Acne is a very common affliction and Tea Tree oil is a great way to help. Almost everyone has had a mild form of it, ranging from red bumps along the chin or even tiny whiteheads to the side of the nose. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, it is ” the most common skin condition, affecting over 50 million Americans annually.” (1) Acne vulgaris generally occurs at the onset of puberty, most likely due to the influx of new hormones in the body. Typical signs of an acne breakout include:
This condition can range from mild, a few reddened bumps, to serious, taking over almost every pore of available skin. I have always had a mild case around my chin and mouth. Unfortunately, I first thought it was due to dirty skin and would scrub at my acne until it was even more inflamed and sore. Overcleaning also increased the oil production and, in turn, caused further breakouts.
Acne can be concentrated on mostly the face or cover the entire body with itching, inflamed bumps that can lead to scarring if not treated properly. The scarring can be extensive, especially if the acne is touched frequently by hand. This scarring may lead to a decrease in self esteem and a poor self-image for acne sufferers.
Acne is a different condition for everyone. Some have very mild cases which may only appear during hormonal fluctuations in the body, others suffer from red, itchy bumps that cover almost their entire body. Whichever the situation, there are options for treatments from prescriptions to more natural treatments such including essential oils like lavender or tea tree for acne.
What Causes Acne?
I was once convinced that my acne was caused by having an oily face. I used any number of facial cleansers to try and control it, but it only made it worse as my skin reacted to now being dry. Finally having done my research on the topic, I now know that my constant cleaning didn’t help at all.
The most common culprit that causes acne is an overproduction of our natural oil, sebum. This can be caused by diet, medications, topical creams, or just genetics. The oil tends to clog healthy pores, trapping dead skin cells inside. The warm environment cause bacteria to form and the body’s inflammation response is triggered by the presence of a mild infection.
This reaction is the cause of those red bumps that form on your skin and why you feel like scratching even though you know you probably shouldn’t. I have more than a few scars across my upper lip and chin from scratching instead of leaving it alone. This is the same idea as getting a cut or scrape on your hand or leg.
Putting your hands near acne can even make the condition worse due to the germs found on your hands. It may turn into a more serious infection and worsen the skin once it heals. It helps if you can find something to do to keep your mind off the urge to touch.
What is Tea Tree Oil?
Tea tree oil is an essential oil made from the tea tree of Australia, also known as Melaleuca alternifolia. It has been used through Australia for over a century to treat infections. (2) People have also used tea tree oil for acne in countries around the world and it is a common ingredient in cleaning products for the home and body.
This oil is also one of the most commonly researched due to its antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antiviral and anti-fungal properties. It has been used in Aboriginal medicine to treat any number of skin conditions such as acne vulgaris, seborrheic dermatitis, eczema, and minor skin issues such as sunburn and insect bites.
Essential oils like tea tree are being studied to discover ways to keep our homes and bodies clean without generating resistant bacteria and viruses. Even diseases such as MRSA have shown a positive response to treatments such as essential oils like tea tree. (3)
How Does Tea Tree Oil Work for Acne?
Tea tree oil has been shown to have several chemical compounds which work in different ways to help control acne. It is a known antibacterial as well as an anti-inflammatory.
When placed on the skin, tea tree kills the bacteria in the pores, reducing swelling at the site. Redness is reduced as the body realizes it no longer must fight off the bacteria and redness goes away along with the inflammation and itching. It may take several applications, but it is not as likely to over dry the skin and cause further undesired side effects.
Using tea tree for acne has the added benefit of not interrupting the natural production of oil. The body may tend to create more in response to the dry skin that sometimes occurs with other topical creams, making acne hard to control or reduce.
Natural Versus Medical Treatment
There are different types of treatment available like over the counter cleansers, prescribed creams and even essential oils like tea tree oil for acne treatments that are researched natural remedies.
Medical treatments for acne work in a few different ways. Some topical creams and pills work to control oil production so the pores can remain clear. Others are topical antibiotics that clear out the bacteria that has become trapped and cause the inflamed skin. However, antibiotics should be used sparingly to prevent resistance in the future.
Side Effects of Tea Tree Oil For Acne?
Many over the counter and prescribed medical acne treatments come with a host of side effects. One notable acne treatment, Accutane, has been shown to have a host of terrible side effects and is considered the absolute last resort for acne treatment. (4)
Prescription Topical Creams
Topical creams are applied directly to the skin of the affected area. Popular treatments include retinol that clear the pores to allow topical antibiotics to work. Others are dual purpose to clear oil and kill bacteria. Popular ones include Retinol-A and benzoyl peroxide. (5)
- dry skin
- abnormal peeling
Oral treatments are usually a type of antibiotic to kill off the infections found in the acne lesions. Since it is an antibiotic, it is not recommended for use for more than 6 months to prevent the evolution of resistant bacteria. Even then, you may need to try more than one kind of medicine to find the one that will affect your acne situation. (5)
- stomach issues
- dry skin
- antibiotic resistance
- changes in bones
- yellowing of teeth
- skin color changes
These treatments are typically for girls and young women who may have an imbalance of hormones in their body. Common prescriptions include types of birth control pills.
- irregular periods
- tender breasts
Tea Tree Oil
A plant-based essential oil, tea tree has been found to have few side effects when applied topically. However, you should always try a patch of skin on your inner arm to test for contact dermatitis. Never take tea tree oil internally.
- dry skin
- contact dermatitis
Even though each treatment comes with its own pros and cons, a natural alternative like tea tree oil for acne has been shown to be just as effective as common treatments such as benzoyl peroxide. In fact, it was also reported that patients saw fewer side effects using oil versus a medical cream. (5)
Through advancements in medicine and the study of treatments such as tea tree oil, there are now even more options available for acne sufferers. You no longer have to feel hopeless in the face of this condition.
Though acne may appear to have an enormous impact on your life, many famous people whose jobs it is to be in front of the camera or enormous crowds, have suffered from this condition as well. Michael Jackson once said, ” I had pimples so badly it used to make me shy.” Yet he went onto to become a well-known musician who filmed hundreds of music videos.
It may take time and more than one treatment to help control your acne. Whether you opt for going with a prescription from your doctor or something plant-based like tea tree oil for acne, you can find the solution you seek. Patience is just as important as a treatment when it comes to a condition as visible as acne can be.