I’ll never forget what my dermatologist once said to me. I went in to his office after a breakout and expected him to write me a prescription for a spot cream and to send me on my way. Instead, he pulled out a needle, stabbed it right into my whitehead, injected some sort of something, and goes, “Better out than in.” I hadn’t even gotten up out of his chair before my bump had visibly decreased in size.
I knew there was no way he’d send me home with a syringe filled with magic juice, so I settled on asking his advice on what to do with future breakouts. Apparently, there’s no honor in never popping a pimple. What’s more, there’s actually a right way to clear out clogged pores to minimize the chances of bleeding and scarring.
I say all this to say that I’ll never sit through a zit’s entire cycle. But mostly, I’ve figured out a way to avoid them altogether: tea tree oil.
Tea tree oil is an essential oil with antibacterial properties. It’s also an antiseptic and an anti-inflammatory, according to the National Institutes of Health, making it super effective in fighting against toxins that cause breakouts. TTO is sold in markets like Trader Joe’s in very small amounts (usually one-ounce bottles), since it’s extremely concentrated.
I initially bought TTO because I struggled with dandruff, and someone told me that adding a small amount of it to my shampoo could help with the flakes. But I’d also read that it was good for getting rid of zits. (Be sure to do a skin test for allergies before you use the oil on your face.)
Here’s the only catch -- you have to apply TTO well before a zit has actually formed, right around the time you feel it trying to bud through your skin. After I wash and moisturize my face, I use a Q-tip to dab a small amount of TTO directly on the spot, and let it sit overnight. When I catch them early enough (and you can usually see/feel when a breakout is coming on), the would-be pimples are gone by the morning 99 percent of the time.
In the rare case that it doesn’t work, I try one to two more days of applying the oil (once each night) to the affected area. If the bump still manages to get past the onslaught, I let it go. TTO can be erosive, and if you use it too much in the same spot, it dries out the skin quickly. If I overdo it, my skin will start to burn, letting me know it’s time to put the Q-tip down.
Another way TTO can be used, as previously mentioned, is as a natural hair and scalp treatment. Mix a small amount of the oil into your shampoo to add an extra agent to work against dandruff. TTO is refreshingly fragrant, so it’ll enhance whatever scent your shampoo already has.
Some people use the oil in their mouthwash (do not swallow!) to add an extra kick and because it’s useful in killing bacteria. If you don’t want to go this route, you can also buy “Tea Tree Mouthwash,” which is a thing.
Is there a beauty product you use that has multiple uses? Share your favorites in the comments below!