Is It Safe To Use Tea Tree Oil For Acne? Are There Any Side Effects?

Medically reviewed by Dr. Hari Hara Sudhan, MD, Dermatologist
Is It Safe To Use Tea Tree Oil For Acne? Are There Any Side Effects? Hyderabd040-395603080 December 9, 2019

If you have mild acne, you can try tea tree oil to treat it. But if you have stubborn cystic acne, we recommend you consult a dermatologist. You need to be careful when using tea tree oil as it may cause an allergic reaction. In this article, we have shared 9 quick and easy-to-follow ways to treat acne with tea tree oil. Scroll down.

Does Tea Tree Oil Help Acne?

The efficacy of tea tree oil depends on the type of acne you have and your skin type. Tea tree oil can be an effective spot treatment for mild breakouts. However, cystic and hormonal acne will require medical attention. Moreover, essential oils – especially tea tree oil – do not suit all skin types. It is also extremely important that you do a patch test on your forearm before applying it on your face to determine if you are allergic to it.

Tea Tree Oil Benefits For Acne: What Does Research Say?

1. It Has Antimicrobial Properties

An in-vitro study found that tea tree oil possesses antimicrobial properties due to the presence of a compound called terpinen-4-ol. It found that 5% tea tree oil helped reduce acne lesions (1).

However, tea tree oil can also cause skin irritation and allergic reactions. Improper storage can also affect the efficacy of tea tree oil. If not stored correctly, it may go through oxidation and cause skin irritation (1).

2. It Reduces Oiliness

Excessive oiliness is a major cause of acne. A study published by the Journal of Dermatology Research and Therapy states that tea tree oil helps in reducing oiliness (2).

3. It Reduces Inflammation

A study conducted at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital (Australia) found that tea tree oil treated the subjects’ acne by reducing the number of inflamed and non-inflamed lesions. Although it took a longer time than benzoyl peroxide to show results, it also displayed comparatively fewer side effects (3). Caution: Oxidized tea tree oil can irritate the skin and mucous membranes. It may cause a burning sensation, itching, rashes, stinging sensation, and other allergic reactions (4). To prevent oxidation, store tea tree oil in a dark bottle, away from sunlight and in a dry place. Also, whenever you are buying tea tree oil, purchase a product with 5% or lower concentration of tea tree oil. A higher concentration may cause adverse reactions.

If you are wondering how to use tea tree oil for acne at home, check out the DIY recipes given below.

9 Ways To Use Tea Tree Oil For Acne

1. Pure Tea Tree Oil

Dilute 1-2 drops of tea tree oil with a carrier oil (jojoba oil) and use a Q-tip to apply it to your acne. Leave it on for 5-10 minutes and then wash it off. Repeat this process once daily.

Note: You may feel a mild stinging sensation when following this remedy, which is normal. But if it stings really bad, do not continue with this remedy.

2. Lavender Oil And Tea Tree Oil

Lavender oil is known for its anti-inflammatory effect. However, avoid using it in high doses as it can cause irritation. Also, avoid leaving lavender essential exposed to air as it can oxidize, which can then cause skin irritation (5). Mix 2 drops of lavender oil and 2-3 drops of tea tree oil with a tablespoon of jojoba, olive, or sweet almond oil. Store it in a dark bottle. Use a Q-tip to apply the mixture of oils on your acne. Wash it off after keeping it on for 5-10 minutes. Use this remedy once daily.

3. Almond Oil And Tea Tree Oil

Sweet almond oil is a lightweight carrier oil that you can use on your face.

Mix 2-3 drops of tea tree oil with a tablespoon of sweet almond oil and apply the mixture to the affected area once a day. You can wash it off after 5-10 minutes of application.

4. Tea Tree Oil And Baking Soda

Baking soda is not recommended to be used on the skin as it is abrasive and can cause irritation. However, it is used in a few popular acne remedies as some people have found it beneficial.

If you want to use it, mix 2-3 drops of tea tree oil with a teaspoon of baking soda and apply it to the affected area. Do not rub. Leave it on for 5-10 minutes, then wash it off. Do not use baking soda on your face more than once or twice a week.

5. Lemon Juice And Tea Tree Oil

Lemon juice contains citric acid and vitamin C or ascorbic acid. It is a popular acne remedy because of its astringent effect (6).

Dilute 3-4 drops of lemon juice in water. Add 2-3 drops of diluted tea tree oil to this mixture and apply it to your acne with a Q-tip. Leave it on for 5-10 minutes before washing it off.

Caution: Do not follow this remedy if you have sensitive skin as lemon juice may cause redness and irritation and exacerbate your acne.

6. Tea Tree Oil And Calamine Lotion

Calamine lotion has anti-inflammatory properties and is widely used to soothe and treat acne (7).

Mix 2-3 drops of tea tree oil in a teaspoon of calamine lotion. Massage the mixture on the affected area. Leave it on overnight and wash your face the next day. Do this once a day regularly.

7. Tea Tree Oil And Witch Hazel

Witch hazel is known for its anti-inflammatory, skin-soothing, and astringent properties (8). Thus, it may be beneficial in treating acne when used along with tea tree oil.

What To Do: Mix 2-3 drops of tea tree oil with a teaspoon of witch hazel. Apply the mixture on the affected area with a cotton ball. Keep it on for 5-10 minutes before washing it off. Follow this remedy once daily.

8. Tea Tree Oil And Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple cider vinegar (ACV) has no proven benefit for acne. However, anecdotal evidence suggests that it has skin-soothing and anti-inflammatory properties that may help in the treatment of acne.

What To Do: Mix 2-3 drops of tea tree oil with a tablespoon of ACV and apply it with a cotton ball as a toner. You may keep it on for 10-15 minutes before washing it off. Use it daily after cleansing your face.

9. Tea Tree Oil And Aloe Vera Gel

Aloe vera has anti-inflammatory and skin-soothing properties, which make it beneficial for treating acne (8).

What To Do: Scoop out a tablespoon of fresh aloe vera gel and blend it well with 2-3 drops of tea tree oil. Massage it all over the affected area and wash it off after 15 minutes.

Risks Associated With Tea Tree Oil

Before using any of the above remedies, do a patch test with tea tree oil on your forearm to determine if you are allergic to it.

Avoid overusing tea tree oil. Excess use of tea tree oil may cause:

  • Skin irritation
  • Extreme dryness
  • Imbalance in your skin’s pH
  • Damage to the moisture repair barrier of your skin
  • Increase in the photosensitivity of your skin (vulnerable to sun damage)

Hence, tea tree oil is generally used as a spot treatment. Here’s a checklist of what not to do when using tea tree oil.

Safety Tips To Follow While Using Tea Tree Oil

  • Never apply tea tree oil all over your face. Use it only as a spot treatment.
  • Never add tea tree oil to your face cream, serum, or any skincare product that you use all over your face.
  • Do not cover the acne spots after dabbing tea tree oil on them.
  • Do not use tea tree oil simultaneously with other acne treatment products (especially products containing retinoids, salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, or other active agents).
  • Do not apply tea tree oil more than once a day.
  • Never use tea tree oil on broken, irritated, scaly, or dry skin.
  • Do not continue using tea tree oil if it burns or dries out your skin or causes redness.
  • Do not go out in the sun after applying tea tree oil.

Tea tree oil is easily available in stores and online. Here are some of the best tea tree oil brands that can check out.

Best Tea Tree Oils For Acne

You need to use tea tree oil for at least a month before you start seeing any results. If you do not notice any change in your condition after a month, discontinue use and consult your dermatologist.

Expert’s Answers for Readers Questions

How long does it take to treat acne with tea tree oil?

If it suits your skin, it will take at least a month to show results.

How should you dilute tea tree oil for acne treatment?

You can dilute it with any carrier oil, such as jojoba or almond oil.

How often should you use tea tree oil on acne?

Once a day or every alternate day.

Does tea tree oil help with acne scars?

There is no such scientific evidence that proves that tea tree oil works on acne. However, tea tree oil may reduce the formation of scars by preventing acne breakouts.

Can you put tea tree oil directly on your skin?

It is better not to do so as it might irritate your skin.

8 sources

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Ramona Sinha

Ramona has a Master's degree in English Literature. She believes that beauty begins with a good skin care regimen and is on a mission to eliminate all toxins from her routine. She helps readers select products and ingredients specific to their skin type and gives out tips to keep their skin healthy in a natural way. When Ramona is not working or experimenting with a new skin care product or ingredient, her books and a passion for music, good food, and traveling keep her busy.