Photo:Jamie Grill Atlas/Stocksy
Whether quarantine made you a regular in the kitchen or you've always been a foodie, you probably know about the powers of golden-hued turmeric. In an instant, one shake of the spice can enhance a dish. But its benefits go beyond the kitchen, and in fact, it has no bounds as an ingredient in skincare products. The most powerful, anti-inflammatory herb on the planet has been used as a natural remedy since ancient times due to its countless healing properties. The yellow-orange root of the ginger family has been prized for its healing powers, dating back to 2500 BCE. In fact, in recent years, studies have found even more evidence of the benefits of turmeric for the skin.
Beyond the soothing, anti-inflammatory qualities it provides to skin, turmeric is credited with strengthening the overall energy of the body as well as improving digestion and supporting a healthy heart and cholesterol levels. "Turmeric works to reduce inflammation in the body that is associated with many health conditions including cancer, arthritis, heart conditions, among others," explains Julie Kassin Manopla, RD, who works with cancer patients in Maimonides Cancer Center in Brooklyn, New York, as well as in her private practice. "A delicious addition to any meal, even just a sprinkle of the beautiful golden color will brighten up your meals while benefiting your health."
Its active ingredient, curcumin, is derived from the plant curcuma longa, and when it comes to skin health, it targets clogged pores, calms irritated skin, and can even reduce acne scarring. "Turmeric, or haridra, as it is known in Sanskrit, is commonly used in Ayurvedic skincare to bring radiance to the skin by evening out the skin tone and lightening scars and hyperpigmentation," explains Ayurvedic wellness practitioner and herbalist Regina Kankinza of In Her It Blooms. "Since it is antimicrobial, antibacterial, and anti-inflammatory, it promotes wound healing, making it ideal for irritated skin, insect bites, blemishes, and acne."
It was even turmeric that inspired Julie Russak, MD, FAAD, who practices at Russak Dermatology Clinic. "I actually ended up being a dermatologist because of learning how turmeric directly targets the p53 gene, the most common mutation found in melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer," she says. "In the skin, specifically, curcumin decreases the effects of free radicals on lipid-rich cell membranes and maintains cell wall strength and integrity. It also reduces inflammation, which we know allows for skin cancer metastasis and specifically increases our cells' potential for UV-induced DNA damage."
There you have it—from a holistic to a dermatological perspective, turmeric deserves all the hype it gets. My only reminder is turmeric can and will stain anything in its way. Use any product with turmeric while in the shower, dry your face with a paper towel, and avoid clean bed sheets or towels at all costs. Yes, I have made that mistake.
How Turmeric Benefits Skin Health
1. Keeps Skin Clear of Breakouts
The antifungal qualities of turmeric manage microorganism growth on the skin, meaning it prevents acne-causing bacteria and other infections from spreading, keeping your face clear from acne breakouts. This polish keeps my skin clear—even my hormonal and mask acne doesn't stand a chance. I'll use this scrub as a physical exfoliant a few times a week in the shower and leave it on a few extra minutes, resulting in glowing skin as I towel off.
2. Exfoliates and Brightens Dull Skin
At least once a week, I treat myself to a massage with this Linné face mask. This antimicrobial scrub is incredibly brightening and instantly livens up dull skin that needs some love after months in the winter chill and indoor heating. It exfoliates dead skin cells to reveal smooth and radiant skin. The addition of lemon and orange extracts is refreshing and tingling, as it encourages cellular turnover to keep skin glowing for days afterward.
This mask contains red kaolin clay to exfoliate and tone, while turmeric gives that brightening effect.
3. Fades Acne Scars to Reduce Hyperpigmentation
Turmeric is known for treating discoloration of skin and blemishes, and it can even reduce unwanted hair growth. I have seen my own acne scarring improve when I use this product weekly. The three-in-one facial treatment starts off as a powder and turns into a warming treatment, exfoliant, and mask when activated with water. In addition to the turmeric, which brightens the appearance of skin and reduces the look of puffiness, kaolin clay and zeolite purify and draw out impurities, fading acne scars of my past.
4. Brightens Dark Under-Eye Circles
This lightweight cream absorbs quickly, working to realign collagen fibers, increase blood circulation, and decrease fluid retention. It's formulated from Japanese white turmeric root extract that grows in the Kyushu region of Japan and leaves your skin with a healthy bounce and a lit-from-within luminosity.
Another great option is this Sweet Chef eye cream, which is every bit of a treat in my nightly routine. The soothing, lightweight moisturizer is formulated with antioxidant-rich turmeric extract to help brighten, nourish, and smooth skin.
5. Aids in Collagen Production to Heal Wounds
The Repair Face Oil from Linné can be used as an allover treatment, resulting in quicker healing time for wounds. It's actually the curcumin found in turmeric that can help heal wounds by decreasing inflammation and oxidation and encouraging collagen production and cellular regeneration. Long term, it is also beneficial to help reduce the appearance of wrinkles and scars and protect against environmental stress.
6. Detoxifies Pores to Refine Skin Texture
One of my favorite products from clean line Kora Organics is this invigorating treatment mask. Any dead skin cell buildup gets a gentle exfoliation from papaya enzymes and rose-hip seeds. Plus, aspen bark, a natural source of BHA, helps clear clogged pores. The turmeric brightens and evens my complexion, leaving skin my glowing and so smooth I no longer worry about missing my facials.
7. Brings Out Your Natural Glow
Since I haven't seen the sun in a while, this mask is my not-so-secret instant glow in a bottle. While in the shower, I layer on a tiny bit of the mask—which is infused with antioxidant-rich turmeric and exfoliating azelaic acid—and by the time I'm ready for the conditioner, my face is glowing. Just be careful to not overdo it, as it's a strong one! So powerful, in fact, that on my first day using it, while on FaceTime with a friend, she repeatedly asked me why I looked so fresh and glowy!
This face mist provides an extra boost of hydration throughout the day in an instant. It also can be used over the above mask as a refresher, or you can spray it after a workout until you get to take your well-earned shower.
8. Soothes Eczema, Psoriasis, and Rosacea
Turmeric can be used as a treatment for a variety of skin issues, as it can slow skin cell growth and reduce scales on the skin. In this case, a supplement can be a great option, as it has a higher absorption rate. This nutraceutical supplement contains Hydrocurc, which is made from the world's most bioavailable form of curcumin. It's a big splurge, but it might be worth it for some people with certain skin types or conditions. "We have had incredible feedback from customers who have suffered from inflammatory skin conditions, including psoriasis and rosacea, which can be a massive relief to those suffering from the often-debilitating symptoms," says Lyma founder Lucy Goff.
After a workout, there is nothing like a great soak, especially one with the skin-softening benefits of apple cider vinegar, turmeric, and frankincense that soothe any kind of aches. The only concern? Deciding when it's finally time to get out of the bath.
9. Prevents Wrinkles as a Powerful Antioxidant
I rely on this PH+ Enzyme Essence from Kat Burki to balance my skin's pH level for overall skin health. It also reduces inflammatory stress and protects against UV damage and skin aging. The serum works to reduce fine lines, discoloration, and free radical damage for both immediate and long-term antioxidant effects. After cleansing and toning, I apply a dime-size portion to my fingertips and pat it on to my skin right before nighttime.
"Turmeric reduces Pitta dosha, or the element of fire in the body. It clears what is referred to as heat and what we may call inflammation," Kankinza explains. One of my favorite holistic and handcrafted brands, UMA, is rooted in Ayurveda, and its products are made with rare, precious botanicals grown in India. The gentle yet potent clarifying mask is nourishing and replenishing. Turmeric, clove, and neem essences calm redness and keep my skin clear, balanced, and the healthiest it's ever been.