Turmeric is a common spice used in all types of food all over the world. But its usefulness extends far beyond just flavor enhancement. It is also widely used for medicinal purposes. Since at least the 5th century B.C., Chinese, Ayurvedic, and Unani medicine have used turmeric to treat hepatic (liver) disorders, flesh wounds, skin diseases, inflammation, and numerous other health issues. Using turmeric for the skin is nothing new.
Over these thousands of years, turmeric’s natural skin-healing properties became widely known. Today, we recognize that turmeric’s anti-aging, anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, and antiseptic properties are scientifically supported in treating issues involving the skin.
In addition to its long history of success in the world of natural medicine, modern science also supports the healing claims attributed to this common and inexpensive spice.
Research now shows that turmeric and/or curcumin can provide benefits similar to those provided by at least 14 pharmaceutical drugs. In this article, we explore the many benefits and very limited risks of using turmeric to treat various conditions affecting the skin.
Some of Turmeric’s well-known healing properties which are especially applicable toward skincare include:
Using Turmeric for Skin Disease Care
You may be surprised to know the number of benefits that turmeric can provide for your skin. It is powerful enough to keep grievous conditions like eczema and psoriasis at bay while being gentle and natural enough to use regularly without stripping away natural nutrients and beneficial oils.
Your skin is constantly exposed to harmful and potentially toxic molecules and microbes just by existing in the ambient atmosphere. Not to mention the damage caused by overexposure to the sun and hormonal changes over time.
Increasing evidence shows that curcumin, turmeric’s most important polyphenol, can be effective in treating a number of dermatological diseases. Research has indicated that using turmeric on the skin showed significant improvements in skin diseases like vitiligo, radiodermatitis, pruritus, oral lichen planus, facial photoaging, atopic dermatitis, alopecia, and acne.
This study proposes that curcumin is the primary source of these beneficial properties. It indicates that both topical and oral usage of turmeric can prevent certain skin diseases from progressing or worsening. This is why turmeric is an important ingredient in many dermatological medicines.
Turmeric for Acne
Have those pesky pimples made another comeback? Sometimes it seems that no matter how much you try to fight acne breakouts nothing seems to work. This is because acne is usually triggered by internal reactions in the body, namely an unhealthy diet, fluctuating hormones, and overly oily skin. Bacterial growth on the skin can also cause acne. Turmeric’s antiseptic and anti-microbial properties will fight against bacteria residing on your skin. It also impedes the sebaceous glands from secreting too much sebum. Turmeric’s anti-inflammatory properties suppress the redness often associated with acne breakouts. Try using a turmeric skin mask as discussed in the section below.
Turmeric for Eczema
Eczema, clinically known as atopic dermatitis, is a chronic auto-immune condition that usually develops in childhood and can persist into adulthood. Symptoms include inflammation, redness, itching, scales, and crusts on the skin.
Eczema starts with dry, itchy skin that begins to crack and bleed. The skin needs hydration but that, too, causes a burning sensation in the affected areas. Most prescribed medicines fail to fully heal this skin condition.
The aforementioned study indicates that turmeric’s anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties are effective in addressing eczema. This is due to turmeric’s effectiveness in addressing the root cause of almost all autoimmune conditions, which is inflammation.
Turmeric treats the irritated skin with its many natural compounds. It helps to moisturize and hydrate the skin to reduce dryness. Turmeric’s anti-inflammatory properties are helpful in calming tingling sensations and speeding up the healing process of scratches and deeper wounds. And it accelerates the overall recovery process by aiding in skin regeneration.
Turmeric for Psoriasis
A recent survey shows that approximately 7.5 million Americans suffer from psoriasis. Reddish scaly looking skin, white patches, and constant itching are a few signs of this skin disorder. Lesions usually appear on the neck, scalp, and joints.
The National Psoriasis Foundation recommends using dietary turmeric and curcumin supplementation to address and control psoriasis. The anti-inflammatory nature of turmeric is scientifically proven to be effective in addressing this autoimmune condition. Turmeric’s polyphenol agents effectively reduce oxidative stress produced by the disease. This substantially hinders the growth of lesions and patches on your skin.
Another study indicated the effectiveness of turmeric as a natural treatment for this skin condition. It was found to decrease the scaling and reddening of skin without any adverse effects.
Turmeric for Skin Cancer Prevention
Overexposure to the sun’s UV-rays is known to be a significant causal factor of skin cancer. Ultra-Violet radiation is absorbed at the cellular level and can damage DNA, facilitating the production of cancerous cells that destroy the outer layers of your skin. Once this process begins, sores and dark patches on the affected areas may develop.
Research has shown that turmeric can decrease tumor cell growth on the skin by regulating specific growth factors within tumors cells. Turmeric’s anti-oxidizing properties have proven to be beneficial in inhibiting the growth and mutation of cancerous cells. Pain and inflammation can be reduced by applying turmeric to sun-damaged areas of the skin.
Turmeric for Anti-Aging of the Skin
It is an undeniable fact that as we age our skin shows the signs, including wrinkles, reduced elasticity, and unusual pigmentation. Instead of wasting time and money on over-the-counter and prescription skincare formulations, we recommend that you give turmeric a try.
A study conducted tests on hairless mice to determine the effects of turmeric on skin damage including the wrinkling, pigmentation, elasticity, and thickness caused by ultraviolet B irradiation. The results showed that turmeric had a significant positive effect on UVB exposure issues such as skin elasticity, thickness, and wrinkling.
Another study found that curcumin in turmeric can assist in the prevention of telomere shortening which plays a key role in the aging process. Telomeres can be likened to the plastic end caps of shoelaces, capping the ends of our genes. Every time a cell splits these telomere end caps are slightly shortened, gradually reducing over time. Scientists believe this shortening of the telomeres is associated with the aging process. The study explained that the shorter the telomere becomes, the less resiliency our genes are capable of expressing, thereby resulting in the aging of all cells including the skin cells.
In a nutshell, using turmeric on the skin is beneficial as a preventive measure to slow down the aging process. It restores damaged skin by assisting in the healing of scars and reviving the natural vitality of your skin. This natural medicine helps your skin to recover from a wide variety of skin-stressors we encounter every day in the modern world.
Turmeric for Skin Regeneration and Wound Care
The active antioxidant compounds present in turmeric fight off harmful free radicals that can attack and erode your skin cells. Turmeric’s anti-bacterial properties are effective in treating wounds and aiding in the healing process. When you apply turmeric cream or paste on your skin, it accelerates cell turnover and thereby the natural regeneration cycle.
A study found that curcumin in turmeric helps in treating the wounded and scarred skin of adults. It stated that wound healing is a complex process that includes skin contraction, matrix synthesis, cell migration, and endothelial, fibroblastic, and epidermal cell proliferation which often leads to induration and formation of scar tissue. Curcumin ointments were noted as being effective in addressing skin regeneration after surgical procedures.
Another study noted that the wound healing process includes tissue remodeling, cell proliferation, inflammation, and clotting. Turmeric and curcumin were found to have a major influence in all these healing stages and therefore decreased healing time.
Turmeric for Skin Cosmetology
Turmeric has been called the world’s first cosmetic, used by women for centuries to lighten and smooth the skin. More recently, turmeric has shown positive results under controlled testing conditions for enhancing complexion, reducing acne, and decreasing facial hair.
Curcumin in turmeric prevents the rancidification of lipids. This makes it a valuable ancillary ingredient in skin moisturizers.
Curcumin gel has reportedly redressed skin conditions such as photodamage, actinic keratosis, solar elastosis, and more when applied regularly for more than six months.
Turmeric for Skin Masks
The therapeutic properties of turmeric skin masks have long been known and used in the East. Over the centuries, knowledge of these benefits has worked its way Westward. As a natural alternative to over-the-counter masks and moisturizers, turmeric skin masks have recently gained enormous popularity, mostly with women, worldwide. In addition to turmeric’s innate properties of anti-aging, anti-inflammation, and anti-oxidation, it boasts the additional benefit of being naturally free of harmful chemicals.
We will be publishing a follow-up article on various turmeric mask recipes in the near future. For those who cannot wait, a simple and effective method involves mixing any combination of the following ingredients:
- lemon juice
- almond flour
- aloe vera
- turmeric powder
Add water if the mix is too thick, apply as a mask, and allow to dry. Leave it on as long as you prefer, but no more than a few hours, then wash with water or milk – no soap. This simple mask will provide exfoliation, cleansing of the pores, and revelation of your skin’s natural healthy glow.
Adverse Effects of Turmeric on the Skin
As a natural plant substance, turmeric is perfectly safe for almost any use imaginable. Like most Ayurvedic remedies, turmeric rarely causes severe side effects or poses any threat due to frequent usage. However, like any treatment, over-dosage can sometimes result in adverse reactions. These might include dyspepsia, diarrhea, and occasional nausea.
Pregnant women and those who breastfeed should avoid using turmeric for medicinal purposes due to its tendency to prompt untimely menstrual cycles. You might also seek a doctor’s advice if you’re afraid that turmeric might interfere with your other prescriptions.
It is recommended that you take some precautions when applying turmeric on your skin for the first time because there is a small risk of an allergic reaction. Here are some tips:
- Always use organic turmeric
- For internal dosing, perform a trial run with a very small dose
- For external use, do a test patch before the entire affected area
Aside from this, the usage of turmeric on the skin can sometimes leave a light yellow tint. This will easily wash or wear away within a day. You might want to take care to avoid stains on your clothes. Moreover, it is always best to consult a physician or an Ayurvedic expert if you still have questions regarding the usage of turmeric on the skin.
Summary – Turmeric for the Skin
Question: Can the application of turmeric to the skin actually help treat and prevent many common skin conditions and diseases?
Answer: Yes, turmeric is one of the best natural skin remedies in existence. It is safe, inexpensive and effective.
Turmeric is loaded with phytocompounds and nutrients that are beneficial for many aspects of your health, not just the skin. For a wide-ranging summary of turmeric’s many health benefits, please see our report on the Evidenced Based Health Benefits of Turmeric Curcumin.
Once you weigh the risks and benefits of turmeric on the skin, you will realize the benefits are great and risks are minuscule. Turmeric’s bioactive components are beneficial in healing scars, wounds, disorders, and diseases of the skin. It will leave your skin feeling healthy and rejuvenated.
In summary, turmeric provides numerous benefits as a beauty product, as a spice for cooking, and for many natural healing purposes. If you would like to explore some of the products we have reviewed and recommend, please see our pages on turmeric curcumin supplements, turmeric powders for cooking, and turmeric liquid extracts for links to products and reviews.