What Is Neem Oil and How Can It Help Your Skin?

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Time and time again we’ve learned that oils are a big hit in our skincare routine. From jojoba to rosehip, we’ve successfully used different oils to treat acne, reduce redness and improve the overall appearance of our skin. And recently, we found another oil to add to our regimen: neem oil.

Though it’s only just been put on our radar, neem oil has actually been a skincare staple for centuries. The ancient Ayurvedic treatment has many benefits, which we’ll get into ahead. Here’s everything you need to know about neem oil. Plus, five products to get you started.

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What is neem oil?

Neem oil (also known as margosa oil) is a botanical pesticide that is derived from the seeds of neem trees in India. Though it’s primarily used to control pests and diseases in plants, neem oil also has many underrated skincare and wellness benefits (which is why you can typically find the ingredient in shampoos, soaps and toothpastes).

What are the benefits of neem oil?

If the thought of using pesticides on your skin makes you pause, we totally get it. However, neem oil has been found to have low toxicity among humans. It also has numerous skincare benefits that might put your worries to rest:

  • It can treat infections. Neem oil has been used for centuries in China and India to treat infections, reduce inflammation and control bacteria growth. Why? Because the ingredient has antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and antifungal properties. In a 2019 study, soaps and creams with neem oil were found to help manage skin conditions like eczema, as well as prevent breakouts and ingrown hairs.
  • It can improve the appearance of fine lines and scars. Fatty acids (like palmitic, oleic and linoleic acids) and vitamins (C and E) found in the oil help to stimulate collagen production. This means plumper, more hydrated and brighter skin, so you can say goodbye to acne scars and dullness.
  • It can reduce breakouts. If you’re looking for a new alternative to treating acne, you’ve come to the right place. Studies show that neem oil has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties that are similar to salicylic acid (which is known to unclog pores). It also reduces redness and tackles any lingering hyperpigmentation.
  • It can boost moisture. Are you dealing with dry skin or hair? As mentioned above, fatty acids are incredibly nourishing and helpful for repairing dryness. Just a few drops can boost moisture and prevent flakes.

Who can use neem oil?

Neem oil is safe for all skin types. But, because of its strong scent and formula, it might be best for those with sensitive skin to sit this one out (or at least try a patch test first). However, the oil is very beneficial to people with acne-prone, irritated or oily skin. It does the job when it comes to reducing inflamed skin, controlling oil production and treating acne.

What should I look for in neem oil?

You want to make sure that the oil is organic and cold-pressed. The color is a good indicator as to whether or not it’s 100 percent pure. It should be yellow with a brownish tint (similar to olive oil). The second thing to remember is that neem oil has a strong scent to it (we’re talking garlic, sulfur or mustard levels of pungent here), so be prepared to dilute your neem oil before use.

How to apply neem oil

A patch test is the way to go when trying a new oil for the first time. First, mix a few drops into some soap or another carrier oil (like jojoba, almond or coconut oil). Then, apply the blend onto the designated area (we usually go for the inner arm) and give it 24 hours to see if any reaction occurs. If you experience any irritation or redness, stop use immediately. If the neem oil passes your patch test, you can slowly implement it into your skincare routine. The best way to use neem oil is to dilute it with soap or a carrier oil before applying it to your skin with a cotton ball, swab or pad. You can also add a few drops to your favorite cleanser, moisturizer or shampoo to boost their benefits.

What are the side effects of neem oil?

As mentioned before, the oil has a low toxicity rate for humans, so it’s generally considered safe. However, you should always consult with a medical professional before trying neem oil (or any new ingredient for that matter). It’s also important to note that while neem oil can be a great addition to your skincare routine, it’s not meant to replace any of your usual products or treatments.

Now, that you’re all caught up, here are five products to get you started.

Shop the Neem Oil Products:

what is neem oil mary tylor naturals

1. Mary Tylor Naturals Organic Neem Oil

This 16-ounce bottle is enough to last you all year—and then some. Add a few drops into your shampoo or moisturizer to reap the TK benefits.

what is neem oil aromine

2. Aromine Neem Oil

In search of a completely undiluted and pure neem oil? Look no further than this $10 find.

what is neem oil now solutions

3. Now Foods Neem Oil

If you’re slowly warming to the idea of adding neem oil to your routine, there’s no need to break the bank. This $6 oil is enough to test the waters before fully committing.

Buy It ($6)

what is neem oil auromere

4. Auromere Ayurvedic Soap

Neem oil is a popular ingredient in soaps because of its many skincare benefits. This $2 bar includes neem oil, as well as a few other favorites (like coconut, castor and lavender) to leave your limbs soft and silky.

Buy It ($2)

what is neem oil dessert essence

5. Desert Essence Tea Tree Oil & Neem Toothpaste

Look, your teeth need love too. This neem and tea tree oil blend keeps teeth (and gums) healthy and clean.

about face matte fluid eye paint review chelsea candelario

Associate Editor, Ultimate Fangirl, Aspiring Beauty Guru

Chelsea Candelario is an Associate Editor at PureWow. She has been covering beauty, culture, fashion and entertainment for over a decade. You'll find her searching the internet...