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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 anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory and provides external pain relief. 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 you’ll have no problem locating a few varieties. However, making a topical cream yourself is easy, relatively inexpensive and safe. It also allows you to control just how much Neem oil you want in the product: though Neem is a natural oil, it is strong in both effect and scent.
Makes one 110g pot
10g* /0.35oz* Neem oil (raw and cold-pressed)
40g /1.41oz Shea Butter
30g /1.06oz Cocoa Butter
20g /0.70oz Castor oil
10g /0.35oz Sweet Almond oil (alternative: Grapeseed oil)**
5 drops of Tea Tree essential oil (optional)
5 drops of Lavender essential oil (optional)
* 10g of Neem oil will result in quite a strong smelling and acting lotion. If you’d prefer, you can reduce the amount by half to 5g to mask the smell and create a gentler cream. It’s also possible to add more than 10g of Neem oil to this recipe but please test your cream on a small part of your infected skin before using it all over. Neem can be quite strong and if it’s placed on the skin undiluted it’s possible that it can cause contact dermatitis.
** For a more liquidy cream add more liquid oil in this recipe
1. Take all the ingredients except for the essential oils and place them 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.
3. Take the bowl out and beat it with a whisk, adding the essential oils in at this time if you’ve opted to have them in. These fragrances will help mask the scent of the Neem and are both ingredients that will help inflamed skin. Lavender essential oil is extremely soothing and anti-inflammatory and Tea Tree essential oil is anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-microbial as well as having a soothing medicinal scent.
4. Make sure to scrape any oil that’s hardened along the edge of the bowl back down into the liquid oils then place the bowl back in the freezer for another five minutes – then take it out and beat it again. Repeat this process until the oils appear opaque and creamy then spoon it into a container which is fitted with a lid. You can use the cream after it’s set for about a day.