This “Wonder Plant” May Help Kick Your Acne to the Curb

Photo: Getty Images/Katarzyna Bialasiewicz
If you're anything like me, your bathroom cabinet is bursting with beauty products. You use a crystal facial roller like its your job and administer pore-clearing masks on the regular. But there's a yellowish-brown liquid that's probably missing from your routine—and it's more than deserving of your attention. Derived from the seeds of the neem tree, people have been using neem oil on their skin and hair for centuries. In fact, the benefits of neem oil haven't been a secret since prehistory.

In the past, neem oil was used to deter smallpox and other infectious diseases, to treat lice and digestive disorders, and even serve as a naturally-occurring pesticide for house plant bugs. No wonder the neem tree has been referred to as a "wonder plant." Don't be fooled by its aroma (something like a combination of garlic and sulfur), which is anything but pretty. Today, one of the most underrated ways to take advantage of the oil involves your beauty routine. After all, neem oil was one of the most-searched skincare ingredients of 2018.

These are the best beauty benefits of neem oil.

1. It gets rid of dandruff

You might not have realized it before now, but neem oil is already found in many dandruff shampoos on store shelves. The oil is a natural anti-fungal, and dandruff is commonly caused by the yeast-like fungus malassezia.

How to use it: According to naturopathic physician Melissa Gallagher, ND, you can add a few drops of neem oil right into a handful of shampoo before working it into your scalp.

2. It encourages hair health and growth

If you're trying to keep your strands strong and long, neem oil can help. It's known for not only alleviating dryness and itchiness, but also for providing moisture so your hair looks super healthy year-round.

How to use it: Pratima Raichur, the Ayurvedic physician behind Pratima Skincare, recommends making a DIY hair mask. Create a paste by mixing 10 teaspoons of water with 1 teaspoon each of neem oil, triphala powder, sandalwood powder, and licorice powder. Apply it to your scalp and leave for 30 minutes. Rinse it out with warm lemon water.

3. It treats dry skin

Neem oil is filled with ingredients that benefit the skin, like vitamin E and essential fatty acids, which make it a great natural method to fight off dryness. Past research has found it can penetrate deeply into the skin, healing the cracks that occur from severe dryness and making sure all your moisture stays locked in.

How to use it: Just like you would put neem oil into your shampoo to fight off dandruff, you can add a few drops into a handful of lotion before rubbing it into your skin to help with dryness.

4. It fights the appearance of wrinkles

Who knew neem oil could be such a prime wrinkle-fighter? Research shows it can help stimulate collagen production and improve elasticity, helping your skin stay youthful as you age. Its high vitamin E content also helps prevent free radicals from harming your skin.

How to use it: Dr. Gallagher says you can use neem oil topically to get the age-fighting benefits. Massage a few drops into your skin, or mix it with coconut oil. Just be sure to do a patch test first to make sure it doesn't irritate your skin.

5. It treats acne

Because of neem oil's antibacterial properties, it makes for a great acne treatment. Not only can it help spot treat in the moment, but it's also been shown to be successful at fighting it off in the long term.

How to use it: Siva Mohan, a California-based Ayurvedic doctor, recommends taking a cotton swab and applying neem oil directly to your pimples. "Let it do its magic overnight. It’s drying and similar to tea tree oil, but more cooling," she says.

6. It fades scars

The vitamin E in neem oil is also great at helping heal your skin—especially when it comes to scars Research suggests neem oil helps reduce the appearance of scars. It's also been shown to help heal wounds and fade dark spots from acne. Basically, its skin-healing properties are impressive.

How to use it: Dab neem oil right onto your scars, just like you would with your zits, to help promote healing in the area.

7. It fights off foot fungus

If you struggle with athlete's foot, neem oil could be the solution that finally saves you from the pesky fungus. "It’s a natural anti-inflammatory and antiseptic, which makes it a perfect choice for those prone to athlete’s foot," says Dendy Engelman, MD, a New York City-based dermatologist. "It helps kill the fungus that causes athlete’s foot."

How to use it: Dr. Engleman recommends combining neem oil with karanja oil, which "provides additional conditioning to soften and smooth the feet." You can massage it right into your feet.

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