Tea tree (Melaleuca alternifolia) essential oil has antibacterial, antimicrobial and antifungal properties that are beneficial for treating many skin concerns. It has shown to be effective in treating athlete’s foot, toe nail fungal infections, tinea pedis, and acne. A chemical component terpin-4-ol in tea tree essential oil has shown to be effective against MRSA.
For acne, tea tree has shown to be as effective as benzoyl peroxide and in some cases, better tolerated. There has been a question as to the concentration to be used. Tea tree can be applied neat (without a carrier), but it can be sensitizing to some individuals and if using it topically for acne, you want that take into consideration.
It is always best to do a patch test behind the ear to test for sensitivity. This does not mean, however, if a reaction occurs, the essential oil cannot be used. It merely means that the essential oil should be used with a carrier such as water, cream, or carrier oil (sweet almond, apricot, avocado, grapeseed or coconut oil).
For skin care you want to work in localized areas in a 1% concentration (i.e., 1 oz. carrier oil and 5 drops essential oil or 4 oz. distilled water and 20 drops essential oil).
Tea tree oil should be purchased from a reputable supplier and preferably organic. It is important to purchase essential oils by their Latin name. This way you are choosing the correct essential oil for its intended use.
Other essential oils that have similar properties that can be used for acne are Niaouli (Melaleuca quinquenervia) and Cajeput (Melaleuca leucadendron).
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Skin Inc. (2015). “Skin benefits of tea tree oil”, retrieved September 16, 2015, from: http://www.skininc.com/skinscience/ingredientsSkin-Benefits-of-Tea-Tree-Oil-326792111.html