Is Tea Tree Oil An Effective Treatment For Acne?

by Gio
tea tree oil is an effective acne treatment

“Got a pimple? Kill it with Benzoy Peroxide.”

“No, no, no, that’s too harsh! Use Salicylic Acid, instead”

“Forget about it, Sulfur works faster.”

“Hey, guys, what about Tea Tree Oil?”


Benzoyl Peroxide kills the bacteria that causes acne.

But Salicylic Acid can unclog the pores…

Poor Tea Tree Oil. It knows it’s up to the job,  but no one takes it seriously. Here’s what makes tea tree oil an effective acne treatment:

What The Heck Is Tea Tree Oil?

Tea Tree Oil is a slightly yellow liquid derived from the Australian plant melaleuca alternifolia. The Aborigines have been using it for millennia for its antiseptic and anti fungal properties. Now, it seems scientists are waking up to the fact it’s an effective acne treatment, too.

Is Tea Tree Oil An Effective Acne Treatment?

Yep. Tea Tree Oil is an antimicrobial agent that kills P.Acnes, the bacteria that causes acne. Plus, it reduces inflammation. Guess what acne is? An inflammatory disease.

1990 study compared a 5% Tea Tree Oil gel and a 5% Benzoyl Peroxide lotion for the treatment of acne. The results? Both worked but:

  • Tea Tree Oil was slower than BP at treating acne
  • Tea Tree Oil had fewer side effects than BP

Benzoyl Peroxide does the job so well because it’s harsh. I get it that acne is an awful disease that makes you feel ugly and robs you of your self esteem. You want something that works, and FAST, too.

But if it’s leaving you with dry, red, peeling patches of skin, don’t you think it’s worth it to try something that cures your acne more slowly but is gentler? I personally think it’s a good trade off. 🙂

Related: The Complete Guide To Benzoyl Peroxide For Acne Treatment

Does Tea Tree Oil Has Any Side Effects?

Don’t get me wrong. This doesn’t mean that Tea Tree Oil has no side effects.

Tea Tree Oil has a strong fragrance that can irritate (and even cause allergies) in some people. If that happens, stop using it immediately.

But, usually, fewer people react negatively to Tea Tree Oil than Benzoyl Peroxide. If BP is too harsh for you or you want to try a natural alternative first, Tea Tree Oil is the way to go.

Most Skincare Products With Tea Tree Oil Don’t Work

Before you go out and stock up on skincare products with Tea Tree Oil, hear this: most of them DON’T work.

Tea Tree Oil must be used in concentrations of 5% or greater to treat acne. Most skincare products only put a few drops of it in their products. Enough to trick you to buy them. Not enough for them to do anything.

You’re much better off buying pure Tea Tree Oil and diluting it (do NOT put it on your skin as is!).

The Bottom Line

If you’re looking for a natural anti acne treatment, turn to Tea Tree Oil. Just make sure you’re using enough of it to do the trick!

Have you ever used Tea Tree Oil as a treatment for acne or blemishes? Share your experience in the comments below.



Eleanor March 1, 2011 - 3:50 pm

Nice review. And I like how you made it clear that “natural” doesn’t make something safer. Lead is natural, and maybe one might consider it organic (depending upon the definitions), but it certainly isn’t safe.

beautifulwithbrains March 1, 2011 - 9:17 pm

Eleanor, thanks. I’m so tired of this “natural is better and safer” nonsense. You are absolutely right. There are good natural ingredients and bad natural ingredients just like there are good synthetic ingredients and bad synthetic ingredients. But just because something is natural, it doesn’t automatically mean it is also safe.

LaDamaBianca March 1, 2011 - 7:18 pm

Io ne uso di Neumond, lo recensirò prima o poi. Per i brufoli mai usato, ma per le afte fa miracoli.

beautifulwithbrains March 1, 2011 - 9:18 pm

LaDamaBianca, non vedo l’ora di leggere la tua recensione. 🙂 E buono a sapersi che funziona bene anche per le afte.

Fabuless Beauty March 2, 2011 - 2:15 am

Yep! I love tea tree oil for spot blemishes and dandruff! I put a couple drops of tea tree oil in my shampoo and more flakes!

kuri March 2, 2011 - 5:59 am

ooh, I should try that in my shampoo!

beautifulwithbrains March 2, 2011 - 10:22 am

Fabuless Beauty, I haven’t tried Tea Tree Oil for dandruff yet but I will now, thanks!

xin March 2, 2011 - 2:46 am

i do use tea-tree essential oil for acne sometimes, it soothes the angry volcano a lot 😀 but tea tree facial wash tends to dry my skin out

beautifulwithbrains March 2, 2011 - 10:25 am

Xin, that’s too bad that it dries out your skin. But it does work well for acne. 🙂

Makeup Morsels March 2, 2011 - 4:09 am

I’ve always wondered about this! The percentage information is very useful, thanks for this post gio!

beautifulwithbrains March 2, 2011 - 10:28 am

Makeup Morsels, you’re welcome. I’m glad this post was useful for you.

kuri March 2, 2011 - 6:00 am

Very educational! I’ve been experiencing some breakouts; probably from my new moisturizer or sunscreen; I’ll try this on the acne.

beautifulwithbrains March 2, 2011 - 10:26 am

Kuri, that’s too bad that you’re having some breakouts. But a product with at least 5% of Tea Tree Oil should take care of that and fix it. 🙂

Elizabeth April 11, 2011 - 7:32 pm

I use the Burt’s Bees blemish stick. It has tea tree oil in it and I absolutely love on it. It burns slightly when you first put it on, but it quickly stops and there is a noticeable reduction in redness and size. I swear by it! It’s cheap and you can buy it anywhere!

beautifulwithbrains April 11, 2011 - 8:18 pm

Elizabeth, thanks for your suggestion. It sounds wonderful and it’s great that it is affordable too.

NILOU August 17, 2016 - 1:59 pm

hi thanks for your information.
I want to ask if this oil is suitable for white comedones. I barely have red blemishes but I have lots of comedones on my forhead and chin

Gio August 17, 2016 - 8:54 pm

Nilou, yes, it is. 🙂

Sarah July 1, 2017 - 8:55 pm

Help! I have scalp dermatitis…never had this before now…Will Tea Tree Oil help, or will it have a side effect making scalp dermatitis worse. ? Has anyone had ? Not going to Dermatologist…Any helpful ideas please?

Gio July 7, 2017 - 10:42 am

Sarah, 5% tea tree oil has been shown to help in scientific studies. But some people are allergic to it. I’d first do a patch test to see how your skin reacts and, if that goes well, then you can use it on your scalp.

Rosie December 4, 2017 - 3:48 am

Just a slightly fastidious comment from an Australian botanist 😉 – the tea tree’s botanical name is Melaleuca alternifolia (i.e. not Malaleuca, and the species name is not capitalised). And Australian indigenous peoples have likely been utilising this tree for MILLENNIA (!!), not centuries – there’s been ongoing habitation here for at least 40,000 years, possibly more than 60,000, before European colonisation a couple hundred years ago. Good to note! Thanks so much for all your wonderfully informed and informative writing 🙂

Gio December 10, 2017 - 2:10 pm

Rosie, thanks for pointing that out. I’ve just edited the post. Glad you’re enjoying my blog. 🙂

Vanessa May 5, 2018 - 5:30 am

How would you go about diluting it? I have made the mistake of putting pure 100% TTO on my skin and it became so red and itchy!!! Now I’m too scared to use anything that has TTO in it!

Gio May 19, 2018 - 9:41 am

Vanessa, oh no! Sorry to hear that. The easiest way is to mix a few drops with your fave moisturizer/facial oil every time you apply it. Or you can dilute with water. 5% of the solution would be olive oil and the other 95% water.

Sarah September 15, 2019 - 7:32 am

When in my skincare regime (acne and aging) should I use tea tree? Thanks for the info!!

Sarah September 15, 2019 - 7:33 am

Uh, regimen**

Gio September 15, 2019 - 1:18 pm

Sarah, as a spot treatment on clean skin once or twice a day.

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