If you’re anything like me, your beauty cabinet is bursting full of pots, jars, and tools. You have a multistep beauty programme and use a jade roller as if your life depends on it. Of course, it’s fun to try out new stuff, especially as a skin care buff.
But what if you want to simplify your routine and muck out your beauty cabinet? What would you say if just one ingredient could alleviate most of your skin woes from clearing breakouts to combating wrinkles? And even better, it’s a natural and botanical ingredient – drumroll for neem.
What is neem?
The scientific name of neem is Azadirachta indica. It’s native to the Indian subcontinent and most countries in Africa. The tree grows quickly, as much as 6 meters in 3 years. It usually grows to a height of 15 to 20 meters.
A neem tree can live up to 150 to 200 years. It produces small white flowers from which a yellow green fruit grows. Literally every part of the tree can be used.
What is neem used for?
In India, the neem tree holds a special place known as “Azadirachta indica” which means “the free tree of India”.
All parts of the tree can be used for treating some kind of internal or external ailment. More than 100 phytochemicals have been found so that in India it’s sometimes called the “village pharmacy”.
Aside from its use in Traditional Indian Medicine, the neem tree is also a source of Mahogany wood due to its reddish-brown timber. Its young leaves and flower buds can be eaten, although the leaves are quite bitter. Neem is also used as an alternative to synthetic pesticides.
Health, hygiene, and skin care benefits of neem leaves
Natural beauty fanatics often praise neem oil, but literally every part of the tree can be used. In the world of medicine and wellness, neem is well liked and often used.
The leaves are anti-bacterial, anti-parasitic, anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory. They’re also a good source of nutrients important for the health of your skin and hair such as fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals.
They also contain other phytochemicals such as azadirachtin, quercetin, nimbin, nimbolide, nimandial. In short, it has over 130 pharmacologically active substances that help heal your body and promote healthy living reinforcing neem’s use in Traditional Asian Medicine for centuries.
If you’re looking to clear your breakouts, try soaking in neem-infused water. Since neem is both antibacterial and antifungal, it will kill the bacteria that may be getting into your pores and causing blemishes, without the side effects like skin irritation or dryness that other acne medications can have. In addition, it balances your skin. If your skin is oily, it can trap any makeup remnants and dirt in your pore, increasing the risk of a breakout.
Another boon is that the neem leaves are anti-inflammatory so that it can reduce any redness and swelling that comes with a breakout. It can soothe your skin when it gets itchy, red, and uncomfortable. And after the breakout has cleared, neem can reduce the marks left behind.
Lastly, the neem leaves contain antioxidants such as vitamin C. The vitamin C not only banishes the ghosts of breakouts past (in the form of the dark spots left behind) but also helps boost the production of collagen. So, it decreases the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines.
Neem oil uses
Neem oil is perhaps better known outside of India. It’s pressed from the seeds of the neem tree and similarly to macadamia oil, cold pressed is better since heating can eliminate the biologically active substances. Neem oil has a somewhat special smell that may take getting used to. It has a garlicky, sulfur smell and a bitter taste. It has a yellowish to brown tint.
Similar to neem leaves, neem oils are also antibacterial, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant. Nowadays, it has many uses from pesticides to cosmetics.
Neem oil for your skin
With its antibacterial, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant, neem oil is beneficial for the same skin concerns as neem leaves. Since its an oil, it also has similar benefits as other botanical oils. So it contains fatty acids
- Palmitic acid
- Stearic acid
- Oleic acid
- Linoleic acid
- Arachidic acid
Specific to neem oil is that it also contains
- A high level of antioxidants such as carotenoids
- Natural triglycerides
- Vitamin E
Giving neem oil special cleansing properties that can keep your skin healthy as well as addressing other skin issues.
Improve skin texture
Vitamin E, calcium, and fatty acids can help improve your skin texture. The fatty acids and vitamin E penetrate deeply into your skin, where it heals the cracks that form when your skin gets dry. It will keep your skin moisturised by making sure all the water stays sealed in.
Possible side effects
Since neem (leaves and oil) is anti-inflammatory, it’s used to treat skin conditions such as eczema. So, the likelihood of causing a reaction is small. But as always, it’s best to first patch test.
Neem is generally safe to use in skincare and also suited for all skin types. But you may find its smell needs getting used to.
How to find it
Neem oil is probably more readily available outside of India than fresh neem leaves. Neem oil is much like any natural oil, so look for organic and cold pressed so that you get the most of it. Use its colour to gauge if it’s pure. It has a yellowish to brownish tint.
If you like DYI and have access to neem leaves, you can make teem-infused water. Using it regularly will not only improve your skin, it even acts as a natural deodorant. Especially useful in the warm and sticky seasons, it removes body odour.