the ingredients. You can buy pre-packaged products that incorporate tea tree oil into the likes of soap, gels, moisturisers, lotions, shampoos, and even toothpaste. You may find some merit in several of these products, but for acne you will likely get the best results from coming up with your own use from one of the pure liquid varieties. 100% pure Australian essential tea tree oil is the best one to start with. Make sure that you buy a reputable brand because there are many diluted or non-genuine tea tree oil products on the market.
For example, there are lots of plants known as “tea trees” including plants in the Melaleuca and Leptospermum genera. However, tea tree oil can only be produced from a very small number of plants, mainly Melaleuca alternifolia. These other oils may have medicinal properties such as antimicrobial activity but few have been scientifically investigated as much as tea tree oil made out of Melaleuca alternifolia, so their effectiveness is unknown.
The following are some good brands of tea tree oil available from health shops in Australia:
•All Thursday Plantation products contain only Pure Australian TTO
•All Desert Essence branded products contain only pure Australian TTO
•Tea Tree Wonders offer only pure Australian TTO
If you are in the U.S., Canada, UK or other countries, there are some good brands available on Amazon. Some of the best and highest rated out there right now are from Eden’s Garden, Plant Therapy, Essential Vitality, doTERRA, Aura Cacia, Young Living. Beware though because I have seen some poor quality TTOs sold there as well.
There are many options of how the oil can be used to help you with any acne problems, so find out whatever works best for you and stick with it. However if you do decide to use tea tree oil, keep in mind that its powerful cleansing properties can actually be too strong for your skin if too much is used. Usage of this oil should be kept to only a few drops per day at most, and you can even get away with only using it every other day or so. Even water diluted tea tree oil has proven effective (in 5% solution), so you may want to consider doing that before use. And remember that tea tree oils is toxic when ingested so keep it out of reach of children.
Users of tea tree oil as a topical remedy for acne have reported relatively quick results. It is common for the skin to be clear of most of its redness the day after one application. If you are the sort that has struggled with a particularly bad case of acne like cystic acne (particularly deep, painful breakouts), some of the scarring that may have been caused might remain but the root of the problem will still be dealt with quite effectively.
Ultimately, tea tree oil is widely regarded as one of the most useful forms of natural acne treatments out there. Its natural strength vs. numerous types of bacteria has been scientifically proven and is potent enough to clear up acne with only a few drops at a time. It is gradually becoming more and more widely available and it is fairly easy to find quality brands. It goes without saying: anyone in need of a natural, fast acting means of acne removal should look no further than tea tree oil.