Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Neem oil: a cure for acne?

Every couple of months, a new acne-fighting ingredient appears on the market. Be it tea tree essential oil, activated charcoal, jojoba oil or rhassoul clay... Each and every claims to be the most effective, natural, no side effects miracle worker. Being forever on the lookout for an acne solution suitable for sensitive skin, it's no wonder I was immediately sucked in when I first heard about neem oil.

Neem oil is a base oil extracted from Azadirachta indica (Neem) tree which is native to tropical climates of countries such as India, Burma or Malaysia. It's also called Indian Lilac in English and Muarubaini in Swahili, which means the tree of the 40, because the plant is said to treat 40 different diseases. All parts of the neem tree have medicinal properties, ranging from antifungal, antibacterial, antiviral to even antidiabetic, and have been a major component in Ayurvedic medicine for centures, especially for skin diseases.

I've been roadtesting the pure unrefined neem oil by Allafia for over a month now, dabbing it on pesky spots, bumps and scars. Here are my pros & cons:

The Good:
- 100% natural, sustainable and certified fair trade
- inexpensive (I paid about $7 for 24 ml) and readily available (e.g. at Whole Foods)
- has a variety of uses apart from fighting acne: it protects against chapping, cracking and itching due to dry skin and is said to repel insects
- has excellent antioxidant properties
- non-irritating
- moisturizes the skin beautifully
- brings inflammation and redness down
- soothes painful cystic breakouts
- speeds up the healing process

The Bad:
- the smell!!! Imagine putting a paste made of garlic and chives on your face and you'll get a pretty good idea of how neem oil smells like.
- consistency: at room temperature, it's mostly runny with some solid nuggets at the sides of the jar, making it difficult to apply topically on affected areas. It tends to move around and slide off a lot.
- doesn't absorb very well into my oily skin (it might be different if your skin is dry). There's no way I could use it under make-up and also due to the smell, I only tend to reach for it when I'm alone at home.
- packaging: while the glass jar is eco-friendly and ensures that the product won't get contaminated with plastic particles, it's not the most hygienic or travel-friendly. I've seen this product sold in dropper bottles and regret not buying that instead.

Will I repurchase? No. I might be a sissy, but I like my cosmetics, natural and organic included, to smell at least decent. Taking care of your skin should be a pleasure and not an ordeal! Also, I don't feel this performs any better than my jojoba-based Angel Face Botanicals Blemish Soother Spot Treatment which smells beautifully of lavender and bergamot essential oils. However, with scents being an individual thing, I'd recommend to check neem oil out in person; I know they have testers of it at Whole Foods. And, answering the question from my post's title... no, this is no miracle cure. Sure it helps a lot with hydrating and healing my skin issues, but for me, it doesn't prevent new spots appearing.

Hope that was helpful, lovelies! What are your favorite spot treatments? xxx


  1. hmmmm never heard of neem oil..... you should definitely try tanda... cleared my full face of acne!!!!!
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  2. great review! I've never heard of it. Anyway, my skin is SO dry that is very rare for me to have any kind of spots or even acne - my problem is really to hydrate my skin because is very uncomfortable to feel it so dry all the time..
    This product seems very interesting though, apart from the smell :)

  3. Thanks for the review! How did the spot treatment & hydrating oil work out for you by the way?

  4. @Miss Krimson: Maybe I'll try that next time! I need to use up some of the things hidden in my drawer first :) xxx

    @Fleur-de-Lis: I'd really recommend Bioelements All Things Pure moisturizer with Shea Butter, it's so rich and moisturizing but hasn't clogged my pores! x

    @Rosario: Do you mean oil-based spot treatments in general? I think I prefer them to the regular drying treatments; for me they don't really speed up the healing, on the contrary, they leave very unsightly red scars. However, if the idea of putting oil really doesn't appeal to you, I'd recommend La Roche Posay Effaclar Duo, which is a moisturizer with salicylic acid (you can check out my review of it). Works great too!

  5. Neem is actually often used in a lot of Indian beauty products for fighting acne. A couple years ago Bath and Body Works had a range of skin care with neem and it smelled nice...prob due to the other ingredients. I'm sure there are other lines out there with neem that smell better, but I sure do like how it works!

  6. @Kajal Couture: I'm sure that if they're using a small amount together with other ingredients, the smell can be counteracted somehow. But in 100% pure form... Quite unbearable for me! xxx

  7. Hi, thanks for leaving the comment. I don't think dieting is really a treatment for acne, it can just help by not aggravating the problem you already have. Also, eating a diet rich in vegetables will help with one's overall health, I don't think however that taking supplements is a very natural way of providing your body with vitamins and minerals. I would also appreciate your not leaving commercial links in the comments.