In my previous post on acne and face washes to treat it, I talked about Tea Tree being a great ingredient to have in the fight against breakouts. This skincare ingredient has really been coming into its own on the skincare market and increasingly more brands seem to be putting this oil in their products.
However, what is Tea Tree Oil and why is it so effective in fighting acne and breakouts? What qualities does this oil have over other acne-fighting ingredients? Can anybody use this and how should you be using it?
Today, we’ll be getting up close and personal with Tea Tree, and will be having a look at its origins, effectiveness and purpose, in order to help you determine whether this skincare ingredient is something you should be including in your daily routine.
A Little Bit Of History
Okay, first of all, let’s make the distinction between the Tea Tree and the tea plant. The tea plant is the reason you can have a cup of tea in the morning, whilst the Tea Tree is completely unrelated to tea plants. Don’t go about smearing actual tea leaves on your face, they are two completely different things.
The reason the Tea Tree got its name dates back tot the 18th century. Sailors on the coast of Australia discovered a tree and boiled tea from its leaves, which smelled like nutmeg, and thus it was dubbed the Tea Tree. The scientific name of this tree is Melaleuca Alternifolia, and it’s native to Southeast Queensland and the Northeast coast of New South Wales in Australia.
The Aboriginals have been using the oil from this tree for centuries to treat all kinds of things like colds, coughs, or wound healing. They used to crush the leaves to extract the oil, and then depending on how it was needed would either inhale it or apply directly to the skin.
In the 1920s, an Australian called Arthur Penfold researched how native oils to Australia could potentially be turned into a profitable business, and reported that Tea Tree Oil had high potential due to its apparent antiseptic properties. The rest, as they say, is history, and nowadays you’ll find tons of tea tree plantations all along the Southeast coast of Australia.
What Does It Do?
Tea Tree Oil is an essential oil that contains over 100 molecules, but the one that seems to be the most interesting and useful is something called terpinen-4-ol. This component shows great potential in its antimicrobial, antiviral and anti-inflammatory qualities, according to recent studies.
This means that Tea Tree Oil, which has a concentration of between 30% and 48% of terpinen-4-ol in it, shows great potential as an antiseptic, killing bacteria and reducing inflammation. Notice how we say potential? We have to be cautious with our judgment, because there’s a lot of scientific research still needed to conclusively decide whether this oil actually works.
However, there are studies that show Tea Tree Oil having fantastic antiseptic properties, as well as working as an antioxidant. If the Australian natives have been using it for centuries, it must do something, right?
A common misconception about Tea Tree Oil is that it will dry out any acne you have. It doesn’t. Because of its antiseptic properties, it will get rid of harmful bacteria and soothe your skin, causing breakouts to lessen and eventually disappear. Some studies even show that Tea Tree Oil might be as effective as Benzoyl Peroxide (provided you use a concentration of 5% or more).
There are some claims that Tea Tree could be anti-fungal, but as we have said, there’s still lots of scientific research needed, and dermatologists do not recommend this product for fungal issues.
Should I Be Using It?
Well, there are a few things to take into account if you’re considering adding Tea Tree Oil to your routine. First of all, since Tea Tree Oil is an essential oil, if you have sensitive skin, you should be avoiding this ingredient at all costs. Essential oils are known to contain components like linalool and eucalyptol, which can be sensitizing and could cause irritation. There are a lot of other products out there that will be gentle enough for your skin type without the risk of upsetting it.
However, if you do not have sensitive skin, Tea Tree Oil might offer substantial benefits for acne-prone skin. It will reduce redness and inflammation, and its antiseptic properties will diminish the appearance of acne and breakouts.
You could use this oil in all types of products, but the most popular uses are face washes or spot treatments. We have personally been using Tea Tree Oil for years as a spot treatment.
If you’ve decided to start using this oil, keep in mind that a Tea Tree Oil concentration of 2.5% to 10% in a product is the recommendation by experts. Lots of products won’t contain this much Tea Tree though, since the smell of this oil is quite pungent and lots of people won’t be able to stand it. Also, concentrations this high could increase skin irritation, so a lower strength of Tea Tree Oil might be the way to go.
Our personal recommendation is to purchase a high concentration Tea Tree Oil product, and then use it as a spot treatment. This means you’ll be applying it in the evening, before your moisturizer, directly to your breakouts with a cotton bud. This has worked for us for years, and it’s our go-to acne treatment. It also minimizes the chance of irritation, because you’re only using it in a targeted way.
Bringing It All Together
Tea Tree Oil is an essential oil that has been around for centuries and has been used for various health issues. It’s been pegged as being antiseptic and thus could be very effective in treating acne and breakouts. However, it’s not to be used by sensitive skin, since this oil also contains skin irritants that could upset your face.
If you do want to use this oil, try looking for a pure Tea Tree Oil or in a concentration of at least 2.5% to maximize effectiveness. Tea Tree Oil is great as a spot treatment and can reduce inflammation and lessen the appearance of pimples.
Do keep in mind that this skincare ingredient needs more research to conclusively determine its effectiveness, but the studies that have been done are very promising. Of course, skincare is not an exact science, so we’re not promising you a miracle cure for breakouts, but Tea Tree Oil might be a very good addition to your daily routine if you have acne-prone skin.
Have you used products with Tea Tree Oil before? What did you think of it?