Tea Tree Oil or Benzoyl Peroxide: Which is Better to Treat Acne?

This post summarizes a clinical trial that compares tea tree oil and benzoyl peroxide for the treatment of acne (Ref 1). The paper is from 1990, but it is still considered a classic and it is cited frequently. The data that it presents definitely is still relevant. In this Australian clinical trial, Bassett and colleagues compared the effectiveness of 5% tea tree oil gel to a 5% benzoyl peroxide lotion in 124 acne patients.

Tea Tree Oil is as Effective as Benzoyl Peroxide to Treat Acne
Acne patients (average age 19.7 years old, 124 participants total) were randomly assigned to either the tea tree oil group or the benzoyl peroxide group. The researchers then scored the number and severity of acne lesions in both treatment groups using a standardized method.
After three months the amount and severity of acne had decreased significantly in both groups. However, the researchers reported that
there was no significant difference in amount or severity of acne between patients treated with tea tree oil and patients treated with benzoyl peroxide.

Tea Tree Oil is Much Less Irritating to the Skin

The paper also notes that the patients in the tea tree oil group reported much less of the skin dryness, redness, itching and stinging that patients that have tried benzoyl peroxide products are so familiar with. To be fair, note that in this study benzoyl peroxide is used at a concentration of 5% whereas Proactiv only contains 2.5%, so is likely less irritating. On the topic of irritation: Clearasil Ultra contains a whopping 10% (ouch!).
One part of the paper that differs from our experience is that these researchers say that the time it took for tea tree oil to start showing its effects was a little longer as compared to benzoyl peroxide.
Actually, people who have tried
Sana Fela Acne Treatment have told us that one of the things they like most about it is how fast it works, with a typical pimple shrinking away within just a few days. Then again, this might be because Sana Fela Acne Treatment in addition to Tea Tree Oil also contains Eucalyptus Oil as a transdermal delivery agent.  The other thing to keep in mind is that the amount of benzoyl peroxide used in the Australian study was double of what is found in Proactiv, so this is like comparing Tea Tree Oil with “double strength Proactiv”.

What Would You Chose?

You have to choose between two products that are equally effective, but one is based on harsh chemicals that leave your skin parched and irritated, and the other is based on natural, botanical, active ingredients that are much gentler; which one would you chose?
We at Sana Fela would choose the gentler approach any day of the week.


1. Bassett IB, Pannowitz DL, Barnetson RS (1990) A comparative study of tea-tree oil versus benzoylperoxide in the treatment of acne.  Med J Aust. 153:455-458  (
Medline abstract)