***Update on 23rd January 2014*** While many of you have made or will choose to make this cream for yourselves, I've received a lot of emails from those interested in purchasing it direct. From today I have my Neem Balm available on my shop site at this link.
Skin conditions of any sort can be uncomfortable, but Eczema and Psoriasis are probably two of the most common and irritating. Both are genetic auto-immune skin conditions that result in flaky, inflamed skin that can itch terribly and leave you feeling helpless and even embarrassed. If you or someone close to you suffers from one of them then you'll know just how much it can affect a person's life. Outbreaks are often red and swollen and can appear on any part of your body, from your hands to your knees to your face. While affected skin can often appear unsightly, it's the pain and tenderness that can affect people's lives for the worse.
There is no cure for Eczema or Psoriasis and treatment is limited to simply controlling the severity of the outbreaks and soothing the symptoms. Keeping the skin clean and moisturised is the usual remedy however some of the prescribed medications and products can be a bit suspect. One of these is the use of mineral oil and petroleum jelly on the skin. Both are by-products of petroleum (gas and petrol) production and while they do help the skin stay moist they clog the pores and prevent air from reaching your skin. The other treatment which is more specifically for Psoriasis involves sitting in a bath with essence of coal tar which is literally the by-product coal being turned into coke. A close family member of mine has Psoriasis and I can still remember the smell of these baths - it's similar to the smell of tarmac being laid.
However there are natural non-petroleum based options for treatment of Eczema and Psoriasis and at least one which can effectively clear up breakouts: Neem oil. Extracted from the fruits and seeds of the Neem tree, Neem oil is a thick red or green oil which is not only highly moisturising but is naturally antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and provides external relief from pain and itchiness. Though its smell can be quite strong its medicinal qualities are impressive and it's relatively safe to use as a self-prescribed treatment. In fact the Indian culture has been using Neem oil for thousands of years for anything from skin diseases and inflammation to fevers and insecticide.
There are Neem oil skin creams already on the market and if you're interested in simply buying one then please visit my online shop. I've also provided a similar recipe below if you'd like to try your hand at making your own. This version is thicker than my own product but will melt on contact with your skin.
Handmade Neem Balm*
Makes one 130g pot
The Video tutorial for this project is above
40g /1.41oz Shea Butter
30g /1.06oz Cocoa Butter
20g /0.70oz Castor oil
30g /1oz Sweet Almond oil (alternative: Grapeseed oil)**
10g* /0.35oz*** Neem oil (raw and cold-pressed)
1/4 tsp Vitamin E oil
5-10 drops of Lavender essential oil (optional)
* Some people may show sensitivity to Neem oil so please do a skin patch test to make sure it's right for your skin.
** For a more liquidy cream add more liquid oil in this recipe
*** 10g of Neem oil will result in quite a strong smelling and acting balm. If you'd prefer, you can reduce the amount by half to 5g to mask the smell and create a gentler product. Please also note Neem can be quite strong and if it's placed on the skin undiluted it's possible that it can cause contact dermatitis.
1. Place the Shea Butter, Cocoa Butter, Castor oil, and Sweet Almond oil into a double-boiler. You can also place them in a metal or glass bowl which can be floated in a pan of hot water. The point of the double boiler (also known as a Bain-marie) is that you want to heat the oils slowly, evenly, and through an indirect heat source.
2. Melt the oils over a medium heat until they are completely liquid. Stir well and place the bowl in the freezer for five minutes or until the oils thicken to the consistency of Castor oil and become slightly opaque.
3. Take the bowl out and beat it with a whisk, adding the essential oil, vitamin E, and Neem oil. The Lavender essential oil will help mask the scent of the Neem and is also useful for encouraging skin cells to regenerate. Lavender essential oil is also soothing and anti-inflammatory so safe for those with dermatitis.
4. Spoon the finished product into a container that is fitted with a lid. You can use the cream immediately after it has set.