Turmeric: for something typically associated with aromatic curries, frothy golden lattes, and nutrient-packed smoothies, this sunset-yellow spice is surprisingly good for the skin when applied topically. At this point, you may (understandably) have questions. Lots of them. What does Turmeric do for the skin, exactly? And … wouldn’t applying Turmeric to the skin temporarily stain in with a yellow tint?
Ahead, get a better understanding of why this golden spice deserves its esteemed place in skincare circles – and, perhaps more importantly, how to build it into your regimen.
What is Turmeric?
Technically speaking, “turmeric” refers to a specific type of flowering in the ginger family (Curcuma zedoaria) that’s grown in South and Southeast Asia, primarily India. Still, when most people speak of turmeric now, it’s in reference to the herb extracted from the plant’s rhizome (i.e., root). So that’s what we’ll go with, too.
Turmeric has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years to treat a variety of ailments – including rheumatism, osteoarthritis, and, more relevantly, skin conditions like eczema (1). But, admittedly, you may harbor reservations about alternative medicine.
In the case of Turmeric, though, research now proves that Turmeric’s purported health and beauty benefits aren’t just “woo-woo”. But, instead, rooted (couldn’t resist the pun!) in solid science. More specifically, the bioactive ingredient found in turmeric, curcumin, is shown to exert potent anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and antioxidant effects (2).
Explore how these properties could prove beneficial for your complexion below.
Benefits of Turmeric for Skin
#1: Fights oxidative damage
The antioxidant quality of Turmeric gives it the ability to neutralize free radicals (3). Why is this such a good thing? Left unchecked, the accumulation of free radicals (no thanks to environmental stressors like sun rays, pollution, and blue light exposure) can harm healthy cells in the body.
This includes fibroblasts. Just so you know: fibroblasts are skin cells that synthesize collagen – the main structural protein in the body responsible for giving skin its suppleness, plumpness, and elasticity. In short: Turmeric in, premature skin aging out. But how would that translate to what you see in the mirror?
According to the researchers, the topical application of Turmeric extract to human skin (in the form of a cream moisturizer) proved effective at reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles (4).
Turmeric could also be beneficial in quashing hyperpigmentation induced by oxidative damage. A 2018 study found that a turmeric-based cream reduced hyperpigmentation by more than 14% over 4 weeks (5). Curcumin-infused gel has also been reported to improve the appearance of pigmentary changes due to photodamaged skin conditions (caused by sun exposure) (6).
Bottom line? Using turmeric-infused face products could help you achieve firmer, more youthful-looking, and radiant skin over the long term.
#2: Lowers inflammation and calms redness
Inflammation is at the root of many skin woes, including eczema and psoriasis. Eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis, refers to a skin condition marked by itchy and inflamed patches of skin. On the other hand, psoriasis is a chronic autoimmune condition that causes the rapid buildup of skin cells, manifesting as red, flaky, crusty patches of skin. Both are unpleasant conditions to deal with.
That’s where Turmeric comes in to save the day; research shows that it inhibits the production of pro-inflammatory genes – literally nipping the inflammatory response pathway in the bud (7, 8). Still unconvinced? Here are a few studies illustrating Turmeric’s effectiveness at alleviating the symptoms of various chronic skin conditions.
First, a 2015 study published in the Iranian Journal of Pharmaceutical Research: individuals with psoriasis who applied a turmeric-infused gel noticed a significant improvement in symptoms, including redness, thickness, and scaling of lesions, compared to participants administered with placebo treatment (9). This is in line with the findings of another study done back in 2000 (10).
Now that we've got psoriasis out of the way let's move on to Turmeric's benefits for skin eczema. And for that, we can look at this 2009 study published in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine (11). When applied daily, the researchers found that an herbal extract cream containing curcumin (aka turmeric's bioactive ingredient) helped alleviate many eczema symptoms – including scaling, thickening, and itching.
There’s even preliminary evidence that Turmeric may help reduce the inflammation of acne when used topically (12).
#3: Banishes acne-causing bacteria
Speaking of acne … more impressively still, it appears that Turmeric isn't simply beneficial for acne-prone skin because of its anti-inflammatory properties.
As it turns out, some research suggests that Turmeric may be capable of “killing” acne-causing bacteria as well. For instance, this 2013 in-vitro study found that curcumin, the key ingredient of Turmeric, not only kills propionibacteria acnes (an acne-causing bacteria) but does so even better than leading acne drugs (13). Meaning? In addition to soothing existing blemishes, Turmeric could also prevent the formation of new ones on the skin.
Worried about acne scarring? Turmeric’s still “The Skincare Ingredient” to reach for. Thanks to its ability to reduce hyperpigmentation, the long-term application of Turmeric may also help fade blemish marks.
Side Effects of Turmeric
Due to its curcumin content, Turmeric can cause a type of allergic reaction called contact dermatitis (14). Certain individuals may develop redness, itching, and blisters after applying Turmeric directly to the skin. Although contact dermatitis can be pretty uncomfortable, it isn't contagious nor life-threatening.
Still, if you’re adding a new Turmeric-containing skincare product into your routine, you should test for allergy by putting a dime size area of it (no matter if it’s a lotion, gel, or serum) on your forearm. If you have no reaction in 24 hours, it’s unlikely you’ll have an allergic reaction.
It’s also important to note that applying Turmeric directly (i.e., in its natural, bright yellow spice form) can temporarily stain your skin. And, in fact, everything it comes into contact with – including your clothes, countertops, and towels. Obviously, though, you can circumvent this issue by simply opting for products formulated with Turmeric extracts.
How to Use Turmeric for Skin
You can find Turmeric in many types of skincare products: from cleansers to toners to moisturizers. And best of all, it's known to play well with other skincare ingredients – including antioxidants like Vitamin C, Vitamin E, and CoQ10. It also works great when paired with nourishing, hydrating actives like Collagen, Hyaluronic Acid, and Ceramides.
Oh, and if you have oily, blemish-prone skin, combining the sebum-regulating powers of Niacinamide with Turmeric’s anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties is worth considering.
Feeling overwhelmed about the prospect of adding Turmeric into your skincare regimen? We'll show you how easy it can be with Terrakai's products (note: all products below contain Turmeric):
- Cleanser: Remove your makeup and wash your face with a non-stripping cleanser like our turmeric infused Snowflower + Niacinamide Gel Cleanser.
- Toner: Spritz on your toner of choice after cleansing. For a refreshing, calming boost, give our Rebalancing Snowflower + Niacinamide Toning Mist a go. The combination of turmeric and niacinamide makes it a fantastic choice for oil skin.
- Serum: Massage a few drops of serum (e.g., our Balance Snowflower + Turmeric Serum) into your face.
- Eye cream: Apply your eye cream before you slather on your choice of creams and oils. Looking for an eye cream that’ll truly hydrate and brighten the under-eye area? Our Age Defying Lemon Aspen Botanical Eye Cream fits the bill.
- Moisturizer: If you’re looking for a moisturizer that contains Turmeric, you could use Daily Balancing Act Snowflower + Witch Hazel Moisturizer during the daytime, then pamper your skin with our Lipid-Balance Snowflower + Niacinamide Night Cream as you catch your beauty sleep.
- Sunscreen: Sunscreen acts as the shield against the outside world (so you don’t end up applying all those products on your face for nothing).
Turmeric for Skin FAQ’s
What does Turmeric do for the skin?
Turmeric protects the skin from free radical damage – fading hyperpigmentation and smoothing fine lines and wrinkles. It also exerts potent anti-inflammatory properties that could help alleviate the symptoms of skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis. Finally, Turmeric could prove beneficial to blemish-prone skin by killing acne-causing bacteria and lightening acne scars.
Does Turmeric lighten skin?
Technically speaking, Turmeric doesn’t lighten the skin. What it can do, however, is fade hyperpigmentation (caused by environmental stressors or acne) – which can lead to a brighter-looking complexion over time.
Is Turmeric vegan?
Turmeric comes from the roots of the turmeric plant. As such, it is vegan. And in case you were wondering: Terrakai is a vegan beauty company; that means we only use vegan ingredients in our products. Across all ranges.
What skin type is Turmeric good for?
Turmeric is especially beneficial for acne-prone skin.
Can I apply Turmeric on my face everyday?
It’s generally safe for you to apply Turmeric on your face every day – unless you show signs of sensitivity.
Can Turmeric be combined with other ingredients?
Yes, it’s safe to use Turmeric for skin with other ingredients (i.e., no known interactions). In fact, it’s known to work great with a whole host of other skincare actives.