The tea tree is a commonly grown tree that is native to Australia. Its oil is commonly used for its medicinal properties and it has become very popular lately as a natural acne remedy.
Note that the tea tree is not the tea plant. Tea plants grow the leaves which are used to make the various varieties of tea. The tea tree is a tree, not a bush, and is grown primarily for its oil. It is not related to the tea plant in any way, so any acne remedies that use tea plant oils or extracts are not related to the tea tree in any way. Given that the tea tree comes from Australia (which was only discovered by modern explorers within the last half of the millennium) and people have been drinking tea for thousands of years, it should be quite clear these are not related.
How Tea Tree Oil Works to Fight Acne
In order to survive the harsh Australian climate, the tea tree has a very impressive “immune system” that it uses to fight off infections caused by bacteria and viruses. The oil extracted from the tea tree contains these antibacterial compounds which then go on to inhibit the growth of or even destroy the bacteria that cause acne infections.
Some research has shown some modest success from using tea tree oil on acne lesions, reducing the appearance and severity of acne.
How to Apply Tea Tree Oil
Tea tree oil needs to be applied directly to the acne lesion for best results. Since it helps inhibit growth, it should be left on for a period of time. Since tea tree oil itself is quite oily, it is not very convenient to rub directly into the skin. Instead, a product which makes use of the oil or the tea tree’s extract is likely ideal.
Consuming the tea tree oil is likely to have no effect and may not even be safe. Avoid ingesting tea tree oil.
Tea Tree Oil vs Other Remedies
The real question here is whether or not tea tree oil is more effective than other acne remedies. While there is evidence that it may reduce acne, there is no evidence that it is more effective than the traditional treatment of benzoyl peroxide. Additionally, tea tree oil itself is an oil, which can clog pores and actually contribute to acne.
One reason you might want to use tea tree oil over the traditional benzoyl peroxide is if you have extremely sensitive, dry skin. Dry skin is less likely to be irritated by the application of an oil and is more likely to react negatively to benzoyl peroxide. If you have oily skin already, you probably do not want to apply tea tree oil.