This post was originally published on June 15, 2017, and updated on October 12, 2019
Tea Tree Oil can be an awesome spot treatment for speeding up healing of pimples and breakouts. But, you need to know how to use Tea Tree Oil for acne properly, and what not to do.
Recently I received an email from one of our subscribers, Danielle, asking if she could add Tea Tree Oil to her moisturizer for a full face treatment for breakouts and acne?
I get asked this a lot because you’d think if Tea Tree Oil is such a good spot treatment, why not just add it to your moisturizer or toner to treat your entire face and prevent pimples from coming back? Easy, right?
Well, when I received this question from Danielle, it instantly gave me flashbacks of my countless DIY experiments that went terribly wrong. I’m talking red burning face that takes weeks to heal wrong.
I don’t want Danielle, or you, to make those same mistakes.
So when it comes to Tea Tree Oil and pimples, using it as a spot treatment is completely different to using it all over your face, even if you were to mix it with an oil or moisturizer.
Tea Tree Oil is strong. I would actually go as far to say that ALL essential oils are strong. If you use essential oils the wrong way, it can do more harm than good.
Overusing Tea Tree Oil is it can potentially irritate your skin, dry it out, throw your skin’s ph balance off, interfere with your skin’s moisture barrier, and make your skin more susceptible to photosensitivity and sun damage.
When used properly, Tea Tree Oil can be a fantastic spot treatment that speeds up the healing of blemishes and pimples. I would only use it where it needs to be used, and never apply it to your entire face.
To ensure that you are using Tea Tree Oil properly, and getting all the pimple vanishing benefits from it, check out the rest of this article, and the video with demo (at the top of this page).
How to use Tea Tree Oil to treat acne and pimples
- At night, wash your face with a mild cleanser, followed by using the rest of the products in your skin care routine (serum, moisturizer, etc).
- Allow the skincare products to absorb and dry down on your skin (I would give it a minute or two to absorb before applying the Tea Tree Oil spot treatment).
- If this is your very first time ever using tea tree oil or you have sensitive skin, I recommend diluting the Tea Tree Oil with a carrier oil like jojoba oil. You can mix 1 drop of Tea Tree Essential Oil with 10-12 drops of a carrier oil, and mix it together in a clean dish or in the palm of your hand.
- If you’ve used Tea Tree Oil or products containing it and never had a bad reaction, you can use small amounts of pure, undiluted Tea Tree Oil as your spot treatment.
- To apply the Tea Tree Oil spot treatment on pimples, put 2-3 drops of pure tea tree oil or diluted Tea Tree Oil in the palm of your hand. Dip your ring finger into the Tea Tree Oil or Tea Tree dilution, and dab a small amount on your pimples. Don’t rub it, just lightly dab a very tiny amount covering your pimples.
- Try not to spread the Tea Tree Oil. It really should only cover the pimples and avoid it being applied on the skin surrounding your pimples.
- After applying the Tea Tree Oil on pimples, allow it to dry.
- Don’t touch your face.
- Don’t apply more layers of Tea Tree Oil. One thin layer of Tea Tree Oil is sufficient (if you put too much you risk burning or damaging your skin).
- Don’t put any other skin care products on top of it. The application of Tea Tree Oil spot treatment should be the very last step of your skin care routine.
- The following morning, wash your face and if needed use moisturizer and sunscreen. Don’t use Tea Tree Oil during the day, only at night.
- Tea Tree Essential Oil is strong. Best to use it every other night or every two nights. Some people’s skin can tolerate using it every night, but for most people, every other night or every two nights is sufficient.
Watch today’s video at the top of the post for a full video demo how to use Tea Tree Oil for acne and pimples.
How not to use Tea Tree Oil
- Only use it as a spot treatment, never put it all over your face.
- Don’t add it to your moisturizer, facial oil, serum, face mask or toner that you’re going to apply all over your face (diluting or mixing Tea Tree Oil with other skincare products to make a spot treatment is fine).
- Use it at the very end of your skin care routine after you’ve cleansed and moisturized your skin (this will prevent spreading the Tea Tree Oil to other parts of your face).
- After dabbing Tea Tree Oil on a pimple, never cover it with anything like a bandage or plastic.
- Don’t use Tea Tree Oil in conjunction with other spot treatments or other acne treatment products containing active ingredients like benzoyl peroxide, retinols, retinoids or Retin-A, salicylic acid, glycolic acid, lactic acid, vitamin c, etc. Best to use one or the other, not both!
- Never use Tea Tree Oil more than once a day – less is more!
- Don’t use it on your skin if your skin is dry, flaking, scaly, or irritated.
- If it burns, dries out your skin, or makes your skin red – stop using it.
- Don’t ever use Tea Tree Oil right after exercising. Wait until your body and skin has cooled down before using it (I would wait at least an hour after exercising).
- Don’t use Tea Tree Oil after steaming your skin, or sitting in a sauna (wait 60 minutes until your body has completely cooled down to normal before applying it).
- Don’t use Tea Tree Oil during the day, it could make your skin photosensitive or susceptible to sun damage.
- Take a break from using Tea Tree Oil while you’re spending a lot of time out doors in the sun (like going on a beach vacation).
- Dilute Tea Tree Oil with an oil, not water.
FAQs about Tea Tree Oil for acne and breakouts:
What are the benefits of using Tea Tree Oil to treat acne and pimples?
According to this study, tea tree oil has shown to be antimicrobial and have medicinal properties including:
- Anti-inflammatory (it will help reduce redness, irritation, and swelling – which will help shrink pimples faster)
- Anti-bacterial / antiseptic (prevents infection)
Tea tree oil has also shown to be:
- A solvent (which can breakup the buildup of oil, dirt or debris clogging your pores)
What about commercial skincare products containing Tea Tree Oil, are they safe to use?
In general I find commercial skincare products containing Tea Tree Oil to be a little more safer than the DIY recipes floating around. They tend to use less Tea Tree Oil in their formulas than what you see being sprinkled into homemade products.
If you want to buy a commercial product that contains Tea Tree Oil, to be on the safe side, I would only use a product that washes off like a mask or cleanser. And, I would only use it once in a while (like once or twice a week). If you have leave-on products like a moisturizer, serum, or toner that contains Tea Tree Oil, I would be very cautious using it. Personally, I would probably only use it as a spot treatment in the evening, and not all over your face.
Should I apply Tea Tree Oil before or after moisturizer?
Always apply Tea Tree Oil at the very last step of your skincare routine. Meaning, apply Tea Tree Oil after moisturizer, never before.
The reason why is because you don’t want other products to move it around. For example, if you apply it on pimples on your chin, you don’t want to put moisturizer on top which could move it up to your mouth, cheeks, or even eye area.
Applying Tea Tree Oil at the very last step of your skincare routine ensures it stays put, and it’s only applied where it needs to be.
How often should I put tea tree oil on my face?
Tea Tree Oil is strong. Best to start with using it every two nights or every other night. After a few weeks, you can slowly increase frequency of use to every night.
Can you apply Tea Tree Oil with a Q-Tip or cotton bud instead of your fingers?
If you want, you can go ahead and use a Q-Tip or cotton bud to apply the Tea Tree Oil as a spot treatment. But, I will warn you that the cotton bud absorbs a lot of the product. Because it absorbs so much product, many times you end up pressing the cotton bud on pimples with too much pressure. With any spot treatment, you want the application to very light and gentle. You want to lightly dab it on, not pressing it in. This can cause increased irritation.
Also, when you use your fingers to apply products, you have a lot more control over the pressure of application. Plus, your skin is a lot softer and smoother than the texture of cotton buds. The difference is slight, but pimples are already sensitive and irritated. You need to be very cautious how you are applying products and with what.
If you want to use a cotton bud because you are concerned about hygiene, don’t be scared to use your fingers. Just make sure you thoroughly wash your hands and face before applying the product. Tea Tree Oil is anti-bacterial, and if your hands and skin are clean, you should be fine.
What if you have acne all over your face, can you use Tea Tree Oil all over your face?
No. I don’t recommend that.
When you have a lot of acne on your face, the level of irritation and inflammation from the acne is pretty high. Your skin barrier is impaired. Your skin hurts, and there’s a greater chance of the Tea Tree Oil irritating your skin even more. We don’t want to make your skin worse.
I recommend working on your diet to help control and reduce the acne breakouts. Eliminating all dairy, sugar, and alcohol can jump start healing of your skin, and bring down inflammation. You can take my FREE Acne Solutions 5 Day Email Course to help you get started improving your diet and skin care routine to clear up acne.
Once the acne is no longer inflamed and appears to be better managed and healing, then you can add the Tea Tree Oil into your skin care routine. I recommend avoiding using it on areas of your face that have broken, raw, peeling, or irritated skin. Just use it as a spot treatment on stubborn pimples.
What to do if you are having a bad reaction to Tea Tree Oil?
If you applied Tea Tree Oil on your skin and you are having a bad reaction (your skin is red or burning); you need to rinse it off with cold water immediately.
Never rinse irritating skin care products off with warm or hot water (the heat will drive the product into your skin more causing increased sensitivity).
Also, don’t use soap or a cleanser to remove it, and no wash cloth or flannel. Too much product or rubbing of your skin can potentially make it worse. Instead just use plenty of cold water to gently rinse it off.
After rinsing your skin with cold water, I would avoid moisturizers, facial oils, or any other skin care products or makeup. You don’t want to coat your skin with anything that could seal residues of Tea Tree Oil on your skin. Instead, after rinsing your skin, leave your skin be. I would even be careful with how you dry your face. Best to use a very soft micro fiber cloth and gently dab off any excess water left on your skin.
For the next 8-12 hours I recommend avoiding any heat near your skin. Don’t take hot showers or hot baths, and don’t exercise. You need to let your skin settle after it’s had a bad reaction to a product.
Can Tea Tree Oil be used to treat back acne?
Yes. And the skin on your back is a lot more durable than the skin on your face, so you can be slightly more aggressive with treatment.
Here’s instructions how to treat back acne with Tea Tree Oil:
- After taking a shower and thoroughly cleansing your skin on your back, dry off your skin with a clean towel.
- Mix 2-3 drops of Tea Tree Oil with 10-12 drops of a carrier oil like Jojoba Oil.
- Apply the mixture to the affected area on your back. Allow a few minutes for the product to absorb and dry before putting on your clothes.
- Start with applying it every other night, and if your skin tolerates it well, after a few days, you can apply it every night.
- If after 3-4 weeks you see absolutely no improvements in your skin, stop using it. If you do see improvements, continue until your skin completely clears up.
- Don’t use Tea Tree Oil on your back if you are going sun bathing or exposing your bare back to the sun. For the duration of treatment using Tea Tree Oil, you should avoid exposing your back to the sun (always wear protective clothing when out in the sun).
- If you have acne on your chest, this protocol for your back is too strong for the skin on your chest. For your chest, best to only use Tea Tree Oil dilution as a spot treatment just on pimples, and not all over your chest (similar to the skin on your face, the skin on your chest is also fragile. You don’t want to risk damaging or burning it with too much Tea Tree Oil).
Will Tea Tree Oil work for everyone?
Many people get fabulous results using Tea Tree Oil as a spot treatment, other people notice absolutely no difference at all using it.
If you’ve been using Tea Tree Oil as a spot treatment regularly for at least a month, and it’s done absolutely nothing for your pimples and breakouts, stop using it.
I’m saying this because I’m guilty of this. I can’t tell you how many products I’ve used for years and even decades hoping one day they’d work! If they haven’t worked up until now, they’ll probably never work.
I don’t believe in giving up on anything too soon, but if you’ve been using Tea Tree Oil regularly for a month or so and it’s not helping, then that’s enough time to know you’ve given it a good shot and it’s just not for you.
Something like Tea Tree Oil, I wouldn’t needlessly be putting it on your skin unless it’s really helping.
Where to buy Tea Tree Oil?
Tea Tree Essential Oil is pretty easy to find. Anywhere that sells essential oils will sell Tea Tree Oil. As with any essential oil, make sure it’s a pure essential oil and not mixed with anything. Always check the ingredients on the label to make sure nothing is added.
You can buy Tea Tree Oil at a health food store, natural beauty boutique, specialty stores, or online.
The best Tea Tree Oil for acne I have found is from Living Libations. All their essential oils are 100% pure and of the highest quality. I have been using their Tea Tree Oil for years, not only to treat blemishes, but for my hair and scalp too.
What about you?
Have you used Tea Tree Oil to heal blemishes or breakouts? Did it work for you? Let us know, please post in the comments below.
More blog posts and videos on essential oils and spot treatments for pimples and acne:
- Essential Oils In Skincare (Don’t Make These Mistakes)
- How To Use A Spot Treatment Properly
- Skincare ingredients I Avoid
Want to learn what else you can do with your skincare routine to clear up breakouts and acne? You’d be surprised just how many things in your daily skincare routine is seriously messing up your skin. Take my course, The CLEAR SKIN Skincare Rules to find out what you need to change and add to your skincare routine for gorgeous clear skin. CLICK HERE to get started now.