10 Beauty Benefits of Neem For Your Hair and Skin

Neem is one of the best natural ingredients available, yet it’s one of the least popular in the western world. Neem is used in over 75… Elizabeth Lilian - February 12, 2017

Neem is one of the best natural ingredients available, yet it’s one of the least popular in the western world. Neem is used in over 75 percent of Ayurvedic medicine and has been for thousands of years. Also known as Indian lilac, it’s a tropical evergreen native to India and in some parts of the Middle East. The scientific name is Azadirachta Indica and it is a member of the mahogany family. The leaves of a neem tree will drop quickly when there’s drought in order to protect the rest of the tree, and this makes it extremely resilient in harsher climates.

The leaves, seeds, flowers, oil and bark of the neem tree can be used in many ways and each has countless health benefits. These include boosting the immune system, detoxifying the body, supporting gastric health, treating fungal infections, and effectively preventing halitosis. Not only is it loved for its medicinal properties, it’s also a tea, a garnish for many dishes, an insecticide, a detoxifier, and even a contraceptive.

Here are 10 ways neem will benefit your hair and skin.

1. Combats Dandruff

Dandruff is a condition of the scalp where the skin becomes dry and begins to flake off. It’s experienced by an estimated 50 percent of adults but is more common in men than women. Though the exact cause of dandruff is unknown, it’s generally agreed that most cases are caused by poor hygiene and neglectful haircare like not brushing or shampooing often enough. Pregnant women can also experience dandruff due to a rise in hormones.

There are various ways to treat dandruff. However, a lot of the chemical-based anti-dandruff shampoos and conditioners on the market can actually dry out the scalp and exacerbate the problem. Most of these treatments contain active ingredients like selenium sulfide, coal tar, salicylic acid and ketoconazole, but if you’d prefer a natural way to solve any dandruff problems then neem oil is a great place to start.

You can use neem oil to treat dandruff. Neem oil is a yellowy-brown, bitter-tasting oil that is used widely in many other products like toothpaste, cosmetics, and even pet shampoos. It’s a suitable dandruff treatment due to its antifungal properties. You can make your own neem shampoo at home by adding a ½ teaspoon of neem oil to your normal shampoo. For a stronger treatment, mix it with a carrier oil like coconut and massage it into your scalp. Highly concentrated neem oil can be too strong when not diluted, so don’t apply it directly to your scalp without mixing it first.

Neem leaves are also useful to treat dandruff. Boil a handful of neem leaves in water to make a paste that you can apply to your scalp as an intensive treatment. Add honey or coconut oil to the paste to further condition your hair. You should feel relief from the itching and flaking that occurs with dandruff, and because neem is completely natural, you can use it as often as necessary.

2. Treats Acne

Acne is a skin condition medically known as acne vulgaris characterized by angry, red pimples that can appear all over the body, but are usually seen on the face, chest and back. The pimples occur when a collection of sebum, skin cells, dirt, oil and other impurities clog the pores, which results in swelling. Acne is usually seen in teenagers, however, it can affect adults too, of any skin type and color.

No one can be sure exactly what causes acne. In teenagers, it’s likely a rise in hormone levels, but it can also be caused by medication, cosmetics and genetics. There are various ways in which to treat acne, which include antibiotics and topical creams, but these can have adverse effects. Some natural remedies aren’t strong enough to combat acne, however, neem is an effective remedy.

Neem is an antioxidant, which means it inhibits oxidization of free radicals and pollutants that can cause acne. It’s anti-fungal and antibacterial, so it works well to protect the skin against pimple-causing bacteria. Neem is also a natural astringent. This means it contracts the skin cells, which smooths and tightens skin. This works well to treat acne as it can help remove excess dirt and bacteria. Not only this, neem also contains a compound called quercetin, which is a bioflavonoid that can fade scars.

There are countless ways in which to use neem for acne. You can create an oil mixture with a carrier oil, which can be used as a spot treatment by dipping a cotton ball in the mix and dabbing it onto breakouts. Leave it on until it dries, or apply it before bed so it can work its magic overnight. Or, you can boil water, then stir fresh neem leaves in. Simmer for five minutes before removing from the heat, and allow the water to steep for an extra 10 minutes. Then strain and discard leaves before pouring the water into a spray bottle. Spritz onto your skin twice a day after cleansing and washing for daily treatment.

3. Shrinks Large Pores

Unfortunately, no matter what the beauty industry tells you, it’s not possible to actually shrink pores once they’ve become enlarged. Your pores are very important, as they allow your skin to breathe and enable oil and sweat to travel up to the skin’s surface. But the good news is that you can make your pores look much, much smaller.

Utilize products that contain zinc and magnesium, as these can help restore oil balance to the skin, which can help clear pores, making them appear smaller. Soothing oils such as rosemary and lavender can help calm irritated skin and prevent pores from stretching, and be sure to choose products that are labeled ‘non-comedogenic’, as this means they won’t clog your pores.

Pores may appear bigger on some parts of your face than others. This is because certain areas, like your nose, cheeks and forehead, can be oilier than the rest of the face which makes pores seem larger and more noticeable. Using blotting paper to spot treat any particularly oily areas will help keep your pores clear, which creates the appearance of nice, smooth smaller pores.

You can also use neem leaf and oil to treat larger pores. Thanks to the astringent properties, applying neem to the affected areas can cause the skin to tighten, lessening the appearance of pores. Similar to treating acne, mix up some neem leaf water and pour it into a spray bottle. Apply in the morning before your makeup, and at night after you cleanse and tone your face.

4. Soothes Dry Skin and Eczema

Eczema is also known as atopic dermatitis, and though it’s most common in infants it can occur in older children and adults. It’s characterized by red, itching, oozing skin rashes which can harden and become rough over time. Eczema is usually found around the elbow creases, wrists, neck, ankles and behind the knees, but can also appear on the face, neck and ears.

While it’s not yet understood why some people are affected by eczema, it’s believed that allergies can play a part in who is susceptible and who isn’t. The barrier of the skin has less water retaining properties and doesn’t work as well for those with eczema, which causes it to lose water and dry out much easier. Eczema can be aggravated by triggers such as dry skin, scratching, bacterial/viral infections, sand, chlorinated swimming pools, grass, food intolerances, perfumes, temperature changes and stress, and there are just as many ways to treat it.

Eczema treatments can include cortisone tablets, which can only be used for only a short period of time; ultraviolet light therapy, which can reduce inflammation; fish oil tablets, antihistamines and prescription-strength moisturizers, but applying neem is an effective, natural way to treat your eczema flare-ups. Neem is an emollient, which means it has moisturizing, softening qualities. This richness enables it to provide moisture where the skin is unable to, and it also prevents further drying out of the skin.

Eczema sometimes becomes so severe the skin is open to secondary infections. Neem is an antiseptic, so when used on affected areas it effectively stops the infection from spreading, and it also prevents them from recurring. It is also an analgesic, so it provides relief from pain and discomfort that comes with eczema. It’s important to remember not to apply neem oil directly onto the skin when treating eczema, as this can make things worse. Instead, mix it with a light oil such as grape seed, almond or coconut oil.

5. Evens Out Skin Tone

Neem oil contains such high levels of antioxidants it’s a perfect addition to natural skincare products. It contains carotenoids, a compound that prevents free radical damage; vitamin E, which helps reduce wrinkles, as well as essential fatty acids and triglycerides, which allow moisture to penetrate deep within the skin without leaving that greasy feeling. These compounds also stimulate collagen production, which can create soft, supple skin.

The medicinal properties of neem not only promote healthy skin, they can even out skin tone and boost your immune system too, which further benefits your skin. Uneven skin, also called hyperpigmentation, occurs when there’s an overproduction of melanin. Melanin is the component that gives color to our hair and skin, and protects the skin against UV rays and sun damage. However, excessive sun, hormonal changes and scarring are just a few of the things that can cause an overproduction of melanin, which can lead to a mottled, uneven skin tone.

Hyperpigmentation is the result of an overproduction of melanin. Applying neem to the skin helps slow melanin production, and the pigmentation marks will soon fade. Ensure you also exfoliate regularly, as this will help rid the skin’s surface of dead cells and other pollutants. For a natural exfoliant, mix a teaspoon of brown sugar with some coconut oil, add a few drops of neem, and apply gently to the face.

To further lighten your hyperpigmentation, mix your neem in with fresh lemon juice. Lemons are a natural bleaching agent and will help remove dark spots and blemishes. Simply crush some neem leaves into a paste, add one teaspoon of freshly-squeezed lemon juice to it and then apply to the face and any other affected areas. Let it sit for 30 minutes and then wash off with water. Repeat this every few days and be sure to keep your skin well-hydrated in the meantime.

6. Prevents Skin Infections

The antiseptic properties of neem have made it a very popular and effective way of treating various skin diseases like septic sores and infected burns. Neem oil and leaves have been used to treat athlete’s foot, ringworm and thrush, and this is likely due to its two main medicinal compounds nimbidol and gedunin.

Neem is an effective lice treatment as well, both in animals and humans. It’s a highly effective insecticide, so not only can you use it on any lice or fleas, you can even use it in the garden. Add a small amount of neem oil to your shampoo and work it through the scalp, then leave it on for around 10 minutes before washing off. Afterward, apply undiluted neem oil to the hair and comb through. This removes any lice or nits and covers the hair in neem, protecting it even further.

Not only is neem effective at treating surface lesions and lice, it can also help any mouth ulcers or wounds you may have. Neem has strong antiseptic compounds, which makes it a popular ingredient in toothpaste and mouthwash. If you’re suffering from gum disease or halitosis, swishing some neem water in your mouth and then spitting it out can quicken the healing process.

Adding a few splashes of neem oil into your bathwater can aid in healing infections. You can also use the leaves as a salve, and apply this directly onto the infected skin. Neem is a strong detoxifying agent and will help boost your immune system, which can become compromised when trying to fight off infections.

7. Soothes Sunburned Skin

A day spent in the sun can be ruined by sunburn. Even when we wear sunscreen, we still run the risk of getting burned. When we’re sunburned, we may not feel it for a few hours. Symptoms can range from redness, blistering and pain to swelling, chills and headaches.

If you’re suffering from sunburn, neem can be used to provide relief and healing. Its anti-inflammatory properties help reduce pain and swelling, and antiseptic components will rid the skin of any bacteria that could further aggravate the burn. If your sunburn results in blisters, don’t pop them. Cover them with neem oil instead. This will help them heal faster, and keep infections at bay.

Neem is high in vitamin E and antioxidants, which will help combat the dry, flaky skin that can come as sunburn begins to heal. If we expose our skin to the sun too frequently, damage can begin to form. Luckily, the properties of neem can counteract this damage by defending the skin against harmful free radicals.

To treat your sunburn, apply cool neem paste directly onto the affected areas. Allow it to sit on the skin for at least 20 minutes before washing off, and then be sure to apply moisturizer straight away. Sunburn dries out your skin, and moisturizer will help your body replenish and rehydrate.

8. Fights Premature Aging Signs

Neem is a very effective anti-aging agent for a few reasons. It’s rich in vitamin E, an antioxidant that neutralizes free radicals that cause premature aging and prevents tissue damage and wrinkle formation. Neem is loaded with essential fatty acids like omega-6 and omega-9, as well as palmitic acid, which aid in quickly and effectively repairing damaged skin.

The antibacterial, anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory components of neem help to protect the skin against stress and damage caused by environmental factors like pollution and smoking, as well as damage caused by the sun. And, because neem is so rich in moisture, it supports the skin’s natural elasticity by locking in that moisture and allowing the skin to stay hydrated for longer.

You can use neem to fight the signs of aging in different ways, simply as a paste or as a diluted oil serum, but if you’re feeling adventurous you can make your own neem facial mask. Facial masks help tighten and tone the skin while deeply nourishing and hydrating the skin, as well as pulling out impurities, healing blemishes, calming the skin and increasing blood circulation.

To make your own neem facial mask, take some neem leaves and crush them into a bowl, then add a few tablespoons of honey – enough to make a paste. Before you apply your mask, be sure to properly cleanse your face first. This will rid the surface of your skin of any makeup and oil. Next, lightly exfoliate to clear your skin of any dead cells that can clog pores. Then, apply your face mask and leave it for at least 10 minutes. It’s best to do this in a hot shower, as the steam will help open your pores and allow the neem and honey to penetrate deeply into the skin.

9. Treats Scalp Infections and Improves Hair Health

The never-ending benefits of neem can be seen from top to toe. Because neem has such high levels of antioxidants, it protects the scalp from infections and promotes hair growth. The regenerative properties support healthy cells and stimulate hair follicles, and regular application can result in thicker, stronger hair.

If your hair is badly damaged from heat styling, coloring and any number of processes done in the name of beauty, neem oil can save it from becoming extremely dry and broken. Because it contains several fatty acids like linoleic, oleic and stearic acids, it nourishes the scalp and hair while also restoring moisture.

To deep condition, your hair using neem oil, mix it with your carrier oil and massage it through the scalp and all the way down to the ends, then wrap your hair up in a warm towel. Leave it for 20 minutes, or longer if possible, before washing it out and styling as usual. Doing this weekly will revitalize your hair and bring it back to life.

Using neem oil on your scalp regularly can balance the secretion of sebum (the natural oils produced by the skin), which helps normalize oily or dry hair. Neem oil can smell quite pungent, so if you’re not a fan, mix in a few drops of your favorite essential oil to mask the smell and enhance its effects.

10. Prevents Skin Infections

Dark circles under the eyes can be due to lack of sleep, illness, allergy and genetics. They also become more common as we age, because as the skin becomes thinner, blood vessels begin appearing, which gives the appearance of darkness under the eyes. Certain lifestyle choices like smoking and drinking alcohol can exacerbate the darkness and make it appear worse.

There are so many different ways to treat dark eye circles, however not all of them work, and some can be quite invasive, like skin resurfacing and injectable fillers. Neem is an effective remedy due to its medicinal components. The antioxidants in neem help reduce pigmentation and lighten the skin, making it a perfect way to combat dark circles.

To use neem on your eyes, create paste with neem leaves and water. Apply it around the eyes, and wash it off after 15 minutes. Doing this once a day will help lighten the darkness. Or, you can dilute a few drops of neem oil with your carrier oil and massage the mixture around your eyes. Do this 2 or 3 times a week until you see results, then once a week to maintain healthy skin.

It’s important to remember to perform spot tests on your skin before you apply any new products, even when they’re natural remedies. While neem is believed to be very safe with little side effects, it’s best to avoid if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. Only use neem oil externally, and don’t attempt to treat children with it, unless instructed by a doctor or physician.