Turmeric is a popular ancient spice that is used as a flavoring and coloring agent in food items and as a medicinal herb for treating several disorders
Turmeric has been used in Asian cuisine and medicine for centuries to treat various conditions.
Recent studies have focused on the benefits turmeric offers to fight infections, reduce inflammation, and treat some cancers, digestive, liver problems and such.
Since it possesses anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties, turmeric has also been used for thousands of years to treat various skin diseases and heal wounds.
Turmeric is available as an ingredient in ointments, capsules, tinctures and fluid extracts.
There are many ways that turmeric can be used as home remedies to treat various skin conditions.
The purpose of this post is to provide information on how turmeric can be used for skin.
Table of Contents
- Turmeric Benefits for the Skin
- 1. Helps in healing of cuts/wounds etc.
- 2. Skin Cancer
- 3. Helps in Psoriasis
- 4. Helps in Treating Eczema
- 5. Helps in Acne
- 6. Other skin issues (dry skin, inflammation, redness, etc.)
- 7. It protects against sun damage
- 8. It has an anti-aging effect
- 9. It is effective against chronic skin diseases like scleroderma
- 10. It has skin regenerative abilities
- 11. It resolves skin inflammation
- 12. It boosts antioxidant defenses
- 13. It is a natural anti-microbial agent
- 14. It serves as a natural therapy in dermatitis
- 15. It aids in melasma treatment
- Ways to use turmeric for the skin
- Precautions while using turmeric for skin
Turmeric Benefits for the Skin
Skin is the largest organ of the body and is the first line of defense for our internal systems.
It protects the internal body from water loss or dehydration, heat, allergens, microbes and all the other environmental and chemical compounds that can harm us.
It harbors beneficial microorganisms and helps your body stay healthy. It also makes vitamin D when exposed to the sun.
It is the major player in the regulation of body temperature and helps us feel things like heat, pain, cold, etc.
Skin is one of the most important parts of our body and one of the most plagued ones too. It encounters all sorts of stressors to protect the inside of our body. Its health not just ensures the protection of the body but also the status of our appearance.
Many things such as dust, sun, harmful microbes, fungi, genetic and immune problems, etc. can cause disorders of the skin. The irritants can cause clogging in the skin pores or activate the immune system that may lead to swelling, inflammation and many other problems as well.
Disorders such as hives, acne, rashes, eczema, psoriasis, corn, dandruff, cellulite, dermatitis and much more are commonly found around the world and their prevalence is based usually on the external environmental conditions and genetics of a particular area.
1. Helps in healing of cuts/wounds etc.
Topical turmeric ointments, lotions, creams, and masks can help reduce localized inflammation
caused by acne, psoriasis, eczema, and burns.
It has anti-bacterial properties that help treat wounds and hasten to heal, therefore preventing the spread of infection.
Turmeric and aloe vera combine to make a soothing paste for sunburned skin. It can also help with the bruise of the skin.
Read more a detailed article on turmeric for wounds here>
2. Skin Cancer
Skin cancer is one of the most common types of cancers.
Several factors such as UV rays, chemicals, and genetics affect the occurrence of this disorder that starts in the top epidermal layer of the skin and spreads in the underlying layer.
Cancer of the skin not just affects the inner skin makeup but also deteriorates the appearance. The skin is affected by lesions and inflammation.
Turmeric has been shown to provide relief not just on the outside of the skin in the affected area but also helps reduce the tumor on the inside.
Turmeric has powerful antioxidant activities which help reduce the growth of tumor cells of the skin.
When applied outside on the skin, turmeric reduces inflammation and pain in the affected cancerous area.
All these properties of turmeric combined and used together in the form of ointments, masks, and edible food agents help in relieving skin cancer effectively.
What it means: turmeric, through its antioxidant, anti inflammatory and pain relieving properties, helps in reducing tumor growth and lesions, swelling and other symptoms induced by this disorder , .
3. Helps in Psoriasis
Psoriasis is a common inflammatory skin disorder in which the immune system dysfunctions and causes skin lesions with white colored patches.
It occurs majorly on the elbows, knees, scalp, back of the ears and neck but can occur in any area of the body.
In this disease, the immune system causes the inner skin cells to rise up to the surface of the skin very fast. A chronic version of this disorder is called arthritic psoriasis in which not just the skin but the joints are also affected.
Controlling these cells helps reduce their attack on the skin.
Those with psoriasis can ensure they add turmeric in their daily cooking.
This can be in tea, milk, curries, stews, roast vegetables, eggs or as a general seasoning.
As a nighttime soothing treatment for psoriasis, mix turmeric powder with purified water and apply to inflamed areas. Leave this for a few minutes and wash off. It is important that turmeric should be of the best quality for this to work.
What it means: curcumin in turmeric, when consumed orally, is very effective in managing the immune system and reducing the symptoms of psoriasis.
Applying turmeric on the lesions of psoriasis helps alleviate the pain, inflammation and other problems in the affected area.
4. Helps in Treating Eczema
Eczema is a term, collectively used for a number of conditions that cause swelling, bruises, itching, redness and inflammation in the skin.
Also, called dermatitis, eczema is usually caused by irritants, stress, allergens, genetic makeup or other diseases. It is not contagious and is common in children.
The most common type of eczema is atopic eczema that causes dry and itchy skin leading to cuts and breaks.
Though turmeric has been shown to alleviate many types of eczema, most research and scientific evidence is available for atopic dermatitis and other common variants of this disease.
Turmeric has been shown to reduce the skin irritation, rashes, itching, swelling, inflammation, and redness associated with most types of eczema.
It has the power to restore the hydration in the skin affected by atopic eczema and prevent the drying and scaling of the same.
Read a detailed article in turmeric benefits for eczema here>
What it means: turmeric, through its soothing and healing effects, reduces the inflammation, itching and other symptoms of eczema and helps restore the original skin texture , .
5. Helps in Acne
Acne is one of the most common skin conditions that affect millions of people worldwide.
Inflammatory acne can ruin one’s appearance and can affect work and social life. Home remedies using turmeric can benefit acne.
There are pastes and masks using turmeric, which when applied to acne affected areas can provide relief.
Turmeric has the potential to kill the P.acnes bacteria that cause acne and reduce the amount of oil produced by the sebaceous glands.
Specifically, turmeric mixed with glycerin or vitamin E and applied overnight on the acne has shown to dramatically reduce the size of the same.
When combined with eggs, yogurt, honey and several other proven agents that are healthy for skin, and applied regularly, it prevents the appearance of acne and also improves the texture of the skin.
The scientific reason shown behind acne reducing the action of turmeric is its antioxidant property. It reduces the amount of sebum secretion, controls the microbial growth on the skin, cleans up the pores and combats the reactive oxygen species that harm the skin.
Read a detailed article on turmeric for acne here>
What it means: turmeric has been scientifically proven to control oil and microbial growth on the skin. It also shows antioxidant activity that helps reduce acne and prevent their future occurrence.
Using turmeric in masks, while washing face and in diet helps overcome the problem of acne .
6. Other skin issues (dry skin, inflammation, redness, etc.)
Dry skin is caused due to excessive usage of medicated soaps and cosmetics, the sun, and wind. When skin becomes dry, it feels rough and can even develop cracks.
These cracks will begin to itch. Itching can lead to sores and bleeding. Allergic skin reactions can be caused by allergens in plants or chemicals, food or certain medications.
Severe allergies must be referred to your doctor immediately. For mild skin allergies and dry skin, your doctor could recommend turmeric ointment to be applied on the cracked skin.
Turmeric has anti-inflammatory properties that relieve swelling, inflammation, and redness. Wounds heal faster and itchiness reduces with a topical application of turmeric.
Its anti-inflammatory action and soothing effect help hydrate the skin and keep it healthy. Consuming turmeric with food helps cleanse the body internally and prevent skin problems from arising on the surface.
7. It protects against sun damage
Excess exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet radiations, in particular, that of the form UV-B has damaging effects on the skin causing aging, irritation and in severe conditions, skin cancer.
Scientists have shown that curcumin can act as a photoprotective agent.
In a study, it was shown that the use of curcumin on skin reduced sun exposure induces signs of aging such as wrinkles and elasticity.
The mode through which this was carried out was by increasing the volume of blood vessels as seen in an animal model.
Another study showed that curcumin administration aided sun damaged skin by eliminating harmful chemicals known as reactive oxygen species. The compound also successfully regulated moisture levels and sebum secretion.
What does this mean?
By promoting photo protective activity, curcumin can stop sun exposure induced signs of aging and accelerate the moisturizing process.
8. It has an anti-aging effect
Free radicals are harmful chemicals found in our body in an unbound state. These are kept in check by antioxidant compounds.
If the rate of build-up of free radicals exceeds the rate of their elimination, a toxic condition known as oxidative stress takes place. In the presence of oxidative stress, the rate of skin aging and wrinkle appearance accelerates.
Lima CF et al. discovered that curcumin could help moderate cellular stress levels and maintain the youth of the skin.
Through their experiment based on studying the reaction of human cell fibroblasts, cells that form groups of extracellular components and collagen, they saw that curcumin exhibits a ‘hormetic’ effect on human skin.
This means that at low doses it is beneficial but toxic at higher levels. Through this finding, they were able to see a beneficial anti-aging effect on the fibroblasts at low doses carried out by the antioxidant activity of curcumin.
What does this mean?
It can be implied from this study that curcumin could be potentially used as an antioxidant and to eradicate harmful free radicals which are the main cause of aging. It reduces oxidative stress by improving antioxidant activity.
9. It is effective against chronic skin diseases like scleroderma
Curcumin is useful in the treatment of many other skin diseases.
In 2007, the Journal of Advances in experimental and medicinal biology highlighted the main causes of the skin healing powers of the compound.
Curcumin prevents cancers and skin problems like scleroderma and psoriasis primarily due to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.
It eliminates toxic free radicals and also suppresses pro-inflammatory molecules like nuclear factor-KB.
What does this mean?
The antioxidant and anti-inflammatory abilities of curcumin are helpful in the treatment of skin diseases as they eliminate free radicals and inhibit substances which cause flare ups. In the case of wounds due to injuries, it can accelerate healing.
10. It has skin regenerative abilities
Skin regeneration is a complex process that takes place in a multitude of stages.Thangapazham et al. analysed the various pathways through which curcumin usage helps in skin generation through a clinical trial.
Their findings suggested that the compound targeted a multitude of mechanisms. Along with curbing oxidative stress and inflammation it also lowers the impacts of toxins and harmful enzymes in the bloodstream on the skin.
What does this mean?
Curcumin helps in skin regeneration through various antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory activities. It also accelerates the process by inhibiting unnecessary toxins and enzymes.
11. It resolves skin inflammation
Inflammation is one of the chief influences of irritation and swelling at an affected site. It takes place due to the body’s attempts to repair damage caused by a wound or infection.
In 2003, the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine published a study focused on the safety and compatibility of curcumin with the needs of the human body.
The researchers curated multiple in vivo and in vitro studies of the compound to conclude its highly potent anti-inflammatory effects.
The evidence of such abilities was provided through six successful clinical trials and follow up laboratory investigations which showed that curcumin blocked several pro-inflammatory markers like nitric oxide, collagenase, elastase, tumor necrosis factor (TNF), and interleukin-12 (IL-12).
What does this mean?
The use of curcumin provides a potential remedy for inflammation. It lowers swelling and enables deactivation of inflammatory molecules.
12. It boosts antioxidant defenses
Free radicals are harmful chemicals found in our body in an unbound state. These are kept in check by antioxidant compounds. If the rate of build-up of free radicals exceeds the rate of their elimination, a toxic condition known as oxidative stress takes place.
In the presence of oxidative stress, the rate of skin aging gets accelerated.
Studies have indicated that curcumin plays an active role in halting skin damaging processes mediated by oxidative stress.
These primarily include free radical-mediated alteration of membranes of cells through reactions with their lipid components and harm to genetic components such as DNA and proteins.
Coupled with its anti-inflammatory effects, curcumin’s radical scavenging capacity makes it useful for therapy of many skin problems.
What does this mean?
Curcumin could is potentially used as first aid to eradicate harmful free radicals which are released at the site of damage. It reduces oxidative stress by improving antioxidant enzyme activity.
13. It is a natural anti-microbial agent
Microbes and foreign pathogens are responsible for a multitude of skin diseases as they cause infections which lead to irritations and rashes. They may also cause severe acne in certain situations.
Afrose R et al. spent a year (2010-2011) studying the microbe-killing potentials of turmeric extracts, curcumin. This was analyzed through a study directed towards understanding its effects against Staphylococcus aureus and Escherichia coli in particular.
It was seen that incorporation of curcumin into the culture media of the bacteria significantly inhibited their growth.
Therefore, by introducing curcumin as a mode of skin disease treatment, we would eliminate harmful microbes that cause infection and irritation in case of skin disorders.
What does this mean?
The antibacterial abilities of curcumin are helpful in skin disorders as they kill the microbes which are responsible for the infection.
14. It serves as a natural therapy in dermatitis
Dermatitis or eczema are medical terms used to describe a skin condition of inflammation of the skin. It occurs in the form of redness, irritation, and swelling and may sometimes be indicative of an underlying problem.
Several scientific studies highlight the potential of curcumin for the treatment of dermatitis.
Nguyen TA and Friedman AJ highlighted the prophylactic, i.e. disease is preventing the ability of the compound through their 2013 study where they observed how curcumin could protect skin cells from invasion by foreign environmental toxins.
This was followed up by another study wherein turmeric extracts; curcumin was compared with Indian pennywort and walnut concerning anti-eczema effects.
Through biostatistical validation, the ability of curcumin to cure disease signs like redness, itchiness, and swelling were observed and were seen to be markedly reduced.
What does this mean?
By monitoring levels of disease markers, curcumin can decrease inflammation and repair damage caused due to dermatitis.
15. It aids in melasma treatment
Melasma is a skin condition wherein gray and brown patches are formed on the face. It arises due to skin pigmentation issues caused by the compound melanin and is a result of sun damage.
Tu CX along with colleagues studied that curcumin administration could hinder the functioning of melanogenic (pigmentation defect regulating) pathways and therefore protect the skin from sun damage.
The key targeted pathways included cellular tyrosinase, phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K), extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) and p38 MAPK in human melanocytes. Many melanogenic genes were also downregulated by curcumin.
This was followed up by a Journal of Ethnopharmacology experiment where a formulation composed of curcumin, chickpeas, and sandalwood- Ubtan was tested for its skin healing effects and yielded beneficial outcomes.
What does this mean?
The results of these studies indicate that curcumin is a useful agent for curing melasma. It provides the nutrients required for regulating the primary melanogenic pathways thereby aiding the healing process.
Ways to use turmeric for the skin
There are various ways you can use turmeric for skin health.
Here are a few popular ones, if you need any more details on them these are discussed in various other articles on the site.
1. Turmeric Masks
Turmeric masks help to rejuvenate the skin and treat acne, eczema, rosacea, and psoriasis.
It can reduce the incidence of pimples, redness, itchiness, and inflammation, which are the different symptoms that these skin conditions cause.
This is a basic recipe using turmeric, which can benefit your skin:
Add 4 tbsp turmeric powder to 1 tbsp milk and 4 tbsp raw honey to form a smooth paste. Apply this to the clean and dry skin, leave for 20 minutes and wash off.
As an alternative, you can mix turmeric with olive or sesame oil in sufficient quantities to make a paste.
I have written a detailed article on various kinds of masks using turmeric. You can check it out here>
2. Turmeric Tea
Apart from tasting delicious, turmeric tea offers many health benefits especially in reducing instances of Alzheimer’s disease.
Since it has anti-oxidant properties, turmeric tea could also help improve the appearance of your skin.
Check out its detailed recipe here>
3. Turmeric Milk
Turmeric milk provides a natural cure for many ailments.
It is safe to use and delicious to drink.
It can fight free radicals that damage the skin and cause it to lose glow and elasticity. This is due to the anti-oxidant properties that turmeric possesses.
Turmeric combined with milk can also make a soothing lotion to reduce redness of the skin or patches caused by different skin conditions.
Check out turmeric Milk’s recipe here>
Turmeric taken as a spice has no side effects but excessive turmeric can cause some issues. Thus it is best to understand that there are some dosage guidelines for turmeric too. So what are the guidelines?
If you are taking 1.1.5 tsp of turmeric a day you have nothing to worry about. You can do this without any fear of side effects etc.
I do not recommend supplements.
Precautions while using turmeric for skin
Apart from staining of the skin and clothes, turmeric does not produce any side effects when used on the skin. of course, I am talking about a good quality powder.
Some tips to find a genuine turmeric powder>
When taken internally, an excess of turmeric can cause diarrhea or nausea.
Pregnant or breastfeeding women must not ingest turmeric for it can stimulate the uterus.
Others who are due to have surgery must avoid turmeric for it is an anti-coagulant.
Turmeric that was originally used only in Indian kitchens and as an ingredient in Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine is now gaining popularity in the Western world for the many benefits it offers to treat various skin conditions.
Even those who do not have any of the above ailments can benefit from the medicinal properties that this ‘Indian Saffron’ possesses to halt aging, rejuvenate skin and enjoy glowing healthy skin.
And, as I always keep saying, 1) make sure the turmeric powder you purchase is pure and preferably organic, free of pesticides. 2) while applying turmeric on the skin do a patch test.
If you have used turmeric for skin disorders, please share your thoughts using comments or just email me! I would love to hear them.