Tea tree oil vs benzoyl peroxide for acne

Tea tree oil and benzoyl peroxide are some of the most popular remedies for acne. But is one more effective than the other? And can you use them together? Well, this article is going to answer all that for you – and much more – so keep reading to get the full scoop on tea tree oil vs benzoyl peroxide for acne.

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Multiple studies show that tea tree oil is as effective as benzoyl peroxide for improving mild to moderate acne. In addition, tea tree oil has been shown to produce significantly fewer side effects than benzoyl peroxide.

Let’s take a quick look at a couple of studies to see exactly what the results were:


A study from 1990 compared the effect of 5% tea tree gel and 5% benzoyl peroxide lotion on what they called “mild to moderate acne.”

The results showed that:

  • both treatments were equally effective at reducing the number of open and closed comedones (blackheads and whiteheads respectively).
  • tea tree oil produced fewer side effects compared to benzoyl peroxide.
  • tea tree oil was slower to act at the beginning. But once it got going, the results were similar to benzoyl peroxide.


In another study from 2007, 5% tea tree oil gel was compared to a placebo over the course of 45 days. This study focused on mild to moderate acne.

Once again, tea tree was significantly better than the placebo in reducing the total lesion count.

Furthermore, when comparing side effects, there were no significant differences between the tea tree and the placebo. 

Overall, tea tree oil was said to be well tolerated.


how to dilute tea tree oil for acne

You should always dilute tea tree oil in a carrier oil before using it as an acne spot treatment.

Dilution is essential because it reduces the risk of burning, stinging, redness and other side effects that can occur with application of undiluted essential oils.

The best medium for diluting tea tree oil is an oil, such as:

  • Jojoba.
  • Rosehip.
  • Argan.
  • Almond.
  • Grapessed.

Essential oil experts generally recommend using a 1.5% dilution (maximum) for facial products (source).

Yes, that’s far lower than the 5% dilution that was used in the tea tree and acne study. But I’m sharing this information so that you know what’s usually recommended for at home DIYs (which can be different from a scientific study).

Personally, I’ve made my own 5% (and even higher) tea tree oil blends at home for those times when I had some really stubborn zits that popped up and refused to go away. 

Two applications (morning and night) is usually all I need to shrink those pimples. Oh, and I don’t experience any irritation at higher concentrations.

But remember this:

  • Whenever I do use a strong essential oil dilution I go into it knowing that I’m only using it once or twice. Personally, I would never use that much on a day-to-day basis. I just wouldn’t feel comfortable because at the end of the day, essential oils are very potent.
  • When blending essential oils at home, it’s always safer to start with low dilutions and then work your way up slowly (as long as your skin is fine with the dilution levels).

Here’s a table showing you how much tea tree oil to use for different dilutions (the top row represents the carrier oil in ml).

15ml (1 tbsp)30ml (2 tbsp)
1.5%6 drops13 drops
2%9 drops18 drops
3%13 drops27 drops
4%18 drops36 drops
5%22 drops45 drops


use tea tree oil and benzoyl peroxide together

There are no studies showing that it’s safe or beneficial to use tea tree oil and benzoyl peroxide together. In addition, benzoyl peroxide comes in different concentrations (just like tea tree oil can also be used at different concentrations). Since there are no studies to tell us which concentrations of each can be used together, it’s best to avoid combining them.


1. Apply As A Spot Treatment

Once you’ve diluted your tea tree oil, you can either:

  • Use the tip of your finger to dab a little bit onto each pimple or,
  • Massage it onto your entire face if you’re dealing with more than one or two breakouts.

2. Use In A Facial Cleanser

If you have a facial cleanser that could benefit from an acne-fighting boost, then add a few drops of tea tree oil to it. This is best for a plain cleanser that doesn’t have other anti-acne ingredients in it.

Alternatively, you can also make a DIY tea tree cleanser for acne-prone skin. If you’d like to learn how to make it, you can get the recipe in this article on how to use tree oil in your skincare routine.

3. Use to Soothe a Popped Pimple

We all know that popping pimples. But we’re human and sometimes, it’s just hard to resist the urge. Applying tea tree oil to a popped pimple will help to reduce the redness and help to shrink it faster (cuz for some reason zits tend to look twice as big after you’ve popped!).

Since a popped zit is basically like an open wound, tea tree’s antibacterial properties could also help prevent further infection.


1. Plant Therapy Tea Tree Oil (Undiluted)

If you want to make your own anti-acne tea tree blends at home, then I recommend using this tea tree oil.

Plant Therapy is one of the most reliable brands out there for essential oils and their tea tree is my go-to.

This also happens to be organic, which I personally prefer because when I’m trying to combat zits, I don’t want to worry about any additional irritation that could come from pesticide residue (you just never know the skin!).

Get Plant Therapy’s tea tree oil here on Amazon.

2. Plant Therapy Pre-Diluted Tea Tree Roll-On

This super convenient, pre-diluted tea tree oil is made using a 5% dilution. Just what you need to combat acne without having to do any of mixing or buying your own supplies.

Get this pre-diluted tea tree oil here on Amazon.


Should I use benzoyl peroxide everyday?

According to the Mayo Clinic, adults and children over 12 years of age can use benzoyl peroxide daily. The typical frequency of use is one or two times. However, this can change depending on the specific recommendations from your doctor (source).

What happens if you don’t dilute tea tree oil?

Undiluted tea tree oil may lead to redness, burning and other signs of irritation. In addition, if undiluted tea tree oil is applied to the skin it evaporates quickly. Dilution helps to slow down the rate of evaporation, which gives your skin more time to absorb it and benefit from it.

Can you dilute tea tree oil with water for acne?

Essential oils like tea tree oil contain mostly lipophilic (fat-loving) components. As a result, water and other water-based ingredients (such as plain aloe vera) are not suitable for diluting tea tree oil. Instead, you need to include an emulsifying agent in your blend so that the water and oil components can combine.

How long does tea tree oil take to work on acne?

Research shows that a 5% tea tree gel can start to improve mild to moderate acne within 45 days ( about 6 weeks). For more severe acne, more time will likely be required in order to see improvements.


In a side-by-side comparison, tea tree oil and benzoyl peroxide have been shown to produce similar results on acne. That said, do keep in mind that tea tree oil can be slower to produce results at the beginning. But on the plus side, tea tree oil seems to be a better alternative because it produces less negative side effects.

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