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Tea Tree Oil for Acne: Benefits, Usage, and Precautions

Tea Tree Oil for Acne

A growing number of people are turning to natural solutions for skincare, and tea tree oil is emerging as one of the most popular options. Renowned for its natural antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, tea tree oil has a long history of use in traditional medicine. Today, it’s gaining recognition as a potent remedy for acne, one of the most common skin conditions worldwide. 

Acne affects nearly 85% of people at some point, causing various psychological and social impacts. We speak to Dr Justin Boey, Medical Director of Sozo Aesthetic Clinic, as he shares more from his personal experience. This article delves into the benefits, usage, and precautions of using tea tree oil for acne, aiming to provide a comprehensive guide to tea tree oils for those seeking a natural solution to this pervasive problem.

What Is Tea Tree Oil?

Tea tree oil, also known as melaleuca oil, is derived from the leaves of the tea tree plant (Melaleuca alternifolia), a native species in Australia. Traditional Aboriginal communities have harnessed lemon tea tree oil for its medicinal properties for centuries, using it to treat various ailments ranging from skin conditions to respiratory issues.

Scientifically, the effectiveness of tea tree oil against acne is attributed to its unique chemical composition – it is rich in terpene hydrocarbons, particularly terpinene-4-ol, which boasts powerful antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. Terpinen-4-ol inhibits the growth of bacteria, such as Propionibacterium acnes, known to cause acne breakouts. 

Simultaneously, the anti-inflammatory capabilities of tea tree oil help to soothe and calm the skin, reducing the redness and swelling associated with acne lesions. Thus, tea tree oil addresses acne’s causes and symptoms, earning it a prized spot in the realm of natural skincare.

Benefits of Tea Tree Oil

a woman holding a oil bottle

Among the many benefits of tea tree oil, its effectiveness in acne treatment stands out. The primary advantage of this essential oil lies in its robust antibacterial properties. The active component, terpinene-4-ol, is known to inhibit the growth of Propionibacterium acnes, the bacteria responsible for causing acne breakouts. By directly targeting the root cause of acne, tea tree oil prevents the formation of new blemishes.

Moreover, tea tree oil exhibits potent anti-inflammatory effects, which mitigate the redness, swelling, and inflammation commonly associated with acne. Its soothing properties help reduce discomfort, making it particularly beneficial for those with sensitive skin prone to irritation.

Another perk of using tea tree oil for acne treatment is that it is a natural alternative to conventional chemical-laden acne treatments. This makes it ideal for those seeking a skincare routine that aligns with a holistic wellness approach. In summary, tea tree oil offers a well-rounded, natural solution to treating acne, tackling its causes and symptoms with its antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and soothing properties.

How to Use Tea Tree Oil

Tea tree oil is potent and should be used with care. It’s essential to follow the steps below to safely and effectively use this natural remedy for acne:

  1. Dilution: Pure tea tree oil is incredibly strong and has the potential to irritate the skin if applied directly. It is always recommended to dilute it before use. A common rule of thumb is to mix 2-3 drops of tea tree oil with 12 drops of carrier oil, such as almond, coconut, or jojoba oil. This dilution helps to ensure that the tea tree oil is gentler on the skin while still providing its beneficial properties.

  2. Patch Test: Before incorporating tea tree oil into your regular skincare routine, it is advisable to conduct a patch test to assess your skin’s reaction to it. To do this, apply a small amount of the diluted oil to a discreet area of your skin and wait 24 hours. It is best to discontinue use if you experience any signs of redness, itching, or discomfort. This patch test helps determine if your skin is sensitive or prone to adverse reactions.

  3. Application: When applying tea tree oil to treat acne, it is recommended to use a cotton swab or a clean fingertip for precise application. Dab the diluted tea tree oil directly onto the affected areas, focusing on the acne spots. It is important to avoid applying the oil to the surrounding skin, especially the delicate areas around the eyes and mouth. This targeted application helps to minimize any potential irritation to the unaffected skin.

  4. Frequency: To gauge how your skin responds to the tea tree oil, it is advised to start with a once-daily application. Observe any changes or improvements in your skin’s condition. If needed, gradually increase the application to twice daily – once in the morning and once before bedtime. This gradual approach allows you to find the best frequency for your skin without overwhelming it.

  5. Post-Application Care: While tea tree oil can effectively address acne concerns, it is important to note that it may also dry the skin. To maintain a balanced and hydrated complexion, following up the tea tree oil application with a hydrating, non-comedogenic moisturizer is recommended. This step helps to replenish the skin’s moisture and prevent excessive dryness, ensuring that your skin remains healthy and nourished.

Tea Tree Oil Products

a woman thouroughly washing her face with a cleanser

If you’re looking to incorporate tea tree oil into your skincare routine, you’ll be pleased to know a wealth of products are available on the market. Many skincare brands have recognised the benefits of tea tree oil and blended it into their formulations, making it easier than ever to have tea tree oil cream harness its acne-fighting abilities.


Tea tree oil-based cleansers have gained significant popularity among skincare enthusiasts. These cleansers effectively remove dirt, excess oil, and makeup from the skin, leaving it fresh and revitalized. Additionally, they provide the added benefits of tea tree oil, known for its remarkable properties in promoting healthy skin. The antibacterial nature of tea tree oil works wonders by deeply cleansing the pores, eliminating acne-causing bacteria, and reducing the chances of breakouts. Incorporating tea tree oil-based cleansers into your skincare routine can create a clearer and healthier complexion.


Serums are renowned for their remarkable efficacy due to their high concentration of active ingredients, and tea tree oil serums exemplify this trait. These serums offer a powerful dose of antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and soothing properties directly delivered to the skin, making them exceptionally effective in tackling existing acne and preventing future breakouts. With their potent formulation, tea tree oil serums provide a targeted approach to skincare, ensuring optimal results and a healthier complexion.

Spot Treatments

Spot treatments with tea tree oil are especially handy for those sudden, unwelcome acne breakouts. They deliver a concentrated dose of tea tree oil precisely where needed, helping reduce inflammation and kill acne-causing bacteria. With their targeted action, these spot treatments provide a quick and effective solution for those frustrating pimples at the most inconvenient times. By soothing the skin and promoting healing, tea tree oil spot treatments can also help prevent acne scars, leaving your skin looking clearer and smoother. So, the next time you encounter an unexpected blemish, tap a tea tree oil acne spot treatment and let its natural power work wonders for your skin.

Integrating these tea tree oil products into your skincare routine can be as simple as replacing your regular cleanser, serum, or spot treatment with a tea tree oil version. However, always remember to conduct a patch test when trying a new product to ensure it doesn’t cause any adverse reactions. Overall, these tea tree oil products offer a convenient and effective way to battle acne, affirming tea tree oil’s place in the skincare spotlight.

Precautions and Potential Side Effects

While tea tree oil can be an effective natural remedy for acne, it’s important to be aware of potential side effects and necessary precautions. Like any skincare product, it may not suit everyone and could cause adverse reactions in some individuals.

Tea tree oil, especially in its undiluted form, can cause skin irritation, including redness, itchiness, and dryness on oily skin. In more severe cases, it may cause blistering, rashes, or allergic skin reactions. Therefore, it’s crucial to always dilute tea tree oil with carrier oil, as mentioned earlier, and never apply it directly to your skin in its pure form.

Before incorporating tea tree oil into your skincare routine, conducting a patch test is highly recommended. Apply a small amount to a discreet skin area and wait 24 hours to see if any adverse reaction occurs. If you notice any signs of irritation or discomfort, it’s best to discontinue use immediately.

The use of tea tree oil should also be restricted to topical application only. It should not be ingested or applied near the eyes and mouth, as it can be toxic if swallowed and may cause serious discomfort if it comes into contact with the eyes.

If you’re currently under a dermatologist’s care for acne or any other skin condition, consult them before using tea tree oil. It’s essential to ensure that it won’t interfere with any prescribed treatments or exacerbate your condition. 

Tea Tree Oil for Acne FAQs

frequently asked questions

Is tea tree oil safe for acne-prone skin?

Yes, tea tree oil is generally safe for acne-prone skin. It is well-tolerated by most people and can effectively treat acne when used correctly. However, it’s important to stress that tea tree oil is potent and should always be diluted. Applying undiluted tea tree oil to the skin can irritate, including redness, dryness, and itchiness. As such, diluting the tea tree oil with a carrier oil, such as jojoba or almond oil, is imperative before applying it to the skin. 

While tea tree oil suits many individuals, everyone’s skin is unique. To ensure you won’t have an adverse reaction, it’s always a good idea to perform a patch test before incorporating tea tree oil into your regular skincare regime.

How long until tea tree oil works on acne?

The timeline for seeing results with tea tree oil can vary significantly from person to person. Improvements may start to show within a few weeks of regular usage. Some individuals might notice a decrease in inflammation and redness within a few days, while for others, it could take several weeks. This largely depends on the severity of the acne and individual skin types. Consistent application is key as tea tree oil works to gradually reduce acne over time rather than providing an instant solution. 

However, it is crucial to remember that everyone’s skin reacts differently to treatments, so patience and persistence are necessary. Always remember that achieving clear skin is a process, and improvements will come gradually with regular, mindful use of products like tea tree oil.

Can tea tree oil be combined with other acne treatments?

Yes, tea tree oil can be combined with other acne treatments, but it’s essential to proceed cautiously. Different treatments may interact with each other and cause skin irritation or reduce their efficacy. For instance, using tea tree oil with other drying treatments, such as benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid, may overly dry the skin, leading to peeling or increased sensitivity. However, combining tea tree oil with a hydrating ingredient like hyaluronic acid could help balance the drying effects. 

Is tea tree oil effective for all types of acne?

Tea tree oil is particularly effective for mild to moderate acne, often involving blackheads, whiteheads, and smaller pimples. Its anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties can help reduce the redness, swelling, and inflammation accompanying these forms of acne while also killing acne-causing bacteria to prevent future breakouts. Regularly applying diluted tea tree oil can improve the overall texture and clarity of the skin affected by mild to moderate acne.

However, tea tree oil might not be as effective for severe acne cases such as cystic or nodular acne. These forms of acne are more deeply embedded in the skin and often involve more extensive inflammation. Tea tree oil might not be potent enough to effectively reach and treat these deeper, more severe acne lesions. 

Moreover, the inflammation and scarring associated with severe acne often require more intense treatment methods. While tea tree oil can offer some benefits, it shouldn’t be considered a standalone treatment for severe acne. 

Does tea tree oil help with acne scars?

Tea tree oil is primarily intended for managing active acne, as its anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties can effectively reduce inflammation and kill acne-causing bacteria. Therefore, its primary benefit lies in preventing the formation and progression of acne lesions. Tea tree oil may not yield significant results when it comes to existing acne scars. Acne scars are typically the result of collagen damage in the skin. While tea tree oil can aid in the healing process of active acne, it does not possess specific properties to remodel scar tissue or stimulate new collagen production. 

As such, relying on tea tree oil as a treatment for acne scars may not bring about substantial improvements. For more pronounced acne scars, dermatological procedures or targeted topical treatments might be required. 

Is tea tree oil safe during pregnancy or breastfeeding?

It’s important to be cautious when using essential oils, such as tea tree oil, during pregnancy or breastfeeding. The safety of using tea tree oil during these periods must be thoroughly established. Therefore, it’s highly recommended to consult a healthcare provider or midwife before incorporating tea tree oil into your skincare routine during pregnancy or breastfeeding. They can provide the best advice based on your specific situation and ensure your and your baby’s safety.

Seek Professional Guidance

a woman having a proper facial treatment

Tea tree oil is a beneficial option for managing acne, but it’s not a miracle cure. As with any skincare product, using tea tree oil correctly and in moderation is essential. If you have severe or persistent acne, it’s always best to consult a dermatologist for personalized treatment recommendations. A professional can help determine the underlying cause of your acne and create a personalized treatment plan that may include tea tree oil or other effective treatments. 

At Sozo Aesthetics, we understand the struggles of acne and the impact it can have on self-confidence. Our team of experienced professionals offers a variety of treatments for acne-prone skin, including tea tree oil-infused facials, chemical peels, and laser therapy. Please book an appointment with us today or give us a call at +6935 1811, and let us help you achieve clear and healthy skin safely and effectively. 


Thanks to its anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties, tea tree oil offers a natural and generally safe method for managing mild to moderate acne. However, its effectiveness can vary from person to person, and its usage should be done with careful consideration and, ideally, with professional guidance. While it can help combat acne-causing bacteria and reduce inflammation, it might not be as effective for severe acne or in treating existing scars. 

Remember, achieving clear skin is a journey that involves patience, consistency, and often a combination of treatments tailored to your specific skin needs. Always consult a professional for personalised advice, especially when considering essential oils like tea tree oil during sensitive periods such as pregnancy or breastfeeding.


Medical Director

After graduating from the National University of Singapore, Dr Boey’s journey in aesthetics brought him to esteemed institutions such as Harvard Medical School, American Academy of Aesthetic Medicine and Queen Mary University of London in diverse cities like Seoul, London, Boston and New York.