The Benefits of Using Turmeric in Your Skincare Routine

You know those people who just seem to be talented at everything? They (appear to) have no flaws. They’re attractive, yet humble, intelligent, yet charming, confident, yet kind. You know the drill. Well, in the spice world, turmeric is that superstar. The popular golden yellow powder possesses a seemingly endless list of qualities, and boosting your skincare regimen is one of them.

Long before it was hailed as a “superfood” in the West, turmeric—derived from the root of a type of tuber called curcuma zedoaria—was used across India for centuries.

It’s a key ingredient in most curries, thanks to its deep and earthy, yet mildly fragrant flavor. Its medicinal properties have prompted many to sip on lattes and herbal teas infused with it. And it can also be used to add flavor and color to soups, skillets, and stir fries. Its vibrant hue has even earned it a place in the textile world, as a natural fabric dye.

On top of all of this, turmeric is great for glowing skin. It may also help to treat painful ailments, like acne and psoriasis.

Turmeric could help to reduce inflammation. | Marina Boyarkina / Flickr

Why Is Turmeric Good for Your Skin?

When consumed, or applied topically in moisturizers, butters, pastes, and masks, turmeric can help to reduce inflammation. This is due to its key component, a strong antioxidant called curcumin.

Inflammation is linked to a number of skin conditions, like psoriasis, acne, and eczema. But some foods, often plant-based, whole foods, can help to reduce it (more on that here).

Due to its anti-inflammatory benefits, turmeric has been used in Ayurvedic healing for centuries. But it’s only in recent years that Western medicine has begun to acknowledge its healing powers. It’s important to note that the science is still inconclusive in this area, but many medical professionals do recognize its skin benefits.

Nutrition researcher Kris Gunnars notes: “Curcumin is strongly anti-inflammatory. In fact, it’s so powerful that it matches the effectiveness of some anti-inflammatory drugs, without the side effects. It blocks NF-kB, a molecule that travels into the nuclei of your cells and turns on genes related to inflammation.”

Dermatologist Adarsh Vijay Mudgil, MD confirmed to Byrdie: “Turmeric has anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, and antioxidant effects, which can benefit the skin in many ways.”

Here are five ways that turmeric can benefit your skin, and how you can create your own DIY skincare recipes using the spice.

(Please note, like all seemingly faultless people, turmeric isn’t perfect. Everyone has their stuff. One drawback of the golden spice is that it stains, so if you’re going to add it to your skincare routine, wearing a pair of old PJs rather than your favorite white shirt is recommended).

Using turmeric in a face mask may help to ease acne symptoms. | Karissa Vegan Kitchen

5 Ways Turmeric Benefits Your Skin

It May Heal Acne

For those who suffer from acne, turmeric’s antiseptic and antibacterial properties make it an ideal skincare ingredient. It helps to reduce not just inflammation, but redness and scarring too.

Mona Gohara, M.D., an associate clinical professor at Yale, is an advocate of turmeric’s acne-healing properties. They told Cosmopolitan: “It’s an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory that’s shown to be helpful in treating pimples, brightening hyperpigmentation and acne scars, and fighting the free radicals that can cause fine lines and skin damage.”

For acne, consider using turmeric in a face mask. This recipe by Karissa’s Vegan Kitchen also uses oatmeal, oil, and water. The blog post reads: “[There’s] no need to go out and buy expensive products … You can easily make an awesome face mask at home, with ingredients you likely already have in your kitchen.”

It May Heal Psoriasis

Turmeric may also help to ease the symptoms of psoriasis, which include dry, scaly patches, cracked skin, and itching.

There have been a few studies on this topic, like this one on curcumin gel, published in the Journal of Cosmetics, Dermatological Sciences and Applications. It found the gel may be effective in relieving psoriasis when combined with other treatments, like topical steroids, antibiotics, and, for those who are lactose intolerant, avoidance of dairy.

According to nurse educator Debra Sullivan, Ph.D., MSN, R.N., CNE, COI: “Researchers believe this happened because of the way the curcumin affected the activity of phosphorylase kinase (PhK). PhK is a protein that is involved in the overproduction of skin cells and, as a result, the proliferation of psoriasis.”

Before using anything on psoriasis, consult with a doctor. But if you do decide to give turmeric a try, consider creating a paste. “Combine one part turmeric powder with two parts water in a pan,” continues Sullivan. “Simmer to form a thick paste, cool, and store. Apply to the skin.”

It May Reduce Under-Eye Darkness

Some beauty gurus swear by turmeric for reducing dark under-eye circles.

This video of beauty influencer Farah Dhukai applying a turmeric face mask for dark spots, dark circles, and acne, among other benefits, went viral back in 2018. It was a follow up to a YouTube video that she posted back in 2016.

She captioned the Instagram video, which has received more than 4 million views: “This was the first mask I EVER posted on YouTube and I’ve literally had people hug me in the street and cry and tell me how this has also helped their acne and overall skin when nothing else worked.”

Dermatologist Dr. Dendy Engelman agrees that turmeric brightens the skin, however, she urges people to be extra careful in the under-eye area. She told the Daily Mail: “[Turmeric is] thought to have antioxidant and antibacterial properties, calming skin irritations, improving aging skin, and brightening skin tone. But use with caution as it can be irritating when used in the delicate periorbital region.”

It Firms the Skin

Turmeric could help reduce signs of premature aging, due to its antioxidant content.

Antioxidants tackle cell-damaging free radicals. This damage can appear in the form of uneven skin tone, pigmentation, and premature wrinkles. But antioxidants, like curcumin, interact with the free radicals and help to stop the chain reaction before the damage is done.

It Can Boost Your Skin’s Natural Glow

If you just want to boost your skin’s glow, turmeric can help with that too. Sullivan notes: “[Antioxidants and anti-inflammatory components] may provide glow and luster to the skin. Turmeric may also revive your skin by bringing out its natural glow.”

To experience the spice’s benefits and get creative at the same time, try making your own turmeric-infused body butter (like this one by Soap Queen) and body washes (like this one by Savvy Naturalista). You could even make your own turmeric bath bomb, (like this one by The Plant Philosophy).

Turmeric isn’t the only spice with anti-inflammatory properties. To learn more about the benefits of different spices, see here.