Tea tree oil has long been a popular natural remedy for acne, ever since early European explorers reached the shores of Australia and were told the secret by the native Aborigines.
The truth? The old tales are completely correct. Tea tree oil reduces acne bacteria, propionibacterium acnes, more effectively than almost all essential oils. Tea tree oil can also reduce inflammation effectively, and possibly wipe out deadly yeasts on the skin.
The end result is that tea tree oil can slash acne as effectively as benzoyl peroxide, but without the side effects (study). Another study found that tea tree oil reduced acne 5.75 times more effectively than a placebo. Tea tree oil is among the best natural topical treatments for acne.
These powers can all be yours, if you discover what the greatest products are, so here’s 10 of them.
Firstly, a warning: always dilute your tea tree oil. Most brands are sold in 100% concentration, levels which will irritate your skin. For acne, you only need about a 5% concentration, achieved by adding several drops to a carrier oil like grapeseed oil. This will minimise side effects and enhance the penetration of tea tree oil’s acne-clearing compounds. For a shortcut, Plant Therapy and Eden’s Garden are the ultimate products here.
Let’s get started:
One – Lily And Lush
Firstly, Lily And Lush is packaged in an amber glass bottle, to protect against UV radiation. The 4oz bottle comes with a glass dropper for easy application. The oil is in 100% concentration and Melaleuca alternifolia oil, AKA tea tree oil, is the sole ingredient. There are no chemical preservatives, fragrances, or colorants added.
However, the best feature is Lily And Lush’s pharmaceutical grade strength. Specifically, this tea tree oil is very rich in terpinen-4-ol and low in 1,8,cineole.
Terpinen-4-ol is the most important natural compound in tea tree oil. It’s responsible for its acne-clearing anti-inflammatory properties and much of its antibacterial powers. 1,8,cineole, meanwhile, is a perfectly natural compound, but can inflame human skin upon contact. The irritation is weaker than its reputation, but remains a threat nevertheless.
By law, tea tree essential oil must contain less than 10% cineole and more than 30% terpinen-4-ol. As for Lily And Lush, the most recent laboratory analysis revealed levels of 4.50% and 39.88% respectively, an excellent result.
Elsewhere, this tea tree oil uses the prime steam distillation method. Its colour is a natural green to yellow. Its properties are perfect, making Lily And Lush one of the greatest tea tree oil products for acne. A bonus feature is a free eBook, containing all the tricks and recipes Lily and Lush has invented for tea tree oil.
Amazon link: Lily & Lush Tea Tree Oil (links to NowFoods for UK and Canada).
Two – Eden’s Garden
The official laboratory analysis reveals a terpinen-4-ol concentration of 45.27% and a cineole level of 2.51%. It’s very pure too, according to comments by the testers: “the analysis of this Tea Tree batch sample meets the expected chemical profile for authentic essential oil of Melaleuca alternifolia. No contamination or adulteration was detected“.
Eden’s Garden has no flaws, as its other characteristics are perfect for acne. This tea tree oil is steam distilled, in amber glass bottles, and features the classic glass dropper. It also has a shelf life of 4 years if properly maintained, beating the 2 to 3 years of other brands.
According to Eden’s Garden, the earth is rich with natural healing power and there’s no better example than tea tree oil. It sounds extravagant, but if any tea tree oil will heal your acne, it’s this one.
Amazon link: Eden’s Garden Tea Tree Therapeutic Grade Essential Oil.
Three – Now Foods
One of the most trusted tea tree oil brands. Its properties are all in order, being steam distilled from leaves, in very dark glass (just glance at the picture), and 100% pure. According to NowFoods, their tea tee oil is potent, warm and spicy, while its characteristics are cleansing, purifying and renewing.
The only downside with Now Foods is that its terpinen-4-ol content is merely “always over 30%”, while the cineole is guaranteed to be below 10%. Depending on climate, local soil, and minor subspecies variation, the content of T4O and cineole in all tea tree oils ranges from 30-48% and 0-15% respectively, so NowFoods seems weak compared to ArtNaturals.
However, the content could be just as high. Furthermore, NowFoods is an excellent, top quality oil brand, and this tea tree oil is one of the most beloved by its customers.
NowFoods tea tree oil is beaten by ArtNaturals, but your acne will fear it nevertheless.
Amazon link: Now Foods Tea Tree Oil.
Four – Plant Therapy
The terpinen-4-ol is above average, pushing towards the 46% natural limit at 41.7%. The cineole is a mere 3.0%, and the laboratory analyst had this to say: “fresh, clean, peppery-medicinal odor profile. All fifteen key ISO constituents are within range.”
An added benefit of being organic is that organic plants are generally more nutritious, since without pesticides, they produce more of their own antioxidants and phytonutrients to defend themselves. Tea tree oil is no exception. Although terpinen-4-ol is the key compound, it’s possible that smaller, more obscure phytonutrients also have benefits for acne.
Plant Therapy has huge potential, and elsewhere, it has a shelf life of two to three years. It’s free from chemical additives, steam distilled, and sourced from the experts in Australia.
Plant Therapy also has some secret advice for acne patients: combine a few drops with witch hazel. This is actually a great strategy, as witch hazel is very dense in antioxidants, not a power tea tree oil is renowned for. Follow that recipe, with an added carrier oil for penetration, and you’ll clear acne from two angles.
Plant Therapy tea tree oil is near unbeatable for acne, but settles for tied first with Eden’s Garden. The former is organic while the latter has the ultimate nutrient profile.
Amazon link: Plant Therapy Tea Tree Essential Oil.
Five – ArtNaturals
Another product with a glass, amber bottle – companies are slowly discovering the need to keep their tea tree oils fresh. The ratio of ArtNaturals is among the best, with the scientific analysis producing 42.53% for terpinen-4-ol and 2.28% for cineole.
ArtNaturals is steam distilled, reportedly using only the very highest quality leaves. Growing the leaves properly is very important for acne. Since tea tree oil is produced by boiling the twigs and leaves, separating the dry matter and allowing the vapour to condense into the “oil”, the nutrition of the leaves corresponds closely to that of the final oil.
ArtNaturals features a glass dropper, and also has a 90 day refund guarantee in case you’re not satisfied. It’s another pure product with no additives whatsoever. Tea tree oil isn’t exactly obscure, but a large share of its customers are savvy enough to know that quality is vital. Hence, the tide is turning towards top quality products more widely.
Amazon link: ArtNaturals Tea Tree Essential Oil.
Six – Essential Oil Labs
Another company with a strong selection of acne-clearing oils. The profile of its tea tree oil product almost matches ArtNaturals, with the most recent lab report detecting terpinen-4-ol and cineole concentrations of 39.88% and 4.50% respectively.
Interestingly, the purity of the tea tree oil was also tested and the conclusion was this: “we find no obvious foreign components or additives in this sample.”. The oil is designed to be 100% pure, and in 100% concentration, to dilute and attack acne in any manner you please.
The oil is steam distilled and free from any pesticides or additives. You get a free glass dropper built into the lid and the bottle’s glass is a dark amber colour. The oil is imported from Australia, the world experts on tea tree oil production, but packaged in the USA.
According to Essential Oil Labs, after using their tea tree oil you will be amazed at how healthy your skin looks. Overall, it’s not quite the greatest tea tree oil for acne, but extremely close.
Amazon link: Tea Tree Oil by Essential Oil Labs.
Seven – Eve Hansen
A tea tree oil with all the right characteristics: pure, steam distilled, and with a glass dropper. The only slight downside is the nutritional profile, which is moderately weaker than other products. Unlike NowFoods, which has a range that it pledges to fall into, Eve Hansen’s exact lab results have been released. The result was 35.91% terpinen-4-ol and 3.98% cineole, the weakest figure out of the 10 products.
That said, it’s still almost 6% above the minimum requirement. The trusted Eve Hansen company also sells numerous other great oils for acne, like their argan oil, all of which get ecstatic reviews.
Eve Hansen’s other characteristics are perfect. The tea tree oil is Australian, distilled from the finest twigs and leaves, and the bottle is a legitimate amber colour. The oil is also pharmaceutical grade and free from fillers and additives.
Eve Hansen is close to NowFoods – a tea tree oil with a slightly weaker ratio than others, but excellent reviews and from a well-trusted company.
Amazon link: Eve Hansen Pharmaceutical Grade Tea Tree Oil.
Eight – Miracle Botanicals
This excellent Australian-sourced tea tree oil is steam distilled once again, free from additives, and pure. Miracle Botanicals is a simple distillation of the tea tree plant’s leaves and twigs, as it should be.
Once more, the Miracle Botanicals bottle is made from glass, and dark amber to keep UV radiation away. Why are ultraviolet defences so vital? It’s important with nearly all skincare oils to prevent UV oxidation, whether it’s grapeseed oil or argan oil with its fragile vitamin E. However, tea tree oil is particularly vulnerable.
When oxidised, terpinen-4-ol is proven to turn from good to evil quickly, irritating human skin strongly. It helps that T4O is a very fragile compound to start with. The signature linalool of lavender oil is in a similar boat.
Dark tea tree oil bottles are vital for keeping UV radiation out. Red, amber or brown are particularly effective because of their higher wavelengths, which allow them to deflect more light frequencies than blue, and that’s why most essential oils are packaged in dark bottles, including Miracle Botanicals.
Meanwhile, the cineole is slightly higher than ArtNaturals at 2.85%, according to their recent laboratory analysis. However, the terpinen-4-ol is also higher, at 43.99%, making Miracle Botanicals yet another great tea tree oil product for acne and about equal to ArtNaturals overall.
Amazon link: Miracle Botanicals Australian Tea Tree Oil.
Nine – Pure Body Naturals
This product also hits the dizzying heights of 45% terpinen-4-ol, but its cineole content is unconfirmed. Pure Body Naturals tea tree oil gets every other characteristic correct, being steam distilled, pure, chemical free, and featuring both an amber glass bottle and a glass dispenser. Therefore we can judge it to be almost the very greatest tea tree oil an acne patient could purchase.
Interestingly, Pure Body Naturals has some advice for acne patients. They recommend mixing 3 drops with your regular moisturiser and applying as usual, or applying directly with a cotton swab.
Is this accurate? All in all, yes, but make sure that “your regular moisturiser” is a good one. A preservative-filled, chemical-loaded grocery store formulation with 50 ingredients might be slightly more beneficial with added tea tree oil, but it will always be an inflammatory nightmare. Instead, add tea tree oil to a natural moisturiser like shea butter, grapeseed oil, or jojoba oil.
Amazon link: Pure Body Naturals Tea Tree Essential Oil.
Ten – First Botany
A unique tea tree oil product, because its bottle is gold rather than the customary amber or red. It’s part of First Botany’s gold range, including oils like jojoba or argan which they deem to be ultimate in quality.
Lukily though, dark gold, yellow, or brown are also extremely effective UV light blockers, as they’re almost as high in wavelength as amber. The packaging is snazzy without compromising the oil.
Elsewhere, it’s a happy story for acne as the oil is pharmaceutical grade and steam distilled from the leaves and twigs. The oil is imported from Australia but if you’re a San Diego loyalist, that’s where it’s bottled. As for the nutrition, First Botany succeeds with 45% terpinen-4-ol, but lacks a cineole figure again.
The gold bottle includes a glass dropper and there’s no fillers, no preservatives and no artificial ingredients added. First Botany has a great reputation as an oil dealer (dodgy companies are lurking elsewhere), and the reviews are very satisfied with the smell and quality.
Overall, First Botany tea tree oil is one of the best for acne with ease.
Amazon link: First Botany Tea Tree Essential Oil.
Strategic tips for acne
Sometimes, acne doesn’t involve bacteria at all, as oxidised sebum (your skin’s oil) contains inflammatory by-products which stimulate red and angry pimples in the same way. However, p.acnes is overgrown in most people, and that’s where tea tree oil steps in.
P.acnes bacteria thrives on sebum; that’s how its numbers multiply originally. Clogged pores are full of sebum and thus a perfect place for bacteria to thrive. Therefore, you should mainly focus on reducing oily skin to starve p.acnes of a home, but tea tree oil is excellent for wiping out the colonies that already exist.
P.acnes will gradually die off as oiliness falls, but tea tree oil will accelerate the process. If you have genetically oily skin, which is stubborn even against dietary tricks, tea tree oil can ensure that p.acnes is suppressed.
When should you avoid tea tree oil? If your skin is extremely sensitive to essential oils. However, you can still dilute it further. Perform a patch test on your arm to establish any sensitivity. If your skin reacts to tea tree oil no matter how diluted it is, never fear, for natural, antibacterial topical treatments are everywhere: tamanu oil, rosemary extract, and raw honey. Tea tree oil’s anti-inflammatory powers can be replaced with aloe vera, witch hazel or rose water.
As for your wider strategy, tea tree oil is optimal as a targeted weapon, rather than daily prevention. For example, you can apply grapeseed oil every night before bed to flood your skin with vitamin E and actually prevent acne, with little problem. Tea tree oil, meanwhile, is more suited to soothing an inflamed area of acne when the opportunity arises.
For the most acne-friendly tea tree oil money can buy regardless of price, Eden’s Garden or Plant Therapy are your friends.
If you’re determined to save money yet barely sacrifice quality, the secret solution is ArtNaturals tea tree oil. Nevertheless, if you dislike the smell of one batch, or simply fancy another based on instinct or an enthusiast friend, these tea tree oil brands are all top notch.
Overall, the quality of tea tree oil being sold is high nowadays. There’s more dodgy dealers around compared with argan oil, with some companies literally synthesising chemicals that smell like and resemble tea tree oil’s constituents. Occasionally, these dodgy dealers are caught out and discredited mercilessly. However, great tea tree oils are much more abundant than top quality grapeseed oils.
If tea tree oil happens to be the saviour of your skin, the future is bright.
Thanks for reading!