To properly cover the trends and practices ruling today’s skincare world, we’ll inevitably have to explore the secret gems in the beauty routines of eastern cultures. In this article, we’ll discuss the benefits and uses of neem oil for skin, an ancient Indian remedy.
We can tell just how ancient this herbal ingredient is by the fact that it’s mentioned in the Vedas (one of the oldest books in human history) as “Sarva Roga Nivarini,” meaning “one that cures all ailments and ills.”
Okay, we can agree this claim is a little overboard since today we know one ingredient can’t magically fix all of our problems, but it can definitely help.
Neem oil is considered the cocoa butter or shea butter of the east. Loaded with nutrients, neem oil is widely used around the world as a folk remedy to soothe dry skin and provide long-lasting moisture, repair mechanical damage to the skin, eliminate head and body lice, repel insects, prevent baldness, and other medicinal and insecticidal purposes.
You can find it in a variety of beauty products like skin creams, body lotions, hair products, and other cosmetics.
Continue reading to find out more about why neem is considered to be a sacred tree and a symbol of good health and protection by the people of India.
Neem oil is a vegetable oil derived from the fruits and seeds of the evergreen neem tree, which is endemic to India. It’s also a natural pesticide and has a bitter taste.
The neem tree is pretty resilient to environmental changes and unless exposed to severe droughts or frost, it can be used throughout the whole year.
People in India considered it sacred and have been using it in a variety of ways since ancient times, mainly to strengthen their health and boost immunity.
Throughout history, people have used various derivatives from the neem tree to make medicines, herbal beauty treatments, insecticides, and first aid treatments for various skin ailments. Neem has been used for leprosy, eye disorders, bloody nose, intestinal worms, stomach and intestinal ulcers, malaria, fever, gum diseases, hemorrhoids, lice, fungal and bacterial infections of the skin, as well as, for birth control and to cause abortions.
We mentioned that neem oil is a naturally occurring pesticide and its purified components are used in over 100 pesticide products.
Should this worry you? Not really. Neem oil is made of fatty acids, essential oils and other substances that are normally eaten in a typical diet. The only concern comes from azadirachtin, the active component in the oil, which is extremely potent and can be irritating to the skin and stomach. But, this can be easily avoided and neem oil can be considered safe if used properly.
Additionally, neem oil is used in toothpaste, cosmetics, soaps and traditional medicines around the world, meaning you’ve probably had already been exposed to it.
Neem oil is pretty amazing and it’s not hard to begin idealizing it as a magical cure, but before you do that, let me tell you that (although some of them are) not many of these applications are backed by scientific evidence and they shouldn’t be taken for granted.
Below, we’ll cover the main uses and benefits of neem oil, the ones that are well researched and safe. Still, it’s always recommended to consult your doctor before you decide anything.
The color of neem oil can vary greatly, from golden yellow, to brown and red. The smell resembles a combination of peanuts and garlic. But, if we look deeper into its chemical composition we’ll find it’s made of triglycerides, triterpenoid compounds, fatty acids, vitamins C and E, and carotenoids among other elements.
Why Is This Important For The Skin?
Oleic acid has many benefits for the skin. It’s believed that it boosts the immune system, has antioxidant properties, soothes inflammation, helps prevent premature skin-aging, reduces the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines, and improves the overall health of the skin by maintaining its softness and radiance.
Linoleic acid provides powerful antioxidant properties, helps reduce inflammation and soothes acne breakouts, helps the oil absorb faster and makes the oil-texture of the products thinner, which makes it good for acne-prone skin. Additionally, linoleic acid helps wounds heal faster, which makes it a good choice for acne lesions and scarring.
Palmitic acid is the most common saturated fatty acid. It has powerful emollient properties, without making the skin greasy.
Stearic acid has cleansing properties. It can help unclog pores, remove dead skin cells, dirt, sweat and excess sebum from the skin without making it dry because it also provides emulsifying properties.
Azadirachtin is the most famous and well-studied triterpenoid in neem oil. Not falling short behind is Nimbin (another triterpenoid). These ingredients are the mean active constituents that give the oil its antiseptic, antifungal, antipyretic, antihistamine. Azadirachtin is also responsible for the insecticidal properties of neem oil. The substance inhibits the larval development of numerous insects, but it’s not harmful to mammals.
It’s no secret that you need vitamins to get glowing and healthy skin. When talking about skin health in particular, there are several vitamins that play a big role. Vitamins from the B group, like B5 and B12, Vitamin D, Vitamin A, and Vitamin C and E.
Neem oil is rich in Vitamin E which is one of the most powerful moisturizers that can prevent acne damage and scarring, and repair sunburn damage.
Another vitamin found in neem oil is Vitamin C which is a powerful antioxidant that helps maintain the skin’s elasticity by regulating collagen production, as well as, regenerating the skin’s tissue.
The characteristics of the chemical constituents of neem oil give this ingredient some powerful benefits for the skin.
Nimbin, the active ingredient in neem oil relieves swelling and redness. The antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties of neem oil can also soothe irritation and inflammation, which will visibly reduce the appearance of acne. Neem oil can also remove bacteria from the surface of the skin and unclog pores which will prevent further acne breakouts, tighten the pores, and might help even out skin tone.
Because neem oil stimulates collagen production it’s a great remedy for dull, wrinkled and saggy skin. The collagen will maintain the skin’s elasticity and delay the aging process by keeping the skin looking youthful.
Neem oil is full of carotenoids and antioxidants, with rejuvenating and immune-boosting properties that will prevent photodamage and protect the skin from UV rays. This, in turn, will help even out the skin tone and prevent hyperpigmentation.
Neem oil is rich in EFAs (essential fatty acids), triglycerides, and Vitamin E, among other beneficial components, which give it the ability to penetrate deep into the skin and heal the minuscule cracks brought on by severe dryness. Neem oil can rejuvenate the skin’s cells and restore elasticity. When used regularly neem oil can also stimulate collagen production, which is great for aging skin and wrinkles.
These characteristics make neem oil a good candidate for soothing symptoms of eczema such as dry, red, and itchy skin. But, neem oil won’t cure the source that’s causing eczema, so you should still work on finding the appropriate treatment for it, if you suffer from eczema.
Vitamin E will hinder the oxidizing process in the skin by scavenging free radicals, and promote soft skin without scarring.
EPA (US Environmental Protection Agency) recognized neem oil as safe and effective against bed bugs at home and in the commercial environment and even issued registrations for products containing neem oil to be used to stop bed bug adults, nymphs and eggs.
But, maybe the best benefit comes from the ability of neem oil to repel mosquitos and stop them from biting us.
In the Journal Of The American Mosquito Control Association, a study showed that two percent neem oil mixed in with coconut oil can provide 12 h protection from the bites of all anopheline species.
Because of azadirachtin’s (the main active component in neem oil) ability to inhibit the larval development, neem oil is used in many insect repellent products.
You can also use pure neem oil to make a natural insect repellent.
It’s really simple. Just mix together equal amounts of neem oil and coconut oil and apply it all over your skin.
But, first, do a patch test and make sure your skin reacts well with neem oil.
Neem oil has a variety of advantages and uses, alongside being highly potent, which makes it a wonderful carrier oil that is worth adding into your daily routine.
Also, neem oil has a strong peanut-garlicky like aroma, which will probably be a problem for many of you if you use it alone.
This means that milder-scented essential oils such as lavender might not be a good fit to combine it with. Instead, mix it in equal amount with coconut, jojoba, or grapeseed oil.
If the blend is too ticky and feels greasy, add some aloe vera to reduce that feeling. However, because of the nature of the oils, people with oily skin might still find it uncomfortable and not suitable for their skin.
How to make a blend on your own?
Well, you can start by mixing equal amounts of neem and jojoba oil. Stir well and then add mint, lavender, frankincense, sandalwood, or another ingredient of your choosing in other to get the aroma you like.
Pure neem oil is incredibly potent, which might be too much for your skin, but if you are suffering from acne, fungal infections, warts, or moles, you can use undiluted neem oil as a spot treatment only on the affected areas.
Use a cotton pad to apply neem oil on the affected area of the skin and let it act for 20 to 30 minutes. After that, wash your face with warm water. You can repeat the procedure on a daily basis until you get the results you want.
A 2012 study published in the US National Library Of Medicine evaluated the efficacy of neem oil in scalp wounds with exposed bone. Researchers conducted a retrospective analysis on nine patients and concluded that neem oil is very simple to use, safe and it’s potentially an effective therapy for the treatment of scalp wounds with exposed bone.
In 2013 in the Journal Of Acute Disease a study aimed to investigate the potential topical treatment of acne and pimples, as well as, improving skin’s elasticity with neem oil. Results showed that neem oil loaded SLN (solid lipid nanoparticles) was used successfully for prolonged treatment of acne.
Additionally, animal studies found that neem oil can give promising results for aging skin and prevent dryness and wrinkles. Some studies even showed that neem oil can help reduce tumors caused by skin cancers. However, these are all animal studies and further research is needed.
Neem oil is considered relatively safe, although because it’s extremely potent it can sometimes cause adverse reactions.
If you have sensitive skin or a skin condition like eczema be especially careful of the product concentration before buying, and consult with your doctor first.
Allergic reactions are really rare, although if you’re experiencing hives, a severe rash, or difficulty breathing immediately seek medical attention.
If you’re using neem oil for the first time and your not sure whether you’re allergic, it’s best to do a patch test first.
Apply a small, diluted amount of neem oil on a small area of your skin and wait to see how your skin will react in the next couple of hours. If redness or itching develops you should avoid using it.
Don’t use neem oil on small children since its potency might irritate their soft and more fragile skin.
Don’t use nee oil if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding. Throughout history, people have used neem oil for birth control and to cause abortions. Although there’s still no research that supports these effects, it should definitely be avoided while pregnant.
Good neem oil products can promote healthy skin and get you that flawless look. However, what you need to make sure is that you know how to choose the right products.
If you decide to go for pure neem oil, then choose one that’s cold-pressed and always dilute it with other soothing ingredients. Applying pure neem oil directly on the skin can cause irritation in people with sensitive skin.
Not every product that has neem in it will be good for your skin. This is why you should always read the label. Many skincare and cosmetic products contain abrasive chemicals, solvents, fragrances and other ingredients that might irritate your skin and make things worse.
A good neem product should consist of natural ingredients. If there’s no information about how the neem oil was processed you can always visit google. It’s good to find these kinds of information since it affects the quality and effectiveness of the product. Cold-pressed neem oil is your best choice.
Another thing you should always check is the concentration of neem oil in the product, or more importantly - the concentration of the active ingredients. This shows how strong the product is, and it affects the possibility of being irritating to your skin. You can find extra strong formulations, as well as, gentle formulations, specifically created for dry and damaged skin (for example, eczema or psoriasis).
Different products use different ingredients in combination with neem oil. Make sure you know your skin type and choose a product that has ingredients you know work well on your skin type.