Neem oil is one of the many oils that help to support healthy hair growth. In particular, it is a popular ingredient used in products for curly haircare. Here are six facts you should know about neem oil and why it is such a good choice for natural hair.
1. What is neem?
Neem (Azadirachta indica) is a kind of mahogany tree native to the Indian subcontinent, some other parts of South Asia, and many parts of Africa. It has been used in these areas in various ways for centuries. The neem tree now grows in many tropical regions around the world.
Neem trees are hardy, evergreen plants that can grow to about 100 feet tall. They bear pleasantly scented small white flowers. Their fruits are small, yellowish, and resemble olives.
2. What is neem oil?
Neem oil is also known as margosa oil. It is extracted from the fruits and seeds of the neem plant. The oil comes in various colors, ranging from golden yellow to dark brown and bright red. It smells somewhat like garlic but can also take on a garlicky-peanuty scent.
Neem oil can be purchased as pure neem oil or as pre-diluted neem oil, typically blended with other oils. There are also many haircare products that contain neem oil as one of their ingredients.
3. Traditional and current uses of neem oil and other neem products
Almost all parts of the neem plant are put to use.
- Neem oil and other preparations of neem made from its leaves, bark, or flowers, have been used in both Ayurvedic and folk medicine.
- Several modern-day treatments for dandruff, acne, psoriasis, and other skin conditions contain neem as an active ingredient.
- Neem is a natural antifeedant – a substance with negative effects that deter insects and other animals from feeding on it. As such, neem can be used as a pesticide, fungicide, and insect repellent. For this reason, neem is often used in organic farming.
- The plant is thought to aid dental care. In some rural areas where the tree grows naturally, twigs from neem trees are used as chewing sticks (toothbrushes). Neem can be found as an ingredient in some kinds of toothpaste and mouthwashes.
- Young shoots, young leaves, flowers, and flower buds of the neem tree are all used as food in some places where the trees are grown. Consuming other parts of the plant is not recommended due to their toxicity.
- Neem trees are also an important source of timber.
4. Properties of neem oil
Neem oil’s wide variety of uses is mainly due to the many different phytochemicals (plant chemicals) it contains. In fact, a wealth of different phytochemicals can be found in all parts of the neem tree.
Neem oil is rich in fatty acids that are similar to the ones naturally found in skin and that are key to skin health. Fatty acids in neem oil include large amounts of oleic, palmitic, and stearic acids. Others include linoleic acid and palmitoleic acid.
Triglycerides (formed from glycerin and fatty acids) are the main components of neem oil. This may help to account for the popularity of neem oil in products for curly haircare.
Neem oil is also a rich source of limonoids, commonly found in citrus plants and some other plants, such as neem. Limonoids have been shown to have antibacterial and antifungal properties.
Antioxidants, including Vitamin E
Impressive amounts of vitamin E and several other antioxidants can also be found in neem oil. Antioxidants are known to help prevent free-radical damage and aid in the repair of tissues.
5. Benefits of neem oil for hair
The chemicals in neem oil and the properties they convey make it a good choice for curly haircare.
- As a scalp conditioner. Neem oil nourishes and protects your scalp for improved scalp health.
- For healthy hair growth. Neem oil’s vitamin E has many benefits for hair growth, including improved blood circulation in the hair follicle, moisturizing and strengthening the hair, and preventing hair loss. Read more about the benefits of vitamin E for hair growth.
- As a sealing oil to retain moisture. Curly hair has the tendency to be drier than other hair types. Oils that help to lock in moisture are very important for preventing dryness, brittleness, and breakage.
- To smooth hair and eliminate frizz. Frizz occurs when the hair cuticles are not smooth and hair strands absorb moisture from the atmosphere. Sealing oils, like neem oil, help to both lock in moisture AND keep it out, preventing frizziness.
- To treat skin conditions, such as dry skin and dandruff. Neem oil’s antimicrobial effects and its ability to moisturize the skin helps it combat the flakes, itching, and irritation that are symptoms of dry skin and dandruff.
6. Four tips for using neem oil for curly haircare
- Pure neem oil can be a skin irritant. To use it, you should first dilute it with a carrier oil. Use either equal parts neem oil and carrier oil or a much larger volume of carrier oil to neem oil. Coconut oil and jojoba oil are among the popular carrier oils used with neem oil.
- Do a patch test with your mixture before general application. Use your inner arm or the side of your neck. Wait at least four days to ensure you do not see signs of any adverse reactions.
- Go with blended oils (with neem as one component). These should already be at a suitable strength to not irritate your skin. You also get the added benefits of the other oils in the blend.
- Use conditioners, shampoos, and other haircare products that contain neem oil.
Do you use neem oil products? Share your experience with them!