How to Use Tea Tree Oil for Acne {Simple DIY recipes that really work!}

Whether you’re 15 or 55, almost everyone gets acne.

I got zits as a teenager.

I got hormonal acne in my 30s.

And now in my 50s, I still get occasional acne flare-ups.  Sometimes it’s little red bumps; other times, it’s full-on pimples.  My skin is prone to both blackheads and whiteheads.

Hormones seem to be the main cause for my acne flare-ups, but I have other acne triggers too, like sleeping with my makeup on, stress, and eating certain foods.


As a teenager I piled on the benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid.  This over-dried my skin, caused even more oily outbreaks, and inflamed my sensitive skin.

I thought I was doing that right thing, but of course, it made it so much worse.

Thankfully, now I know better.

Here’s what I’ve learned:

  • be gentle with your skin – if you overdo it with washing, your skin is likely to get red and inflamed, which will likely cause more outbreaks.
  • don’t over dry acne-prone skin– making your skin too dry will actually produce more oil.
  • use a toner after washing your face– Even if you’re short on time, don’t skip the toner.   Your skin’s pH should be around 5.5; however, washing your face with water and cleanser can throw your skin’s pH balance out of whack (to as high as 9).  Using toner brings your skin back down to its natural pH level.
  • even acne-prone skin needs a good moisturizer (here’s my recipe)– did you know that some studies suggest that people with oily or combination skin may be producing too much oil because the skin is not getting enough moisture and the skin makes up for it by producing more oil?



How to Use tea Tree Oil for Acne by -- includes DIY recipes for... pimple spot treatment, clear-skin face wash, charcoal mask, acne gel, exfoliating soap, body wash, and more -- image of small spray bottle, lotion, and salts


The Many Benefits of Using Tea Tree Oil for Acne

Tea tree oil (melaleuca alternifolia) is a powerful acne treatment.  Research has found that tea tree oil is as powerful as benzoyl peroxide in treating zits, but tea tree is gentler and has fewer side effects.

Here are some of the many reasons why tea tree essential oil is so helpful for acne.


  • Deeply Cleans & Clears Away Dead Skin Cells

Oil and dead skin cells build up inside the pores on our face.  And the oil that’s trapped in our pores repels water, making it difficult to deeply clean out pores.  Thankfully, tea tree oil acts as a solvent that’s able to mix with the natural oils from our sebaceous glands and help unclog the oil, dirt, and dead skin cells trapped in our pores.


  • Minimizes the Appearance of Pores


  • Fights Bacteria-Causing Acne

One of the primary causes of acne is bacteria.  Tea tree is naturally antibacterial.  It reduces the amount of blemish-causing bacteria on the face, and as a result, reduces future acne breakouts.


  • Anti-Inflammatory

Tea tree is also highly anti-inflammatory.  It helps minimize redness and overall swelling from acne.


  • Reduces Excess Oil Production & Dries Out Pimples, Whiteheads, Blackheads, and Other Blemishes

When your skin makes too much oil, your pores can get clogged and cause acne.  Because tea tree oil has both astringent and antiseptic properties, research has found that tea tree helps to balance sebum production.  This means that tea tree oil helps your skin not make too much oil, while at the same time it doesn’t over dry your skin.  It’s all about the right balance.  Some oil is good and creates healthy skin.  Too much oil can clog pores and lead to breakouts.


  • Helps Heal Acne & Acne Scars

Tea tree oil can help speed healing of current blemishes as well as help in the healing of acne scars.  Research shows that tea tree oil activates white blood cells, which are important in the healing process.



How to Make a Tea Tree Oil Spot Treatment for Pimples


 1. Acne Gel {made with tea tree oil}

This acne gel uses calendula gel.  Calendula gel is made from a species of marigold known as calendula officinalis.  It’s been used in herbal medicine for thousands of years to soothe and heal skin.  Calendula has antiseptic, antibacterial, and anti-inflammatory properties.  All of which helps soothes skin, fight infection, and reduce redness and irritation from acne.


to make: mix together 1 1/2 teaspoons calendula gel, 1/2 teaspoon jojoba oil, 9 drops tea tree essential oil, 4 drops geranium essential oil, and 2 drops lemongrass essential oil.  Use a funnel to scoop gel into 10ml silicone tube.

find the full recipe here for tea tree acne gel

how to use this zit-zapping gel: apply small amount to blemishes.  gently rub in.  reapply as needed

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2.  Clear Skin Rollerball {pimple spot treatment}

This roller blend uses jojoba oil.  Jojoba is actually not an oil, but a liquid wax.    It closely resembles the sebum in human skin.  It’s extremely rich in Vitamin E, promotes a healthy glowing complexion.  It’s great for all skin types (normal, dry, oily, sensitive, and mature).


to make: add 4 drops melaleuca essential oil (aka tea tree oil), 4 drops lavender essential oil, and 2 drops lemongrass essential oil to a 10ml roller bottle.  top with jojoba oil.  put on rollerball top and swirl oils gently to mix.

find the full recipe and free printable roller bottle label here

to use:  apply to pimple.  gently rub in.  reapply as needed



How to Use Tea Tree in Acne Face Wash


3. Makeup Remover Pads

One thing that’s helped my skin a lot over the past few years is removing my makeup before I wash my face.

Like many things beauty related, it was my teenage daughter who introduced me to the idea.  Initially, this seemed like a very odd concept to me.  For decades I had simply been washing my face with a cleanser.  Why would I take my makeup off before cleansing my face?  It seemed unnecessary and like double the work at a time of day when I was exhausted and wanted nothing more than to crawl into bed and get as much sleep I could before the alarm went off the next morning.

But then I tried it.  I used a makeup remover to take my makeup off before washing my face.

And it was a game changer for me.  A game changer!

Not only did it make it easier for my to quickly wash my face, but my skin was so much better with using the makeup remover than it was with the cleansing alone.  My pores looked smaller, my skin was less red, my skin tone looked more even, I didn’t get as many breakouts.  It was amazing.  Such a simple thing that literally took me less than a minute to do had made such a big difference.


ingredients: unscented liquid Castile soap, witch hazel, shea oil, lavender essential oil, melaleuca (aka tea tree oil), frankincense essential oil, and distilled water

find the recipe here for makeup remover pads

to use:  Gently wipe upwards.  Use as many pads as needed to remove all makeup.  I usually use 2-3 makeup remover wipes each night.  When done, toss used makeup remover wipes in trash.


4.  Foaming Face Wash for Acne-Prone Skin

In addition to essential oils, this face wash uses witch hazel.  Witch hazel is a natural astringent that minimizes the appearance of pores, reduces inflammation and skin irritations, decreases oil and redness, and leaves skin feeling clean and refreshed.


to make: to a 16 oz foaming soap bottle add 1/2 cup liquid unscented Castile soap, 2 tablespoons witch hazel, 10 drops tea tree essential oil, 10 drops lavender oil, 10 drops lemongrass oil, and 1 cup distilled water.  Swirl gently to mix.

find the full recipe here for foaming face wash for acne-prone skin

to use:  remove face and eye makeup, then wet face, put 2-3 pumps of soap in your hand or on a wet washcloth, gently wash your face using small circular motions, and rinse clean  (note: be sure to avoid your eye area; you don’t want to get soap or essential oils in your eyes).  follow with moisturizer.


5.  Clay Facial Soap for Blemish-Prone Skin

This gentle facial soap deep cleans pores, soothes redness, balances oil production, and gets rid of moderate acne.


It’s made with goat’s milk, which is loaded with vitamins like vitamin A (which is one of the most important vitamins for skin) and B vitamins including riboflavin, niacin, B6, and B12. It also has alpha-hydroxyl acids like lactic acid that help gently remove dead skin cells, revealing healthier, rejuvenated skin.  Goat’s milk soap is good for all skin types.  It’s gentle and calming, which is great for sensitive skin.  It’s rich & very moisturizing, which is great for dry skin.  Its proteins kill bacteria, which is great for treating acne and oily skin.

Another key ingredient of this zit-fighting soap is bentonite clay.  Bentonite clay is a natural clay with a fine, soft texture.  It gives the face soap a smooth, silky lather.  It also gently exfoliates skin and unblocks clogged pores.  Bentonite clay even helps absorb excess oil and reduce acne flare up.


ingredients: goat’s milk melt & pour soap, bentonite clay, tea tree oil, and geranium essential oil

find the full recipe here for clay face soap

to use:  wet face and hands.  lather soap in hands and apply to face.  be careful to avoid eyes.  rinse and then pat skin dry.  follow with moisturizer.



How to Use Tea Tree Oil to Prevent Future Breakouts

6. Witch Hazel & Tea Tree Toner for Acne

In addition to tea tree essential oil, this toner also uses juniper berry essential oil and lavender oil.  Juniper berry has a wide variety of antioxidants (polyphenols, flavonoids, bioflavonoids, and more) to support healthy skin.  Plus, it inhibits inflammation and kills the bacteria that blocks pores and causes pimples.  Lavender calms and soothes skin, reduces redness, and has potent antioxidants for healthy skin.


ingredients: witch hazel, tea tree oil, juniper berry oil, and lavender essential oil

find the full recipe here for tea tree toner for acne

to use:  after washing face, shake toner well to mix and apply this tea tree toner with a cotton round, using gentle upwards motion all over face (avoiding eyes)


7.  Tea Tree Face Serum for Acne-Prone Skin

When I was younger I used to think that only people with dry skin needed a moisturizer.  Oh, how wrong I was!

Yes, it makes sense that people with dry skin need to use something to moisturize their face, but did you know that some studies suggest that people with oily or combination skin may be producing too much oil because the skin is not getting enough moisture and the skin makes up for it by producing more oil?

Regardless of our age or skin type, we all need a great moisturizer to keep our skin hydrated, protect against the environment, and help prevent irritation.  When we wash our face, we often strip our skin of the natural oils (sebum). By using a face serum (natural oils blended with essential oils), we are replenishing the natural oils on our face.


to make: To a 2 ounce or larger glass bottle, add 5 drops tea tree essential oil, 5 drops lemongrass essential oil, 10 drops lavender essential oil, and then fill bottle with jojoba oil.  Put lid on bottle and gently roll the bottle in the palm of your hand for about 30 seconds to mix the essential oils in with carrier oil.

find the full recipe here for face serum for acne-prone-skin

to use:  after washing face and using toner, apply a drop of serum to forehead, each cheek, and chin.  gently massage in using small, soft upward strokes


How to Steam Face with Tea Tree {to open & deep clean pores}

8.  Tea Tree Steam Facial

Use these steam facials to reduce the appearance of pores, deep clean skin, reduce inflammation, gently soothe troubled skin, and speed healing of pimples.


These are copycat recipes I created based on Lush’s Tea Tree Tabs and Dream Steam facial.  They combine the antibacterial and skin-soothing properties of tea tree essential oil with the deep cleansing ability of steam. 

All you do is drop 1-2 of these homemade tabs into a bowl of hot, steamy water, then lean over the bowl with a towel over your head to trap the steam.

It’s sooooooooo relaxing.


ingredients: baking soda, citric acid, witch hazel, and tea tree oil.  optional ingredients- rose oil, lavender oil, chamomile oil, and dried rose petals.

find the recipe here for Lush Copycat Tea Tree Acne Facial Tabs And find the recipe here for dupe Lush Dream Steam facial tabs

to use:  place 1-2 acne facial tabs into a wooden, glass, or ceramic bowl.  pour hot, steamy water over the tabs.  close eyes (you don’t want steam or essential oils to get in your eyes).  use a soft towel to make a tent over your head and the bowl to trap the steam.  keep your face over the steam for a couple of minutes to open and clean your pores (tip:  if you ever get too hot or uncomfortable, simply lift up the towel and turn your head away from the bowl to cool off and get fresh air.  When you’re ready, put your head back over the bowl.  Relax and enjoy.)  when you’re done, use a clean towel to dry your face.  finish by applying moisturizer.


How to Make a Tea Tree Oil Face Mask


9.  Zit-Zapping Face Mask

This easy homemade acne mask calms & soothes irritated skin.


to make: blend 3 tablespoons of aloe vera gel with 1/3 of a cucumber (peeled, seeded, & roughly chopped).  continue blending until it forms a smooth paste.  then add 3 drops tea tree oil and mix well.

to use:  apply mask to face (avoiding eye area).  leave on for 10-15 minutes.  then rinse with warm water and pat skin dry.


10.  Charcoal Mask

This mask deeply purifies skin, reduces acne inflammation, and absorbs excess oils.


to make: mix together 2 tablespoons white kaolin clay, 1 tablespoon activated charcoal powder, 2 teaspoons rose hydrosol, 1/2 teaspoon jojoba oil, 2 drops tea tree essential oil, and 2 drops lavender essential oil

to use:  apply mask to face (avoiding eye area).  leave on for 10-15 minutes.  then rinse with warm water and pat skin dry.  finish by applying moisturizer.


11. Clay & Sea Kelp Mask

This natural face mask detoxifies skin, minimizes pores, and absorbs excess oils.


to make mask powder:  mix together 2 oz French green clay, 1 teaspoon sea kelp powder, 7 drops tea tree oil, 4 drops lavender essential oil, and 3 drops lemon essential oil.  store this mask powder in airtight container.

to use:  mix 2 teaspoons of mask powder with 1-2 tablespoons of coconut milk.  Adjust amount of coconut milk used so that the mask is smooth and has a mud-like texture. apply mask to face (avoiding eye area).  leave on for 10-15 minutes.  then rinse with warm water and pat skin dry.



How to Use Tea Tree Oil for Back Acne & Body Acne

12.  Exfoliating Essential Oil Soap

Dead skin cells can clog oil ducts and cause pimples.  This easy-to-make soap gently exfoliates, removing dead skin and revealing healthy new skin.


This soap uses poppy seeds.  Yes, you read that right, poppy seeds.  Pull out your little spice jar of poppy seeds from your cupboard.  It’s the perfect thing for natural, gentle exfoliation.  As you use the soap, the soap will lather up and expose those tiny little poppy seeds in the next layer of soap.  The poppy seeds gently slough away dead skin without aggravating or scratching your skin.  And once they’ve done their job, they simply fall to the shower floor and get rinse down the drain (without any of the bad environmental effects of those artificial microbeads that used to in manufactured personal care products).


ingredients: oatmeal melt & pour soap, poppy seeds, tea tree essential oil, and geranium oil.

find the full recipe here for exfoliating essential oil soap

to use:  wet skin then rub soap bar over skin in gentle circular motions


13.  Zit-Zapping Body Wash

This DIY body wash helps treat and prevent bacne and other body acne from head to toe.


to make: mix together 1/2 cup unscented liquid Castile soap, 1/4 cup glycerin, 2 tablespoons jojoba oil, 20 drops tea tree essential oil (aka melaleuca) and 15 drops lemon oil. Pour into 8 oz squeeze bottle

to use:  using soft washcloth, massage a small amount of body wash over body in circular motions.  Rinse well and then pat skin dry.



How to Use Tea Tree Oil for Acne Scars

Tea tree oil can be a wonderful natural healer for acne scars thanks to its antiviral, antibacterial, and antifungal properties.  Its antioxidant and antimicrobial properties also tend to help speed up the wound-healing process.


14.  Healing Salve for Acne Scars

ingredients: coconut oil, shea butter, jojoba oil, beeswax, and essential oils

find the full recipe here for skin-healing salve

to use:  clean and dry skin before using salve.  apply thin layer one to three times a day as needed to the acne scar.  may take 1-2 months to start seeing results.


15.  Scar-Erase Rollerball

to make: use 10ml roller bottle, add 3 drops tea tree oil, 4 drops helichrysum essential oil, 4 drops geranium essential oil, and 4 drops frankincense essential oil to the roller bottle.  Then add 1/2 teaspoon vitamin E oil, and top with rosehip seed oil.  put on rollerball and then swirl gently to mix.

to use:  apply to scar morning and night.  may take 1-2 months to start seeing results.



Use Caution: Be sure to do a patch test

Tea tree oil is a powerful concentrate.  Be sure to always dilute it.  And before using tea tree of your face for the first time, do a patch test to make sure that you don’t have an allergy or sensitivity to tea tree oil.

Here’s how to do a patch test:

  1. clean your face and dry it well
  2. combine 1/8 teaspoon of a carrier oil (like jojoba oil) with 1 drop of tea tree essential oil
  3. put a small amount of this tea tree and oil mixture on your clean face
  4. leave it on overnight, for at least 6 hours
  5. if you have any redness, swelling, tingling, or itching, you probably have an allergy or sensitivity to tea tree essential oil.  Avoid using it and try another essential oil instead.



What can I use as substitute for tea tree oil for acne?

The following essential oils are all good substitutes for tea tree essential oil:

  1. geranium
  2. lavender
  3. patchouli
  4. rosemary
  5. lemongrass
  6. cedarwood
  7. rose
  8. chamomile



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Sarah Lewis

A little thing about me: I 💙 essential oils. I also love using my background in research to help people learn more about essential oils and all the wonderful ways they can be used. I share DIY recipes for natural cleaners that really work, non-toxic beauty solutions, and holistic wellness. My essential oil recipes, info, and tips have been viewed more than 20 million times. I've been featured on MindBodyGreen, Health & Natural Living, All Natural Ideas, This Natural Home, Natural Living Ideas, and Passion for Savings.
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