To say my skin is annoying is putting it mildly: It’s incredibly sensitive, crazy dry, and also very susceptible to hormonal acne. Which means that attempting to treat the occasional zit with classic over-the-counter products usually results in rashes, irritation, and flakes. Basically, trying to fix one problem just makes things even worse. Fun! So when I find an acne product that even remotely works without irritating my face, I feel the need to shout its praises on the interwebs for all to read. And my latest yell-worthy discovery? The wonderful (and wonderfully smelly) tea tree oil.
Tea tree oil sounds like one of those hippie-dippie alternative skincare treatments that surely can’t be as effective as tried-and-true ingredients like salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide, right? That’s what I thought when my hippy-dippie friend handed me a tiny bottle of pure tea tree oil. But after dabbing it over my whiteheads and bumps one night, I went to sleep and woke up with…well, the same zits, albeit much smaller and visibly less irritated (hey, nothing topical is going to get rid of your acne in a few hours, regardless of what the packaging may claim).
Still, as anyone with sensitive skin knows, it’s a big deal to find a pimple product that doesn’t irritate the hell out of your face. But tea tree oil isn’t magical—it’s just an acne-fighter that’s not commonly used, even though it’s actually quite excellent. Studies show that tea tree oil can be just as effective as benzoyl peroxide at treating acne, but with fewer irritating side effects.