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Is Tea Tree Oil Effective For Acne? (Guest Post)

Posted Aug 12 2011 1:00pm
tea tree by ZAJA Natural & The Beer Soap Company
tea tree , a photo by ZAJA Natural & The Beer Soap Company on Flickr.

Today’s guest post is provided by Steven Barker, the owner of Acne Treatment , a website featuring products, news, and new treatments to stop acne.

In 2011, dermatologists are very effective at treating inflammatory and non-inflammatory acne. But, some people feel that the chemicals used in modern medicine can be harsh on the skin or do not adequately treat their problem. This has caused some acne sufferers to look towards the supplement aisle at their local health food store for effective alternative treatments.

There are quite a few remedies for acne that rival the effectiveness of what is available in prescription form. These treatments include things like witch hazel , lemon juice, vitamin b5 , zinc, and grapefruit seed extract. But by far, the alternative treatment with the most data backing up it’s acne fighting claims is tea tree oil.

Tea tree oil is made from the leaves of the Melaleuca Alternifolia plant which originates from Australia. This essential oil was used by native people in the area to treat infections, cold, or skin problems. Extract from the plant became popular in the early 1900′s as a natural antibiotic. It was later phased out of use when modern antibiotics like penicillin were discovered. In the 1970s, new interest in all natural products resurfaced and production of tea tree oil on a large scale was resumed.

Researchers believe that the antibiotic, antifungal, antiseptic, and antiviral benefits come from over 90 bio-active compounds isolated from the plant. Concentrates from 5% up to 100% are used to treat ailments all the way from acne, to lice, to herpes infections. As well as being effective on acne, this oil may have uses as a remedy for toe fungus. Higher concentrations of 10% and above have been found to kill fungal growth in cases of athletes foot or fungus under the toenails.

For use in acne prevention, a solution of 5% is usually recommended. It may take 3-4 weeks of use to notice a significant improvement of acne breakouts.

An Australian study involving 124 subjects showed tea tree oil was just as effective as the most commonly used acne treatment, benzoyl peroxide. It was far less damaging to the skin, and was found to reduce whiteheads and blackheads just as well as many other known treatments. There have also been two more recent studies that reconfirmed its effectiveness as an acne fighter.

The substance terpinen-4-ol is believed to be the ingredient responsible for it’s anti-bacterial, anti-fingal, and anti-viral properties. Terpinen-4-o has been isolated from tea tree oil, but is not currently being sold as an isolate of substance.

Tea Tree Oil

Doctors recommend a 5% solution of topical tea tree oil to treat acne, applied once or twice daily. A 5% solution was the strength that was proven effective in positive Australian studies.

There are more concentrated tea tree oil creams and gels available, but a solution that is not diluted may cause irritation or blistering. Use them with caution. [ note: Make sure you check with your dermatologist before beginning this or any other skin care treatment.]

Tea tree oil can be safely used externally, but can cause illness if swallowed. If ingested, it can cause symptoms that include fatigue, nausea, coma, and even hallucinations. There were also some reports of allergic reactions to the extract.

There was also 1 report of the oil leading to hormonal disruption in adolescent boys. There was a case where 3 boys developed gynecomastia as a result of either tea tree oil or lavender oil. This case was isolated and researchers aren’t sure of the actual cause, but they do recommend caution, as many effects of the substance are unknown. Some doctors also recommend that tea tree oil should be avoided by woman who are pregnant or breast feeding.

Tea tree oil has proven to be an effective treatment for acne. If used in the proper dosage, there were usually little to no side effects. Keep in mind that this essential oil of the Melaleuca Alternifolia plant is still under investigation. It’s properties are not fully understood and should still be treated with caution when used by adolescents or pregnant women.

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