- Tea tree oil is an essential oil that is safe to use topically for most skin types, except allergy-prone skin.
- This oil’s antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties help prevent the formation of dark spots caused by sun damage and postinflammatory hyperpigmentation.
- Tea tree oil’s antibacterial properties also help prevent dark spots by treating the bacteria that could otherwise lead to damaging blemishes.
- While tolerability of this oil is high, it’s important to perform a spot test before applying it, to determine any sensitivity.
Tea tree oil is an essential oil, steam-distilled from the Australian native plant, Melaleuca alternifolia, and a popular ingredient in topical skin care products. Among its many benefits, including antiviral and antiseptic properties, tea tree oil can be a preventative measure for dark spots.
Commonly used as a home remedy for acne, research has shown the antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties of this oil are effective at reducing the number of skin lesions in those with mild-to-moderate acne that can lead to dark spots.
Can Tea Tree Oil Treat Dark Spots?
Tea tree oil works best as a preventative measure for dark spots. Its strength lies in its ability to rapidly heal and prevent a blemish or wound to reduce the risk of a dark spot forming, rather than its ability to fade an existing spot.
While some people claim this oil also has minor resurfacing properties that help clear pre-existing dark spots over time, this has not been confirmed by scientific evidence.
Dark spots on the skin occur when some areas of the skin produce more melanin than normal. The spots, also known as hyperpigmentation, melasma, age spots or sunspots, can range from light to dark brown and can be caused by sun exposure, aging, hormonal changes, acne scarring, or as the result of wounds caused by cuts or insect bites.
Acne scar dark spots
Acne scars are most commonly the result of untreated inflammatory acne that damages the skin and then leaves a scar after healing. A topical gel containing 5% tea tree oil has been proven effective in speeding up the treatment of mild to-moderate acne vulgaris by addressing acne-causing bacteria.
By treating the root cause of acne scars, this essential oil should effectively prevent dark spots caused by acne scarring.
How to Use Tea Tree Oil to Treat Dark Spots
While you can apply tea tree oil directly to dark spots, there is little evidence to prove this oil will fade them. It is best used on acne and other bacterial wounds to speed up healing to prevent further skin damage and prolonged irritation that could lead to these dark spots forming.
Always dilute tea tree oil with a carrier oil before use.
What you will need:
- Small bottle of tea tree oil
- Carrier oil (coconut, almond or olive oil)
- Cotton ball or swab
- Dilute your tea tree oil: Mix 1 drop tea tree oil to 12 drops carrier oil; People with sensitive skin might choose a prediluted face or body wash that contains tea tree oil
- Perform a spot test: Apply the diluted oil to a small area of skin in a discreet area and wait 24 hours to determine any sensitivities
- Apply diluted solution: Moisten a cotton ball or swab and gently apply to the affected area
- Wait 10 minutes: Rinse, or leave on overnight and rinse off in the morning
You can apply this oil once or twice a day. If using a gel or wash containing tea tree oil, follow the product’s instructions.
How long does it take to work?
While not supported by science, some claim this oil can fade their dark spots as soon as several weeks or as long as several months. Avoid overusing tea tree oil, as it can cause irritation and may serve to worsen your dark spots.
Tea tree oil works more rapidly when applied to acne or wounds that have not yet healed and formed dark spots.
Face vs. other body areas
Also called sunspots, liver spots, age spots, or brown spots, these dark spots are more likely to occur on areas of the body that receive the most sun exposure, such as the face, hands and arms.
Tea tree oil should not affect the various areas of the body differently, but since some people may have more sensitive skin in certain areas (particularly the face), it is advised to always perform a spot test first.
Risk and Side Effects
Possible side effects include skin irritation, dryness, flaking, rash and itching. These are more likely to occur when using the oil in higher concentrations (above 20% or when undiluted).
While tea tree oil is considered safe for most skin types, it has been found, in some cases, to cause allergic reactions on contact with skin. If you have sensitive skin or are prone to developing contact dermatitis, it is best to use this oil in low concentrations (under 20%), or avoid using it altogether.
Can anyone use tea tree oil for dark spots?
Tea tree oil can also address other skin conditions as well. It can be used as a dark spot treatment for those with rosacea and eczema. Preclinical studies also suggest its properties may be beneficial to patients with scabies, another skin condition that often leads to dark spots and scarring.
If tea tree oil is not an option due to an allergy or sensitive skin, consider the following essential oils such as neem or carrot seed oil. Neem oil soothes inflammatory conditions and can be used to combat bacteria or fungi, thus working to prevent dark spots much like tea tree oil.
Carrot seed oil, which contains vitamin A and vitamin E, has antioxidant and sun protectant properties that can help repair and prevent sun spots, and lighten scars.
Licorice extract may counter age spots, acne scarring, sun damage and hormone-induced melasma. Because it is a reactive oxygen species, licorice extract is able to neutralize free radicals and prevent dark spots caused by sun damage. It also works by evenly dispersing melanin, so that when melanin does form, it does not accumulate on one patch of skin to create a distinct dark spot.
If none of these options work for you, you can choose more powerful ingredients, such as ellagic or salicylic acid, or hydroquinone which have all been found to reduce dark spots.
Tea tree oil can be used most effectively in a preventative capacity. This essential oilI has been demonstrated to treat acne, reduce inflammation and provide some measure of protection against sun damage, thereby helping to prevent the formation of acne scars, postinflammatory hyperpigmentation and sun spots.
This essential oil is a common ingredient used in home remedies, trusted for its long history in alternative medicine and its low risk of irritation. In very few cases, however, it has been found to cause allergic reactions; always discontinue use if you develop a rash or other irritating symptoms. As alternatives, look to natural options that include carrot seed oil and licorice extract.
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