The Giving Tree

Neem leaves, seeds, flowers, fruits, and bark

NeemKnown as the “Village Pharmacy” in India, the neem tree has long-been considered a source of healing. According to Rahul Koul, co-CEO of Sundãri, it contains more than 140 active compounds that have been isolated from different parts of the tree. “Neem leaves, seeds, flowers, fruits, and bark have been used in traditional medicine for the treatment of inflammation, infection, fever, and skin diseases, as well as dental problems,” he says. While it was once thought to be a cure-all for a host of conditions and diseases, it has, in more modern times, become a coveted skincare ingredient. Native to India, the fast-growing evergreen tree, which is part of the mahogany family, is now found in countries with tropical and semi-tropical climates around the world. “Therapeutic uses of neem have been known in India since Vedic times,” says Koul. “Neem, especially neem leaf, has been used extensively in Ayurveda.” According to him, it has been shown to have anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal, antiviral, and antioxidant properties. It’s no surprise then that manufacturers and spas are tapping into the many benefits neem provides with a host of related products and treatments.

Ancient Oil

Although the tree’s seeded fruit is anything but tasty, it is the source of neem oil, which is sought after for its skin-nourishing properties. The kernels, found inside the fruit, are pressed to create neem oil. “Neem is a multipurpose oil that has been around for thousands of years,” says Amal Elbahnasawy, founder and creator of Artisanskin. She decided to incorporate it into her line’s Skin Medicine Body Oil after learning of its numerous benefits. “I didn’t realize the potent effects of neem oil until I traveled to India and experienced firsthand the popular reputation it had in everyday life,” she says. “Even our driver had a bottle in the glove compartment that he would use to apply to mosquito bites.”

Spa-goers, however, are often drawn to it as a potent anti-ager. “Neem is a powerful anti-aging ingredient for spas that are looking for natural alternatives to synthetic skincare products and ingredients,” says Koul. “A bath with neem leaves keeps skin supple and healthy. Face packs with neem leaf powder offer emollient and anti-aging action.”Neem

According to Janel Luu, founder and CEO of Le Mieux Cosmetics and PurErb, neem oil is often used in anti-aging products because of its antioxidant, antibacterial, healing, and brightening benefits. “The high levels of carotenoids in neem help combat damage caused by free radicals,” she says. “High levels of essential fatty acids and vitamin E also help restore skin’s protective barrier and prevent moisture loss. Neem oil is easily absorbed and helps relieve dry skin, eczema, and psoriasis.” It’s not just those with dry skin who can benefit though, as neem can reduce inflammation and redness in acneic and problem skin. As Luu points out, neem is non-comedogenic, which makes it an ideal ingredient for spa-goers dealing with acne.

According to Elisabeth Nehme, international brand ambassador and master educator for [ comfort zone ], products containing neem also have a purifying and healing element, which is great for combination skin types, as well as for the feet. “We decided to feature neem as the key active ingredient in our Foot Specialist treatment and cream,” she says. “The combined emollient, nourishing, antibacterial, and antifungal actions are ideal for the care of feet. In addition, neem oil is very easily absorbed by the skin, so although the feet are visibly rejuvenated and the skin is softened, there is no greasy feel and no slipping in their sandals.” Spa-goers can experience the Foot Specialist treatment when they opt for the Ultimate Luxury Foot Therapy ($65, 50 minutes) at Beyond Wishes Well-Being & Rejuvenation Institute (Nokomis, FL), the Balancing Hand, Scalp and Foot Ritual ($160, 50 minutes) at The Spa and Wellness Center at Stowe Mountain Lodge (VT), and Essential Luxury Foot Treatment ($35, 20 minutes) at The Spa at Sandpearl (Clearwater Beach, FL).

Before making its way to our shores, neem was commonly used in Ayurvedic medicine. Today, it can still be found in a host of Ayurvedic lines. Sundãri, for example, offers a range of skincare and bodycare products that rely on neem as the lead active ingredient. “Products like Neem Eye Cream, Neem Night Cream, and Neem & Green Tea Cleansing Mask are among our global best-sellers,” says Koul. Spa-goers can benefit from the products in the Neem Healing De-Sensitizing Facial ($130, 60 minutes), the Men’s Facial Treatment ($123, 60 minutes), the Healing Indian Head Massage ($94, 45 minutes), the Pre-Natal Total Body Treat ($159, 90 minutes), and the Divya-Head To Toe ($123, 60 minutes) at Serenity Spa at Seaham Hall (Lord Byron’s Walk, County Durham, UK). Whether it be a warm and soothing scalp massage using neem and coconut or a purifying facial with neem, the treatments all draw on the ingredient’s healing powers.

Team Spirit

Although it is effective used alone, neem can also be paired with other nourishing ingredients. “A common pairing is with turmeric for skincare applications,” says Koul. “Neem oil has also been used quite effectively with gotu kola and green tea.” Luu recommends teaming it with Abyssinian, babassu seed, baobab, carrot seed, jojoba, macadamia, myrtle, and sacha inchi oils.

Unfortunately, it isn’t known for its appealing fragrance. “Neem tends to have a naturally strong scent and blends well with coconut oil, which helps mask the smell for those who find it overpowering,” says Elbahnasawy. Because it tends to have a rather pungent odor that doesn’t always lend itself to sweet-smelling treatments, it can also be blended with lavender, which helps make it more appealing.

Regardless of how you use it, neem has stood the test of time and offers spa-goers a natural solution to their skincare needs. “I would recommend spas consider using it as part of their treatment protocols or retail offerings, because it will yield results in the health of the skin,” says Elbahnasawy. “If there is one thing that we all enjoy from giving and receiving spa treatments, it is the ability to see measurable results.”

Incorporate this soothing and nourishing Indian remedy into a clients’ skin routine with these products.

1. Artisanskin Skin Medicine Body Oil: Improve skin texture with this cooling formula containing a blend of argan, jojoba, lavender, macadamia, neem, rose, sesame, sweet almond, and tamanu oils. www.artisanskinrevolution.com

2. Cinq Mondes Universal Ayurvedic Dry Body Oil: Rich in essential fatty acids, this formula infused with boswellia, neem, and sesame oils helps to rejuvenate skin. www.cinqmondes.com 

3. [ comfort zone ] Foot Specialist Neem Cream: Made with neem and shea butter, this cream moisturizes feet and leaves skin soft with fresh notes of white tea blossom. www.comfortzone.it

4. Diana Ralys Skin Health Moist and Firm Cream: Enriched with avocado, carrot, neem, rosehip, and wheat germ oils along with vitamins A, B, C, and E, this cream helps to maintain the skin barrier. www.dianaralysskinhealth.com

5. JustNeem Neem Clay Mask: Made with African neem and pure French clay along with cedarwood, eucalyptus, lavender, peppermint, rosemary, and sunflower oils, this mask draws out impurities from skin. www.justneem.com

6. Moss Zen Physic: Formulated with neem oil, this spot treatment helps to diminish redness and inflammation. www.mosskincare.com

7. NeemAura Naturals Neem Aloe Gel: This hydrating gel containing aloe and neem leaf extract improves damaged skin and soothes irritation. www.neemauranaturals.com

8. Pratima Neem Purifying Cream: Ideal for acne-prone skin, this cream made with aloe, grapefruit seed extract, and neem along with rose and sandalwood oils provides gentle hydration and helps clear congestion, blemishes, and breakouts. www.pratimaskincare.com

9. PurErb Meridian Scalp Stimulating Oil: Help relieve dry skin with a revitalizing formula containing babassu, myrtle, neem, rosemary, sage, and spearmint oils. www.purerbskincare.com

10. SkinOwl Body Oil: Reduce the appearance of stretchmarks, wrinkles, and dark spots with this absorbent oil containing antioxidants and apricot, calendula, jojoba, neem, rosemary, safflower, and sweet almond oils. www.skinowl.com

11. SpaRitual Farewell Fungus Treatment: This treatment made with lemon, neem, and tea tree oils helps to prevent the spread of fungus and soothes skin and cuticles. www.sparitual.com

12. Sundãri Neem Night Cream: Infused with neem leaf extract and shea butter, this hydrating cream restores a natural radiance to skin. www.sundari.com