Can Tea Tree Oil Work for Acne Scars?

Does it work?

Tea tree oil is derived from the Melaleuca alternifolia tree, which is indigenous to Australia. The oil has traditionally been used to treat wounds and other skin ailments.

For this reason, it’s often found in over-the-counter (OTC) cosmetics and other beauty products. This includes scar treatments.

Although tea tree oil has been established as remedy for active acne breakouts, it’s unclear whether it can effectively treat acne scars.

Unlike most pimples, acne scars form deep within the skin. These marks can darken with age and sun exposure. Tea tree oil can possibly combat these effects, but there’s no guarantee.

Read on to find out what the research says, possible side effects, products to consider, and more.

What the research says

It’s widely accepted that tea tree oil has antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties. This can help prevent acne lesions, while also reducing swelling associated with inflammatory acne.

In fact, one 2007 study found 5 percent tea tree oil gel to be effective in treating mild to moderate cases of acne.

Despite the abundance of studies on acne and other skin concerns, research on tea tree oil in acne scar treatment is lacking.

One 2015 study established clear benefits in acne treatment, but the results for scarring were inconclusive. Generally speaking, tea tree oil is said to minimize the appearance of raised (hypertrophic) scars, but most acne scars develop below the surface of the skin.

At the very least, using tea tree oil to help manage active acne breakouts may help reduce their severity and risk of scarring.

How to use tea tree oil

Though its effects on acne scars aren’t proven, there generally isn’t any harm in trying it out.

Tea tree oil is safe for most users, but it’s important to make sure before youdo a full application.

To do a patch test:

  1. Apply a small amount of the oil or product to the inside of your elbow.
  2. Wait 24 hours or more.
  3. If you don’t experience any irritation or discomfort during this time, the product is likely safe to apply elsewhere.

From there, the way you use the oil will depend on the type of product you purchase.

Pure essential oil forms will need to be diluted with a carrier oil before use. A general rule of thumb is to add at least 1 ounce of carrier oil to every 12 drops of essential oil.

OTC products that contain tea tree oil in them don’t need this extra step — you can simply apply as directed.

In either case, you can get the best results from using tea tree oil as an all- over treatment, applied twice per day.

Possible side effects and risks

Topical tea tree oil is considered safe for most users. However, you shouldn’t use tea tree oil if you’ve had reactions to any related products in the past.

Pure essential oils are extremely powerful. You should never use this type of tea tree oil without diluting it with a carrier oil first.

Using undiluted tea tree oil can lead to additional redness, hives, and even rash. The affected area may also be itchy and uncomfortable.

Acne scars can take several weeks, if not months, to fade. Overusing tea tree oil in hopes of fading scars faster will only cause irritation. This may in turn make your scars more noticeable.

Products to consider

The amount of tea tree oil to apply and how often depends on the product you use. Some products containing tea tree oil are intended for daily use, while others might only be used a few times per week.

Concentrations also vary, with pure tea tree oil containing the most active ingredients. OTC beauty products might contain small amounts combined with other ingredients.

Make sure you do a patch test before applying any product to your face or other large area of skin.

Popular tea tree oil products include:

  • Essential Oil Labs 100% Tea Tree Oil. Touted as an all-purpose oil, this product help treat dark spots, acne, dry skin, and burns.
  • The Body Shop Tea Tree Night Lotion. This nighttime, gel-based lotion helps fade acne scars while also preventing future breakouts.
  • Keeva Tea Tree Oil Acne Treatment Cream. With tea tree oil, salicylic acid, and vitamin E, this cream helps reduce acne scars while also treating new pimples.
  • The Body Shop Tea Tree Anti-Imperfection Night Mask. Worn and left on overnight, this tea tree oil–infused clay mask purportedly reduces the appearance of scars and blemishes.

The bottom line

Acne scars can be difficult to treat, and you might need a combination of methods in addition to tea tree oil. Your dermatologist can make more precise recommendations based on your overall skin health and tone, as well as the severity of your scars.

If you don’t see results with tea tree oil after six to eight weeks, you might need a stronger treatment. Acne scars and related hyperpigmentation often respond to laser therapy and dermabrasion.

Finally, tea tree oil may be out if you have any side effects. Discontinue use if you develop a rash or other sign of an allergic reaction.

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