Acne Troubling You? Tea Tree Oil to the Rescue

(Last Updated On: August 3, 2018)

What a lot of people don’t like seeing when they look themselves in the mirror are skin blemishes, like wrinkles, age spots, dark spots and other imperfections. Of course, the face is the first thing that other people see in you. This is why it’s only normal for people to freak out whenever they notice problems on their skin.

One of the most disturbing skin problems that many people have is acne. Although most people suffer from a simple pimple outbreak at some point, acne is a different story. It’s one of the most dreaded skin conditions that does not only affect a person’s physical appearance but also his or her psychological wellbeing.

What is acne?

What is acne

Medically known as Acne Vulgaris, it is a skin condition that affects the oil glands at the base of your hair follicles. It is quite common during the puberty stage when the sebaceous glands are stimulated by hormones produced by the adrenal glands. In fact, about eight in ten teenagers suffer from acne. But there are three in ten youngsters who have bad cases of this skin problem, requiring them to seek medical attention. However, some older people are still affected by this condition. It usually affects the face, but could also be seen on the neck, back and chest, while severity can range from mild to severe.

How does acne develop?

During the puberty stage, a person’s sebaceous glands produce more oil or sebum due to the hormonal changes going on inside your body. This makes a teenager’s skin oilier, making it more prone to skin infections, including acne. But there are adults that who suffer from this condition, too. In fact, 20 percent of acne cases occur in adults, especially those with oily skin. This is because some pores in the skin become clogged brought about by the thickening of the skin at the top of the pores becoming thicker. Sometimes, they get combined with dead skin cells, creating a plug that blocks the pores. And because the plugs collect bacteria, this causes your skin to swell, leading to pimples.

When sebum is trapped in the pores, it becomes the perfect breeding ground for bacteria called Propionibacterium acnes. Although small numbers of this bacterium are normally present on the skin and are generally harmless, a larger number could cause the immune system to react and cause inflammation. When that happens, the surrounding skin becomes red and the spots become bigger, more painful and are filled with pus. Some cases have the pustules turn into cysts or small nodules. And though the inflammation may be treated, the affected area may remain discolored for several months. Some are left with pitted scars do not fade and will always be a constant reminder of acne.

The most common types of pimples include:

  • Whiteheads – pimples that stay under the surface of the skin.
  • Blackheads – pimples that rise to the surface the skin and are black or dark in color.
  • Pustules – pimples that are red at the bottom and are filled with pus at the top.
  • Papules – pimples that are smaller, pinkish and are tender.
  • Cysts – pimples are rooted deep within the skin, are painful, filled with pus and leave dark scars.
  • Nodules – pimples that are solid, large and painful.

Skin specialists claim that an estimated three-quarters of people between 11 to 30 years old will suffer from acne at some point, regardless of race or skin color. Although it can affect both men and women, younger men tend to be more susceptible and have the worst case of acne due to testosterone.

What causes acne?

Although a poor diet and lack of personal hygiene can aggravate acne, scientifically, they do not cause such skin condition. Stress may causes skin breakouts, but it has not been proven to cause acne.  

The truth is the causes of this problem have not been fully understood yet. But dermatologists suggests that it could one of these factors:

Hormones – teenagers are more susceptible to acne because there is an increase in hormone production during puberty, particularly high levels of testosterone. This signals the oil glands to produce more sebum.

Bacteria – when there is an excessive supply of sebum on the hair follicles, it clogs up the pores on your face, chest, neck and back. This becomes the perfect spot for bacteria to grow. It results in blackheads and whiteheads. But if the bacteria buildup reaches a certain point, it causes the walls of the hair follicles to break, causing pustules or papules to form, which is called inflammatory acne.

Certain diseases – in rare cases, certain conditions make cause acne, like polycystic ovary syndrome. This is because this disease causes an excessive production of male hormones in the ovary or adrenal gland.

Certain medications – there are also reported cases of women who complain about acne after starting or stopping birth control pills. But this is another rare occurrence.

There are certain things that could make acne worse.

  • Women are taking progestogen-only birth control pills may find out that their acne has gotten worse due to the contraceptives.
  • Monthly periods bring out hormonal changes in the body, which could cause a flare-up.
  • Some of the thick or greasy makeup could make your acne worse, too. It is best to go with non-comedogenic or oil-free cosmetics, especially if you are prone to such skin problem.
  • Excessive sweating in areas that are acne-prone can also worsen the problem. This is because your sweat could clog up the pores even more. Friction can also contribute to the condition.
  • Some medications, including phenytoin, which is taken by some people for epilepsy, as well as ointments and steroid creams can also aggravate the disease.

Myths about acne

  • It is not the result of poor hygiene and diet rich in fatty foods.
  • It cannot be cured by drinking lots of water only.
  • It is not caused by stress. But fatigue could make it worse.
  • It is not a simple infection nor is it contagious.
  • It can be cured by medical treatment if administered correctly.
  • There is no evidence that sunbathing or tanning beds could clear acne.

For some people, acne may only be a skin problem that can be treated over time. However, the scars that are left after the condition has been remedied can have lasting effects to those who suffer from it.

Effects of acne

In Canada, a study on nearly 500 patients suffering from acne found that even mild acne that cause depression, suicidal tendencies and low self-esteem on some people. In other words, this skin condition can have profound and lasting social and psychological effects. The following are some of the problems that people with acne may be experiencing:

  • Low self-esteem and poor body image

Some patients grow their hair long enough to cover their faces. Women tend to wear lots of makeup to hide the breakouts, which tend to aggravate the problem. Some would even avoid eye contact. Others avoid any form of group activities for fear of exposing their skin problems.

  • Social withdrawal

Because of lack of self-confidence, people with acne may have a hard time forming new relationships because they are embarrassed of their physical appearance. Some are also shy and reclusive because they don’t want others to see the pimples on their face.

  • Low performance

There are teenagers with acne who refused to go to school because of embarrassment. Adults who have bad cases of acne would oftentimes take a leave from work. Both of which could lead to low performance in school and work, which could be a cause for dismissal. Acne can also limit people’s career choices, especially with occupations that depend upon a person’s looks, like modelling, sales and the like.

  • Depression

In some people, acne can cause depression. Some of the signs of this mental condition include:

  1. Lethargy
  2. Crying over anything
  3. Feelings of unworthiness
  4. Loss of appetite
  5. Wakefulness
  6. Mood swings
  7. Behavioral problems

Severe cases of depression can lead to social withdrawal and suicidal thoughts.

There are cases of acne that can be treated using over-the-counter medicines and topical solutions. But there is also a natural way to cure this skin disease. It is preferred by a lot of people because it’s safe and it does not use harmful chemicals.

Tea tree oil and acne

Tea Tree Essential Oil

Also known as melaleuca, tea tree is popular for its amazing antiseptic and healing properties. Its oil is a volatile essential oil is extracted from the plant Melaleuca alternifolia, a native of Australia. It has been widely used for at least a century now. Over the last seven decades, it has been documented in a number of medical studies that tea tree oil (TTO) kills many types of bacteria, fungi and viruses.

One of the most common uses for TTO is to effective treat acne. In fact, a study has revealed that this plant extract is as effective as benzoyl peroxide without the adverse side effects, like dry and peeling skin. Thanks to tea tree oil’s anti-bacterial properties, it is perfectly safe to use on the skin as often as you like. It’s also anti-microbial and has been proven to kill the bacterium that lives inside your hair follicles, leading to acne inflammations. It also has a soothing effect, which is quite useful for the burning and itching sensation you may feel due to an acne flare-up.

How to use tea tree oil to treat acne?

Diluted tea tree oil

This solution can be used as acne treatment and face rinse. It’s an effective home remedy for cystic acne.

Start by rinsing your face with water and drying it with a clean towel. Next, mix one part TTO and nine parts water. Combine well and then apply on the affected area with a cotton ball. Leave it on for 20 to 25 minutes. Then, rinse with cool water. Apply moisturizer afterwards. Do this twice a day for best results.

Tea tree oil with honey

Mixing honey and TTO would be an excellent way to fight acne. This is because both ingredients have anti-bacterial and healing properties.

To use this solution, pour a few drops of tea tree oil and mix it with two teaspoons of raw, organic honey. Mix it well and then apply on the affected area with a cotton ball. Leave it on overnight or at least three to four hours. The next morning, rinse with clean water and pat dry. Be sure to moisturize afterwards. Repeat this routine regularly.

Tea tree oil with olive oil

Both essential oils have anti-bacterial properties and are rich in nutrients that keep the skin healthy and acne-free. Plus, this solution helps keep your pores free from oil and other toxins that can could skin problems.

Firstly, mix three drop of tea tree oil and two tablespoons of olive oil. Mix the solution well. Then, use a cotton ball to apply it on the affected area. Do not rinse for 20 to 30 minutes. After that, rinse with cool water and pat dry. Do this every day for excellent result.

Tea tree oil with aloe vera

Aloe vera has anti-bacterial properties that can kill bacteria that causes acne. It also has anti-inflammatory qualities that help soothe the skin.

The first thing you need to do is to ix a few drops of TTO with two teaspoons of aloe vera gel. Combine well and then apply directly on the problem area. Leave the solution on your face for three to four hours, or overnight. In the morning, rinse with water and gently dry. Repeat these steps every day to get rid of the problem faster.

Tea tree oil and plain yogurt

The ability of yogurt to soothe irritated skin and reduce redness combines perfectly with TTO’s antiseptic properties. This is why mixing these two ingredients would be incredibly beneficial on your face.

In a small container, mix ¼ cup plain yogurt and five drops of tea tree oil. Combine well until you create a paste. Apply directly on the affected area and leave it for 15 to 20 minutes. Rinse with lukewarm water. Do this regularly to keep your acne problem at bay for good.

Tea tree oil and apple cider vinegar

This combination makes for a great skin clearing toner as part of your acne treatment.

In a spray bottle, mix ¼ cup distilled water, ¼ cup apple cider vinegar and three to four drops of tea tree oil. Put the spray nozzle and cap back on the bottle. Shake gently and then spray on a cotton ball. Gently wipe your face and other acne-stricken areas with the cotton ball. For other parts of your body, like the neck and back, you can spray the toner directly on the skin. But avoid using this method on your face as you can sting your eyes.

Tea tree oil, sugar and olive oil

Mixing these three ingredients will make a great facial scrub. It will provide deeper cleansing, freeing your pores from dirt and oil that cause acne. Plus, it will soothe your skin.

You will need 10 drops of tea tree oil, 1/8 cup of olive oil and ¼ cup of sugar. In a small bowl, mix all the ingredients well. But careful not to dissolve the sugar before you use it. Before using the solution, wash your face with warm water and leave it damp. Using your fingers, rub the facial scrub on your face, avoiding the eyes, nostrils and hairline. Massage your face in circular motions for two to five minutes. Then, rinse with warm water until all the sugar is completely washed off. No need to apply moisturizer because of the essential oils in the treatment.  Repeat this once a week before going to bed.

Tea tree oil and jojoba oil

This mixture makes a great face mask that will help solve your acne problem.

The first thing you need to do is take three to five drops of tea tree oil, one teaspoon of jojoba oil and half of a finely chopped tomato. Mix everything together until you get a paste. Apply on the problem area and do not rinse for 10 to 15 minutes. Do this regularly for best results.

Tea tree oil bath

If you have acne on your chest, back and neck, this TTO bath will be an excellent treatment. Just pour 10 drops of 100 percent pure tea tree oil in a tub of warm water. Stir well before going inside the tub. Soak your whole body in the water for several minutes. Repeat regularly to get rid of acne faster.

Tea tree oil and witch hazel

If you use this solution, be sure not to overdo it as it can dry out the skin, which could make the problem worse. Also, avoid direct exposure to sunlight.

You will need to mix three to five drops of tea tree oil and 20 to 40 drops of witch hazel. Combine well and apply on the affected area using a cotton ball. Repeat once or twice a day for faster results.

When using tea tree oil, make sure to use 100 percent pure Australian essential tea tree oil from a popular brand to ensure the best quality. Also, be extra careful when using undiluted TTO as it can irritate the skin and cause redness, dryness and itching. If you develop an allergic reaction, for some reason, stop using the essential oil right away and consult your doctor.

Written by Irina Radosevic MD
Irina graduated from the University of Belgrade, School of Medicine as a Doctor of Medicine (MD) and spent over 3 years working in the Clinical Hospital Center Zvezdara, in the Department of Emergency Medicine. She also undertook a postgraduate in Cardiology from the same University and had previously worked for over a year as a Physician and Nutritionist Dietitian for the Fitness club Green Zone. She eventually left her chaotic but fulfilling job in the ER to pursue her passion of writing, travelling and mountain climbing which has included writing a first aid course for the alpine club of Belgrade. Irina currently works as a VA for PintMedia focusing on medical and travel writing. Feel free to connect with Irina on LinkedIn and FaceBook. Her CV can be seen here.