Here at Herbal Essentials we want to give you the best information possible to help with your skincare needs. That's why we're delighted to have partnered with Beauty Editor, Fiona McKim, to bring you the history and benefits of one of our wonder ingredients, Neem, that can be found in our Purifying range. Read on to discover why Neem really is a very modern ancient ingredient.

When it comes to skincare ingredients, formulators are always searching for the next big thing. And yet, a closer look at Neem suggests that the key to our skin’s future could well be found in the past.

This powerful extract, taken from Azadirachta Indica tree, has been revered in Ayurvedic medicine for millennia thanks to its calming, purifying and protective properties. In fact, neem can be used to enhance so many aspects of our skin that if scientists whipped it up in a lab now it would be hailed as one of those shiny new superstar actives us beauty editors get very excited about. Instead, thanks to its ancient roots we get something far more satisfying than a flash-in-the-pan trend; an effective, all-natural hero with a reputation built on thousands of years of holistic use.

In Sanskrit, Ayurveda means the ‘science of life’ and is an ancient system that incorporates diet and natural therapies to build a balanced approach to wellness. The practise originated in the Indian subcontinent where local botanicals play a vital role in traditional healthcare. Within Indian culture neem’s supreme usefulness has earned it a variety of nicknames including The Tree of Life and The Village Pharmacy. That second one is no exaggeration – there are as many uses for neem in Ayurveda as there are parts of the tree to be used. Hundreds of compounds have been isolated within its leaves, bark, fruit, gum, seeds and roots and there’s barely a grain of this tree that's not considered highly valuable either medicinally, cosmetically or both. 

This is particularly true in skincare, where neem’s anti-inflammatory properties are used to treat conditions like eczema and dermatitis as well as soothing redness, irritation, bites and burns. Neem extract contains polysaccharides, which boost skin hydration while its antibacterial properties can help ward off blackheads. What's more neem is absolutely crammed with antioxidants including carotenoids, Vitamins C and E. These all help neutralise free radical damage, which supports an even tone and slows collagen degradation to keep everything plump and nicely supported. Essentially, this ingredient is what I’d call an A+ all-rounder –  because who doesn’t want hydrated, calm and clear skin?  – but would be particularly useful on breakout-prone skin that can get a little bit red or reactive thanks to its inflammation-soothing bacteria-nuking powers.

Neem’s top tier status may be rooted in ancient Ayurveda, but modern science is catching up. A 2013 study in the Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Biomedicine reported that, ‘Neem has a remarkable effect on chronic skin conditions. Acne, psoriasis, eczema,’ concluding, ‘Neem oil can be used as an excellent component of cosmetics to help clear, beautify and rejuvenate the skin.’

Of course, none of this will be news to the vast community for whom neem has long been held in legendary regard. But as contemporary science intersects with thousands of years of history, now seems the perfect time to shine a spotlight on neem and illuminate its skin-improving powers to a brand new audience.


Words: Fiona McKim