When it comes to promoting healthy skin and a clear complexion, neem (Azadirachta indica) is one of the most effective herbs in the Ayurvedic pharmacopoeia. This herb’s famously bitter taste has been known to dramatically cool and pacify pitta and kapha when taken internally. Externally, neem’s cooling properties work to soothe and lubricate the skin and hair, helping to keep excess pitta from manifesting as blemishes or an itchy, flaky scalp. Those with a pitta constitution or imbalance might consider using neem to calm this dosha. If you don’t know your constitution or state of balance, take this short dosha quiz for a quick and easy assessment.
Neem for Skin Care
Ayurveda teaches that when a dosha is out of balance—particularly pitta—it can manifest on the surface of the skin. This can lead to occasional rashes, itching, irritations, sensitivity to sunburns, those blemishes mentioned earlier, and other visible characteristics of a pitta imbalance. The following external applications can help pacify pitta and keep the skin soft, clear, and radiant.
Neem Leaf Paste
One traditional and easy way to utilize neem is to make a paste using neem leaf powder.1 Mix the powder with a small amount of water—just enough until your mixture attains a pasty consistency—then apply to the affected area of the skin. Let dry for approximately 20 minutes, or until the paste begins to harden, before rinsing off and patting dry. For even more benefits, consider adding chickpea flour, turmeric powder, or rose petals. Turmeric can stain the skin, so try it out on a small area first to see how your skin reacts.
Don’t feel like making a mixture? Buy a ready-made herbal oil! Banyan’s Neem Oil is based on a traditional preparation of neem leaves infused into a base of organic sesame oil. This oil is ideal for people with pitta constitutions and those who spend lots of time in the sun. To use, simply apply the neem oil to the desired area and massage gently into the skin. This can be done daily as part of your morning abhyanga routine, or periodically when needed.
If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, you might try making a facial clay mask! There are a few different ways to do this. One time-tested method is to combine small amounts of powdered neem, brahmi, and turmeric with your favorite cosmetic clay, adding just enough water, milk, or yogurt to create your desired consistency. Save yourself some tears by avoiding getting any of the mixture into your eyes—neem is potent enough on its own, after all! Leave for 10 minutes before rinsing off and patting dry.
Neem & Aloe Soap
Many people think of soap first when they think of skin care, particularly when it comes to washing the face. However, Ayurveda suggests using soap with caution due to its drying action. Too much soap can strip the skin of helpful and necessary oils. Neem & Aloe soap, however, is an all-natural product that mixes neem’s pitta-balancing benefits with aloe vera’s soothing qualities. It is gentle enough to be used daily by people of all doshas and Ayurvedic body types.
Soothing Skin Balm
Another great ready-made application of neem comes in the form of Soothing Skin Balm. Just like its name suggests, this balm is meant to calm pitta from the skin and features an all-star cast of Ayurvedic herbs known for skin health—manjistha, guduchi, anantamul, and of course, neem.
Neem for Hair Care
Although bhringaraj is regarded in Ayurveda as the “ruler of hair,” neem is also a powerful herbal ally when it comes to promoting hair health. It is even said that neem holds the capacity to promote hair’s natural color and maintain healthy hair growth.2 While we won’t go calling it the fountain of youth, it is known that neem’s intensely cooling effect helps to balance excess pitta that has become trapped in the scalp and hair follicles, promoting lustrous, silky smooth locks that are soft to the touch. This is why you’ll find neem shampoos on the market for both people and animals alike! In fact, some people like to mix neem powder into their store-bought shampoo products for a deeper cleansing of the follicles.
Hair Oil Treatment
Herbal Neem Oil is an excellent scalp rejuvenator, and many consider its benefits to be comparable to those of neem shampoo.2 To use as a hair oil, place a small amount of oil on the tips of your fingers and apply the neem oil directly onto the scalp and roots, massaging gently into the skin. Work the oil into the ends if desired, and leave on for at least 60 minutes before rinsing. For added benefits, leave the oil in your hair overnight, making sure to cover your hair and lay a towel over your pillow while you sleep, as the oil can leave a stain. Just wash it out in your morning shower (applying shampoo to your hair before you get it wet can help to more easily remove the oil).
Other Ways to Take Neem
While external applications of neem can do wonders for our hair and skin, neem needs to be consumed internally to really get the full range of its benefits—from cleansing pitta from the blood to bolstering the immune system.1 For internal use, neem can be taken as a tablet, powder, or liquid extract. Learn more about neem by visiting our Neem Benefits page.