Neem oil comes from the seed of the tropical neem tree, also known as Indian lilac. Neem oil has a wide history of use as a folk remedy around the world, and has been used to treat many conditions. Although it has a harsh odor, it’s high in fatty acids and other nutrients, and it’s used in a variety of beauty products like skin creams, body lotions, hair products, and cosmetics.
Neem oil contains many ingredients that are extremely beneficial to the skin. Some of those ingredients include:
- fatty acids (EFA)
- vitamin E
It has been used in beauty regimens and skin care to:
- treat dry skin and wrinkles
- stimulate collagen production
- reduce scars
- heal wounds
- treat acne
- minimize warts and moles
Neem oil may also be used to treat the symptoms of psoriasis, eczema, and other disorders of the skin.
Is there any science that supports using neem oil for skin care?
There has been some research that supports using neem oil in skin care. However, many studies had very small sample sizes, or weren’t done on humans. A 2017 study on hairless mice shows that neem oil is a promising agent to treat aging symptoms like thinning skin, dryness, and wrinkling. In a small 2012 study of nine people, neem oil was shown to help the healing process of post-surgical scalp wounds. In a 2013 in vitro study, researchers concluded that neem oil would be a good prolonged treatment for acne. There are currently no studies on how neem oil affects moles, warts, or collagen production. However, one 2014 animal study found that it may help reduce tumors caused by skin cancers. Neem oil is safe for most people to use, but more studies need to be done on humans to determine if neem oil is an effective addition to your beauty regimen.
How to use neem oil on your skin
Be sure to purchase an organic, 100 percent pure, cold-pressed neem oil. It will be cloudy and yellowish in color and will have an odor resembling mustard, garlic, or sulfur. When you’re not using it, store it in a cool, dark place.
Before putting neem oil on your face, do a patch test on your arm. If within 24 hours you don’t develop any signs of an allergic reaction — such as redness or swelling — it should be safe to use the oil on other areas of your body. Pure neem oil is incredibly potent. To treat acne, fungal infections, warts, or moles, use undiluted neem oil to spot treat affected areas.
- Lightly dab the neem oil onto the area using a cotton swab or cotton ball, and allow it to soak in for up to 20 minutes.
- Wash off the oil with warm water.
- Use daily until you achieve desired results.
Because of the potency of neem oil, it’s a good idea to mix it with equal parts of a carrier oil — like jojoba, grapeseed, or coconut oil — when using it for larger areas of the face or body, or on sensitive skin. The carrier oil can also subdue the odor of neem oil, or you can add a few drops of other oils like lavender to improve the smell. Once the oils are blended, use the combination as you would a moisturizer on the face and body. If you find the oil combination to be too oily, you can mix a few drops of neem oil with aloe vera gel, which also will be soothing to irritated skin. Neem oil can also be added to a warm bath to treat larger areas of the body.
What to know before you put neem oil on your skin
Neem oil is safe but extremely potent. It may cause an adverse reaction in someone with sensitive skin or a skin disorder like eczema. If it’s your first time using neem oil, start by trying a small, diluted amount of it on a small area of your skin, away from your face. If redness or itching develop, you may wish to further dilute the oil or avoid using it completely. Hives, severe rash, or difficulty breathing could be a sign of allergic reaction. Discontinue use of neem oil immediately and consult a doctor if your conditions persist. Neem oil is a powerful oil and not suitable for use by children. Before using neem oil on a child, consult with your doctor. Studies have not been done to establish whether neem oil is safe to use during pregnancy, so it’s best to avoid it if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding. Neem oils should never be consumed, as they are toxic.
The bottom line
With a history of use spanning thousands of years, neem oil is an intriguing, all-natural oil that you may consider trying for a variety of skin conditions, and as an anti-aging treatment. Neem oil is relatively inexpensive, easy to use, and blends easily into the skin, as well as with other oils.