Is Tea Tree Oil a Good Treament for Acne?

tea-tree-shek-graham

Tea tree oil is an essential oil that has antiseptic properties. It has been used as a natural antifungal and antibacterial agent. You might have heard that teat tree oil can help treat acne because it kills acne-causing bacteria. However, unlike benzoyl peroxide and retin A, there is not much evidence that tea tree oil is an effective treatment for acne.

There are only two published studies on the use  of tea tree oil for acne. The first was done about 10 years ago in Australia. It showed that 5% tea tree oil is comparable to 5% benzoyl peroxide. The tea tree oil took longer to work, but appeared to be less irritating than the benzoyl peroxide. The second study, which was done in Iran, showed that 5% tea tree oil was more effective than a placebo in treating acne. Comparing tea tree oil  to a placebo, which is essentially comparing it to non-treatment, is not the same thing as comparing it to another acne-fighting treatment. It’s likely that tea tree oil has some effect on acne but it has never been shown to be better than traditional acne therapies.

In contrast to other acne treatments, however, tea tree oil is an increasingly common cause of skin allergies. Like other fragrant oils such as balsam of Peru, tea tree oil can trigger an allergic contact dermatitis in people who are sensitive. This can range from a minor itchy rash to a full scale blistering eruption.

Tea tree oil is also toxic if swallowed. If consumed, even in small doses, it can cause reduced immune function, abdominal pain, diarrhea, drowsiness, confusion, or even, in rare instance, coma.  If applied in the ears, it can lead to hearing loss. It has been shown to be toxic to animals when applied to a large area of skin. Tea tree oil can affect hormones as well. One study published in The New England Journal of Medicine showed that repeated application of topical products containing tea tree oil (and lavender oil) could cause prepubertal gynecomastia, a rare condition resulting in enlarged breast tissue in prepubscent boys. Tea tree oil is not recommended for pregnant or nursing mothers.

Because tea tree oil is a naturally occurring substance, it tends to get good publicity, but it’s probably only an average or below average product for acne. Oftentimes people believe that since tea tree oil is natural, it must be safe and better for you than traditonal acne treatements. It’s not true. Remember, turpentine (a related tree oil that is used to strip paint) is also natural, but it doesn’t mean it’s good for you.

Photo: Shek Graham

32 thoughts on “Is Tea Tree Oil a Good Treament for Acne?

  1. Nail fungus happens when fungi and bacteria get into your nails through a cut or tear. Nail fungus can be a bit difficult to treat because repeated infections are common. It is also be tricky since the fungus is found under the nail and can be hard to reach. However, there are a variety of treatments you can use to hasten the healing of your fungal infection.

  2. Comparing tea tree oil to a placebo, which is essentially comparing it to non-treatment, is not the same thing as comparing it to another acne-fighting treatment. It’s likely that tea tree oil has some effect on acne but it has never been shown to be better than traditional acne therapies.

    Quite true, but then comparing a new drug to existing treatments has never been required for FDA approval of a new drug, either. So expecting this of an OTC remedy is a little odd.

    Would we have any number of the me-too drugs out there if head-to-head studies were required for approval? Probably not…

  3. this post has come as a bit of a shock to me as i was always an advocate for tea tree oil as a skin care remedy probably because my mother was such a big supporter of it. i guess i will be doing some research on this matter.

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  5. tea tree oil is great gift of nature and used in various remedies to cure many skin condition besides ance.
    It is very effective for the treatment of psoriasis.

  6. I also use Trre tree oil for dandruff control. It works. Add about 5/6 drops to about 20-30ml of water; apply to scalp (I shoot it around out of a syringe so it gets past the hair and straight onto the scalp) while rubbing in. Wait a few minutes and wash hair as normal. Dandruff is gone for days. It takes two or three washes to have full effect and it only seems to work if there is at least 40% Terpinen in the tree oil (not all oils are equal – one brand actual stung). Hair is shiny and full, no after-smell (be sure to wash and rinse well), no more itching. As good as any of the best dandruff shampoos but costs less and more natural.
    I have also noticed that my face almost never gets acne anymore. Maybe the hair rinse water flowing over my face has something to do with that.

  7. I’ve heard the affects of this oil is very effective on not just acne but all types of skin conditions.

    You gave me a very interesting topic to write about.

    Thanks and, what a great read!!

    Kathleen Leroi

  8. Nail fungus is a disease that happens when the fungus enter into you nail and the best treatment for it possibly Tea Tree Oil

  9. The two studies the author of this post mentions involve a rather low percentage of tea tree oil — only 5 percent. As a patient, if I only take 5 percent of my colitis medication, I’d be in a rather sorry state, but I am not seriously comparing the two any more than I would apply turpentine to my face. However, I am seriously stating that a tiny dab of 100 percent TTO on my cystic acne is helping. Before applying the TTO, the acne sometimes hurts so much that I feel like someone has punched my face. Topical clindamycin and minocycline are simply not doing the job.
    I can understand why a derm would not consider TTO as an option for patients because doctors rely upon pharmaceutical companies to educate them regarding medications. Pharmaceutical companies currently spend between half-a-billion and several billion dollars annually educating physicians. Which treatment options do you honestly think the pharm companies are advocating? Probably not TTO — they can’t put a patent on it.
    Anyone who reads this post, you are the boss of you, and you hold your destiny. Give both traditional medicine and folk treatment a chance. Keep that which works and discard that which does not.

  10. @Elizabeth

    @Heartburn Home Remedy

    I just read your comments and I want to thank you for your insight. My son is 16 with mod/severe acne going on and I purchased it today and am going to try it for him. We have tried everything the dermatologist has ordered and it does not seem to be working. I hope this helps him as acne really does affect a teens self esteem. Thanks again. mary ellen

  11. I have been SUFFERING with adult acne now for the past year..I am a 35 year old female who also gets keratin filled cysts :-( I have tried antibotics,gels,creams you name it and I am sure I have used it.
    Started the Tea Tree Oil this morning and guess what..my acne flare ups have already started shrinking..I really hope it keeps working.

  12. Tea tree oil is purported to have antiseptic properties and has been used traditionally to prevent and treat infections.

  13. This article is poorly written. The study quoted involving gynecomastia is taken out of context. I read that article and it involves three boys. All three of the boys used lavender oil. One used tea tree oil. All three developed breasts. I fail to see how you can say the tea tree oil caused it.

    Tea tree washes, when used in proper concentration, are very beneficial in non-allergic people. There is also some evidence that a tea tree wash can prevent staph infections. I use tea tree oil facewash for my acne, and it was the only thing that ever worked on me.

  14. Tea tree oil can certainly cause allergic reactions, but I still like to use it to treat small nicks and cuts. I’ve even used it on my dogs when they get a small injury and it helps heal them extremely fast.

    However beware of it because if the dog swallows it, it can be toxic.

  15. At last a product that will destroy your toenail fungus, at a fair price. This nail fungus treatment is different. It is the only nail fungus treatment that is designed to increase new nail growth, as well as eliminate your toe nail fungus.

  16. So many powerful herbs and oils that mother natures has blessed us with. Tea Tree oil is perhaps one of the best natural oils to help fight off infection and fungus. Just be sure that it is only used externally as it can be quite toxic if ingested.

  17. There are so many ideas and cures for cyst acne! Everyone seems to have the perfect cure. Teas and oils are some of the best!

    Thank you for your information and I look forward to coming back for more!

    James

  18. I can tell you some of our best customer results come from those that use tea tree oil for their acne problems and this includes acne on the back, face and especially adult acne. It really dones’t matter what form you use it in such as face cleansers, acne creams or even spot treatments. They all work well!

  19. I can tell you some of our best customer results come from those that use tea tree oil for their acne problems and this includes acne on the back, face and especially adult acne. It really dones’t matter what form you use it in such as face cleansers, acne creams or even spot treatments. They all work well!

  20. Tea tree oil is amazing but most people try to use it wrong. Make sure to dilute it but also remember that it has to be left on the skin long enough to kill the bacteria and it needs to be in a good carrier oil to get beneath the skin. One of the best carrier oils, believe it or not is emu oil!

  21. I read this blog and felt like I needed to stand up for poor, defenseless Tea Tree Oil. I’ve suffered from adult cystic acne for over 7 years and have tried almost everything. I’ve used benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, Proactiv, antibiotics, even Cortisone shots (IN MY FACE) to get rid of the horrible sights without much luck, but a dab of tea tree oil on the cysts clears them up within days. After suffering for so long, it seemed like a miracle drug. Now my skin is just about acne free and I’ve gotten my self-confidence back.

  22. I put one drop of tea tree oil on my pimple and the next day I woke up with a rash 1/4 of my face over where I had the pimple. I am wondering what to do now. It is very annoying and looks hideous.

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