Tea Tree Oil as Natural Acne Remedy
Andreea Macoveiciuc | On 15, Jan 2014
In my previous article, I was talking about the Caveman eating regimen, and I was saying that this eating strategy is inspired from the diet our prehistoric ancestors had. For some reason we’re tempted to think people were healthier back then, as their food was more natural.
Yet, it’s not only the eating habits of prehistoric people that the modern world tries to bring to our attention: the traditional medicine systems, promoting the use of herbs and plants instead of drugs, are also gaining more and more followers these days. And although the most popular ones are the Ayurvedic and Chinese systems, today we’ll talk about a natural remedy originating in Australia: tea tree oil.
What is tea tree oil?
Despite its name, tea tree oil has nothing in common with Camellia sinensis, the plant from which tea is prepared, nor with tea oil, obtained from the pressed seeds of the mentioned tea plant. This oil, also referred to as Melaleuca oil, is obtained from the Melaleuca alternifolia plant, native to Australia.
Tea tree oil is an essential oil, “essential” meaning that it carries a distinctive scent and it’s a volatile product. Colorless or colored in pale yellow, this liquid has a long history as a natural topical treatment, being used by Aboriginal people as remedy against fungal and bacterial infections.
Although scientific evidence is still needed for supporting the use of this product in a series of health issues, when it comes to skin problems like acne, athlete’s foot, eczema or cold sores, the existing studies seem to confirm the effectiveness of this essential oil in controlling the typical symptoms.
Tea tree oil as remedy against acne
The use of tea tree oil as acne treatment is backed by the proven antiseptic and antifungal properties of this product. According to a review published in 2012, 5% tea tree oil gel is just as efficient as 5% benzoyl peroxide in keeping the specific acne symptoms under control, in people with mild acne.
Tea tree oil works by unclogging the pores and killing the bacteria responsible for the painful pimples, and prevents the formation of new blackheads or whiteheads by keeping the skin’s surface cleaner. Also, it hydrates the tissue and calms the irritation, reducing the redness.
To speed up the removal of blemishes using Melaleuca oil, you should dab a small amount of the product on the pimples, using a soft cloth or a cotton swab. Make sure your hands are clean and your skin is free of makeup or debris.
To prevent future acne outbreaks, you can apply the oil on your face on a regular basis, after cleansing the skin, but keep in mind that the product is quite a strong disinfectant and might cause irritation in people with sensitive skin.
Also, remember that the Melaleuca oil is known to work better as spot treatment, so it’s generally recommended to use it only on the affected areas.When applying the tea tree oil for the first time, try to dilute a few drops with water and wait for a couple of minutes after putting it on your face.
If you notice a tingling sensation, blend the oil with water and another essential oil, such as lavender oil, to make it milder. Don’t worry about the effectiveness of this combination, you’ll still benefit from the anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties of tea tree oil even if you mix it with another similar product.
To use the oil as cleanser, mix it with distilled water and jojoba oil and soak a cotton cloth in the mixture, then wipe the dirt, bacteria and sebum away from your face, just like you do with your regular cleanser. Olive oil can also be used as base for a homemade tea tree oil cleanser.
According to a trial conducted by the Department of Dermatology at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Australia, 5% tea tree oil is less efficient than 5% benzoyl peroxide in treating inflamed and non-inflamed acne lesions, when used for prolonged periods of time, but it causes fewer side effects.
However, fewer doesn’t mean none, so let’s take a look at the potential health issues linked with the use of tea tree oil as acne remedy.
Potential side effects of tea tree oil
As said in the beginning, the Melaleuca oil is thought to be efficient in healing several health conditions, not only acne. The product is often promoted as a natural cure for athlete’s foot, yeast infections, dandruff, cold sores, eczema, ringworm and lice, but there’s not enough scientific evidence to support these claims.
Moreover, according to the National Capital Poison Center, tea tree oil is toxic when swallowed and shouldn’t be used as internal remedy, nor applied around the mouth area. Using this product internally can lead to vomiting, stomach upset, diarrhea, rashes, confusion, drowsiness, unsteadiness, general weakness and even coma, so it’s recommended to use it wisely and only as topical treatment.
Thus, if you decide treating your acne pimples with tea tree oil, make sure to opt for a 5% gel. Products with a 10% or higher concentration are recommended for athlete’s foot and toenail fungus, but for the face area it’s better to stick with lower concentrations, as tea tree oil can irritate the sensitive facial skin.