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A neem soap recipe that combats dryness, itchiness, and inflammation making it the perfect soap for eczema. Makes six bars of all-natural soap
When people ask which soap I’d recommend for eczema my first advice is always the same — use less soap. It can strip your skin of natural oils that help flare-ups to heal and can contribute to dryness, redness, and further skin issues. We all need to use soap at some time though. That’s why my second bit of advice is to choose a soap that’s gentle, unscented, and most of all leaves your skin feeling nourished. This soap recipe will do just that.
It’s very low on stripping oils and creates a bar of soap that is more conditioning than it is cleansing. It also includes a superfat of nourishing avocado oil and neem oil. Both are rich oils that can leave your skin feeling soft and conditioned, but neem is special in that it’s used specifically as a treatment for eczema.
This rich oil is effective in soothing the symptoms of eczema which is why I use it in this recipe for Healing Balm for Eczema & Psoriasis. When used as the superfatting oil in soap, it helps leave a protective barrier on your skin. Its natural compounds can also help treat the irritation and dryness caused by eczema.
What is Neem oil?
Little known in the west, neem oil is used in India as a remedy for many health issues. It’s extracted from the neem tree which grows throughout the Indian sub-continent as a native species. Since being discovered by science, neem trees are now grown in other parts of Asia, Australia, and Africa.
Neem trees, Azadirachta indica, have large canopies and are drought resistant which is one reason that they’re grown. Shade is in high demand in arid climates. They’re very useful in other ways though, and people around the world have used neem for various reasons including as a natural herbicide, to treating health issues. Their long pinnate leaves are used neat on the skin to treat eczema and psoriasis among other things. However, their olive-like fruit is where the oil comes from. It’s thick and earthy colored and has a sharp and distinctive scent.
Neem oil has traditionally been used in Ayurvedic medicine to treat skin complaints, internal health issues, dental care, and even as an insecticide. The last use makes neem oil an important natural gardening product.
How Neem oil helps Eczema
Oils extracted from both the leaves and the seeds of the neem tree help soothe the symptoms of eczema. They’re rich in compounds such as Nimbidin, Nimbin, and Quercetin that work as natural anti-inflammatories and anti-histamines. This helps reduce redness, swelling, and itching.
Often presented as a thick green or brown oil, neem is also great for moisturizing. When used as part of a skincare recipe its lipids help tone and lock moisture into dry skin. You should only use a small amount of neem in a recipe though — this neem oil soap recipe contains just 5% neem. Larger percentages can not only smell unpleasant but can cause skin irritation in some people. The exact opposite of what you want in soap for eczema.
Neem Oil Soap Recipe
This neem oil soap recipe makes about six bars. Although neem is the most important oil in the recipe, the others are also there to help protect and nourish the skin. It has a relatively low cleansing power, meaning that it won’t strip your skin like others. It will also have a creamy lather that feels slick and smooth. No essential oil is used in this recipe as it can contribute to skin irritation in sensitive people. Soap information: 33% lye-concentration, 5% superfat
56g (1.96 oz) Sodium hydroxide (also called lye or NaOH)
113g (3.98 oz) Distilled water
Special Equipment needed
Natural Soap Making for Beginners
If you’re new to making handmade soap, you might also want to check out my four-part series on natural soap making. It gives a good introduction to what to expect from ingredients, equipment, recipes, and how to combine everything together to make soap. Also, I recommend reading this recipe all the way through before attempting to make it. There are a lot of steps and things to prepare for making this neem oil soap recipe.
1. Preparing the lye solution
The first thing you’ll want to do is prepare your workspace and organize your ingredients. Everything should be pre-measured and you should be prepared to safely make soap. That means wearing close-toed shoes, long sleeves, rubber gloves, and eye protection.
The water should be measured into a heat-proof jug. Next, pour the Sodium hydroxide crystals into the water in an airy and well-ventilated place. Outside is best but an open window will do. There will be heat and steam so be careful not to breathe it in. Set the lye solution aside in a shallow basin to cool.
2. Melt the solid oils
The solid oils should be measured in a stainless steel pan. As soon as your lye solution is made, turn the hob on to its lowest setting and let the oils melt together. The oils to be added after Trace include neem oil which you might have in a solid form. Have this in a heatproof container and either keep it on hand to microwave or begin melting it using the double boiler method.
3. Take temperatures
Don’t leave the oils unattended on the stove, whatever you do. You don’t want them hot, just barely melted. When they’re at this stage, pour the liquid oils (but not the neem or avocado) into the pan of melted oil. Stir and take its temperature. You want the oils a few degrees of 100°F (38°C). Take the temperature of the lye solution now too. You want it within 10 degrees of the oils.
4. Mix the soap
When the temperatures are right, pour the lye solution into the pan of oils through a sieve/strainer. This will catch any Sodium hydroxide that might not have dissolved. Now comes blending.
Dip the stick blender into the pan at an angle to reduce air in the head. Use it turned off as a spoon at first and stir the mix together gently. Bring the stick blender to the middle of the pan and hold it stationary against the bottom. Turn the stick blender on for a few seconds then turn it off and use it to stir again. With such a small batch I recommend not moving it around while it’s on since it can spit up soap batter. Just hold it still while pulsing, and use it to stir when it’s off.
The soap batter will begin coming to ‘Trace’ fairly quickly — in a matter of a couple of minutes. You’ll know it’s ready when little trails of soap linger on the surface when it’s dribbled on.
5. Add the Neem & Avocado oils
Next pour in the melted neem and avocado oils and stir them in well. All the other oils up to this point have reacted with the sodium hydroxide and are turning into soap. These extra oils will have a better chance of free-floating in your bars if they’re added afterward. Together they make up 10% of the oils used, so some of both will saponify. However, your final bars will have a 5% superfat that should comprise both neem oil and avocado oil.
While the batter is still fairly liquid (it does firm up quickly), pour it into your mold. This silicone soap mold fits the recipe perfectly.
6. Hardening & curing your soap for eczema
Set the soap inside an unheated oven, or inside a small cardboard box for 48 hours. After this time you can take the bars out of the mold and cure them. The soap will be safe to touch at this point but the water content needs to evaporate out. Space out the bars on a piece of grease-proof paper in a dry, dim, and airy place. Leave them there for a month before using them. For full instructions on how to cure handmade soap head over here
Shelf-life & making Eczema Cream
As for shelf-life, soap is good until the closest best by date of the individual ingredients. If the olive oil expires next month, then your soap is only good until then too. Make sure you use high-quality and in-date ingredients when soap-making and creating other beauty products. If you’re looking to make a neem oil-based eczema cream, I have a great recipe you can use over here.