Neem oil is awesome for just about everything, but the smell of it makes me want to run very, very far away.
The solution? Put it in soap! It still gets direct contact with the skin, but you don't have to tolerate the smell for too long. :D
Making neem soap is super easy with melt and pour soap bases, and you can add just as much neem as you want. It's great to have around if you wash your hands a ton like I do - they've been less rough than normal! The goat's milk and neem make this soap super emollient - great for dry skin, eczema, and psoriasis.
In this instructable, I'll walk you through how I made a couple batches of neem soap. I've also got suggestions for how much neem and essential oil to use in your soaps.
Step 1: About Neem Oil
Neem oil is traditional medicine in India - it's been used for thousands of years! The neem tree is actually used in a variety of applications - the bark, leaves, flowers, seeds, and more are utilized to make all kinds of products. Neem is most commonly used as a pesticide and to treat skin conditions. Neem oil contains vitamin E, essential fatty acids, and has moisturizing and regenerative properties.
We use neem on our plants quite often as a pesticide - you can find a recipe for a IPM insecticide/fungicide that we use here.
When using neem oil on the body, the only cautions I can give are these:
- Using too much neem is never a good idea - stay within the parameters given in this instructable! Neem can be toxic in very high amounts.
- Avoid using neem products on small children (4 and under.) - neem oil is very potent stuff and there have been reports of toxicity in children, though rare.
- Don't use neem when trying to conceive (both men and women!) or while breastfeeding.
Here are some more tips about using neem safely.
Products made from neem trees have been used in India for over two millennia for their medicinal properties. Neem products are believed by Sidha andAyurvedic practitioners to be anthelmintic, antifungal, antidiabetic, antibacterial, antiviral, contraceptive and sedative. It is considered a major component in sidha medicine and Ayurvedic and Unani medicine and is particularly prescribed for skin diseases. Neem oil is also used for healthy hair, to improve liver function, detoxify the blood, and balance blood sugar levels. Neem leaves have also been used to treat skin diseases likeeczema, psoriasis, etc.
However, insufficient research has been done to assess the purported benefits of neem. In adults, short-term use of neem is safe, while long-term use may harm the kidneys or liver; in small children, neem oil is toxic and can lead to death. Neem may also cause miscarriages, infertility, and low blood sugar.
Step 2: Ingredients + Tools
- melt & pour soap base (I'm using a goat milk version)
- neem oil (this stuff from BuildASoil is great)
- essential oils (using lavender, peppermint and rosemary)
- food coloring (optional)
- large measuring cup
- microwave OR double boiler
- soap molds or other plastic containers
- large knife
- kitchen scale
- measuring spoons
Try to use high quality raw materials - it'll make the soap so much nicer! I prefer goat's milk soap bases because of how moisturizing they are.
Step 3: Cut and Melt the Soap Base
Measure out the amount of soap you'd like to use. I'm making two batches, at 450 g each. Make sure you know how much soap you're using - you'll use this amount to decide how much neem to add.
Chop the soap into smaller pieces and put it into a large measuring cup. Follow the directions and melt using a microwave or double boiler.
My soap base took a few minutes and quite a bit of stirring to melt all the way.
Step 4: Add in the Neem
You will add the neem oil by weight. Keep in mind that you might have to warm it up first. Like coconut oil, neem oil can become solid when it gets too cool. The figures below can only really be guaranteed if you're using the same neem oil as we did - neem oils vary greatly in intensity.
You can add up to 10% neem oil to the soap base, but the smell will be VERY intense and the soap will not lather as much as it would normally.
If this is your first time using neem, I would recommend doing 2.5% neem oil. This is pretty similar to the neem soaps I've bought in stores.
I did right around 5% neem oil in my soap bars - 450 g soap base & 23 g neem oil. Tyler did the full 10% - 450 g soap base and 45 g neem oil.
Once the neem is in, stir it in slightly. We'll do a better mix in a minute.
Step 5: Add Coloring and Essential Oils
You can use regular food coloring in your soaps for a little color. I added three drops of green food coloring to Tyler's soap, and two drops of red and three of blue to mine. Just enough to add a little color so we can easily tell them apart.
Essential oils will help mask the smell of the neem oil, so I highly recommend using them. Lavender, peppermint, and rosemary all work well with the neem.
I used 2 teaspoons of essential oil in each 450 g batch of soap - peppermint and rosemary in Tyler's 10% neem soap, and lavender in my 5% neem soap.
Here's a fragrance calculator from Bramble Berry to help you figure out how much to add. You may want to add more than they recommend if you do 10% neem - 2 teaspoons of essential oil there wasn't quite enough.
Once the essential oils and food coloring are in, mix very very well. It may take a couple minutes of stirring to get everything well combined. You shouldn't see any oil or color floating on the top when it's mixed.
Step 6: Pour Into Molds and Let Harden
Once the base has everything added in, you'll want to pour it into your soap mold or other plastic container.
If you don't have a soap mold, you can really use any flexible plastic container. It must be slightly flexible, though, or it'll be near impossible to get the soap out.
Most melt and pour soaps have a drying time of under 40 minutes, but I normally let mine sit for at least an hour.
Step 7: Cut and Enjoy!
Remove the soap from the mold or container. (If it's in a container, just press on it until you break the seal around the edges - once some air gets in, it should pop out!)
Cut it into whatever size bars you like and enjoy! Store in airtight containers for best results - the neem will transfer its smell elsewhere if given the chance to. ;)