Neem has been used for skin health for centuries in Ayurvedic and Chinese systems, the Neem tree is called Azadirachta indica in Latin, and is also known as “Indian Lilac.” One Sanskrit word for Neem is “arista,” meaning perfect and complete. Ancient Ayurvedic texts refer to Neem as “nimba,” referencing the phrase “nibati systhyamdadati,” meaning, “to give good health.” Neem has been called “the wish fulfilling tree,” not least for its ability to preserve the health and youthfulness of the skin.
Neem: A Biochemical Powerhouse
While Neem contains thousands of chemical constituents, among the most important are terpenes, a huge category of plant-produced organic compounds. Terpenes account for the strong odor of plants like pine, clove, ginger, and cinnamon, and are the basis for most plant and flower essential oils. Terpenes give tomatoes their red color, and sunflower petals their gold.
More than 70 different terpenoids, or terpenes, have been identified in different parts of the Neem tree.
More than 70 different terpenoids, or terpenes, have been identified in different parts of the Neem tree. According to Medical News Today, “Neem is a strong antioxidant, neutralizing free radicals that may influence the development of some skin conditions.”
Neem for Skin Health in Ayurveda
From the Ayurvedic perspective, Neem is seen as having protective properties, and is classified as a “cooling” herb. Most herbs used for activating the body’s systems tend to be “warming,” but Neem’s cooling properties calm the fiery Pitta dosha, and help support a healthy inflammatory response both internally and externally.
Neem is often incorporated into “panchakarma” detoxification programs as Ayurvedic practitioners believe that Neem works to clean the blood and liver at deep levels — some assert that it is capable of removing heavy metals from the body. When the liver is free from toxins, it shows in the skin and eyes, bringing more of a wakefulness and glow to the face. That said, always consult an Ayurvedic practitioner prior to embarking on internal cleansing.
Neem can also help soothe various skin issues, which are believed to be the result of the immune system producing “friendly fire,” by attacking the body’s tissues. Ayurvedic medicine views these issues as an impairment or imbalance of the Vata and Kapha doshas and suggests purification to soothe the conditions. One study found that a group of patients demonstrated a 53 percent skin improvement rate with internal use of Neem and Tulsi combined with external application of Neem, Tulsi and Henna.
Neem for Skincare: Facial Masks
Every part of the Neem tree, including bark, leaves, and fruit, are used for health purposes — neem oil, extracted from the seeds, has traditionally been used to preserve, protect and renew the skin. Because of Neem’s cooling, nurturing and protective characteristics, it’s an excellent choice for facial masks to help support a healthy inflammatory response and clear skin. Many believe using Neem topically also discourages blackheads. Below are two options for at-home Neem facial treatments.
Add a few teaspoons of water to the Neem — just enough to make a paste — and mix it with enough clay mask to cover the face. If using the Aztec Secret Healing clay, add the dry Neem powder to a few tablespoons of the dry clay, then add small amounts of water to make a paste of the desired consistency — thick enough to stay where you put it, but thin enough to smooth over the skin.
If you are allergy prone, spot-test the mask on the inside of the arm below the elbow, watching for redness or irritation as the mask dries.
Smooth the paste over the entire face (avoiding the eye area), or spot-treat problem areas.
Allow to set for 12 to 15 minutes — longer, if desired. If you have sensitive skin that is prone to drying, don’t leave the mask on for more than 8 or 9 minutes, and consider using the Origins mask for sensitive skin noted above. You can also keep the application to areas with enlarged pores and/or breakouts rather than the entire face.
Rinse thoroughly with lukewarm water, then moisturize.
Avocado Neem Mask for Dry Skin
With Vitamin E to soften and reduce scarring, and chlorophyll to combat inflammation, this Avocado Neem mask is a weapon in any anti-aging skincare arsenal. It’s also a good way to use up slightly overripe avocados.