Tea tree oil is a versatile and effective essential oil obtained through the distillation from the leaves of the plant called Melaleuca alternifolia. It should not be confused with tea oil or camellia oil, which comes from the actual tea plant or Camellia sinensis.
This oil is listed as an active ingredient in many commercial products like soaps, lotions, cleansers, shampoos, toothpastes and mouthwashes. It can also be found in pure, undiluted form in health stores and drugstores.
Thanks to its antiseptic and antibacterial properties, tea tree oil can be used for a number of infections, and it is particularly effective against acne.
Tea tree oil for acne
It is a known fact that acne is caused by inflammatory processes due to the presence of bacteria in the skin. Anti-microbial properties of tea tree oil derive from a constituent found in this oil, called terpinen-4-ol. Regular application of tea tree oil will reduce the number of bacteria that dwell in the skin and it will result in a clear and acne-free complexion.
Benzoyl peroxide, which is also frequently used in the treatment of acne, has shown to be less effective when compared with tea tree oil. In addition, it has quite a few side effects that tea tree oil does not cause, like dryness, irritation and stinging.
Some people use undiluted tea tree oil on acne but this is not recommended because it may burn the skin. The best way to use it is to apply 5% tea tree oil gel, which is diluted but still has all the beneficial properties.
Those who already have undiluted tea tree oil in their bathroom cabinet can dilute it themselves, by mixing 5 parts of oil with 95 parts of water.
Evidence of effectiveness of tea tree oil on acne
Even though it has been known for a while that tea tree oil can solve the problem with acne quite quickly and effectively, only a few studies were performed to confirm it.
A single-blind randomized trial was performed in Australia, where the tea tree plant is widely cultivated. This study compared the effectiveness of tea tree oil on acne with benzoyl peroxide used for the same purpose.
Some participants in the trial used tea tree oil and others used benzoyl peroxide, and by the time the trial ended those who used tea tree oil reported much less side effects than those who used the other product.
Tea tree oil took more time to start working against acne and it was slightly less effective in moderate and severe acne flare-ups. Many people preferred it to benzoyl peroxide because of the fewer side effects. In any case, it is still necessary to conduct further studies and double-blind randomized trials.