Yes, turmeric gets absorbed into the skin, which makes it possible for topical use. Topical application of turmeric has been found to be beneficial in the treatment of a number skin conditions. In some cases, the topical method may be better than other routes of administration for a more localised, early and effective treatment.
Though turmeric and its active constituent curcumin are absorbed by the skin, there are several limitations including the low solubility, stability and availability of these particles.
Recent findings have led to the development of various carrier molecules and delivery systems including emulsions and nanoformulations to increase turmeric’s skin permeability.
Read: Amazing Benefits of Turmeric to Skin
Topical Usage of Turmeric – Does it Work & Help?
Let us answer some fundamental questions regarding these effects with scientific evidence.
Is turmeric absorbed through the skin?
Dermal (skin) absorption is one of the routes of administration for medications. This enables the transport of chemicals from the outer skin surface, into the inner skin cells and blood circulation.
Absorption of turmeric or curcumin by the skin depends on several factors:
- Concentration of turmeric/curcumin
- Duration of contact
- Solubility of the compound in water/lipids
- Surface area for topical application
- Molecular weight of the compound
- Thickness of the skin
This means that for turmeric to be able to get absorbed by the skin, it should be applied in higher concentrations over adequate skin surface and for a proper time interval.
However, it also requires turmeric be to have an optimum molecular weight and solubility.
According to scientists, in order to get absorbed by the skin, a compound’s molecular weight must be under 500 Dalton.
Curcumin, the main turmeric ingredient responsible for its health effects, has a molecular weight of 368.385 Dalton. This means that the molecule of curcumin is small enough to get absorbed by the skin.
How should turmeric be applied for maximum benefit?
Turmeric itself has low water solubility. Lipids and lipid-soluble molecules are readily absorbed by the skin.
Thus, for topical use, turmeric is often combined with a base for proper application on the surface.
Turmeric, being readily soluble in lipids is formulated in creams, phospholipids and oils.
For daily use at home, we recommend mixing turmeric powder with olive or coconut oil for topical application.
In which problems can topical application of turmeric help?
The ability of turmeric to get absorbed by the skin has made it possible to be used for topical application in treating various health conditions.
Turmeric has anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, analgesic, anti-microbial and anti-cancer effects.
Numerous studies have used topical turmeric/curcumin for treating:
- inflammation ,
- oral lichen planus,
- skin damage due to UV-rays,
- wound healing and many more..
Why is topical application better than oral in some cases?
In some cases, particularly in skin-related disorders, topical turmeric may be more beneficial than oral intake.
Oral intake requires turmeric to be digested, absorbed, utilised and sent to the affected tissues.
However, the topical application provides a more localised, easy and fast approach to the treatment of health conditions.
Turmeric is directly delivered to the affected tissue, where it comes in contact with body cells and mediates its healing process.
It may also help in restoring the normal antioxidant capacity of the skin to protect it from damage by oxidative stress, pollutants and other toxic chemicals.
How to increase skin absorption of turmeric?
There are some concerns regarding the topical use of turmeric which include its low solubility, availability and stability.
Scientists are finding novel methods to overcome these obstacles. The most common approach is to use turmeric or curcumin with compounds in which it dissolves readily to increase skin permeability.
This includes the development of elastic vesicles, liposomes, ethosomes, lipid-based carriers, hydrogels , niosomes , nanoliposomes , nanocrystals , nanocapsules , nanoemulsions , microemulsions and aqueous dispersions , which are loaded with turmeric or curcumin.
Compounds like terpenes, flavonoids, cholestenol, cyclodextrins, borneol and peppermint oil can also serve as bioenhancers to increase penetration of turmeric in the skin.
However, a more DIY approach is to combine it with healthy fats and oils like olive oil, coconut oil, ghee (clarified butter) or essential oils to increase its skin absorption.
Topical usage of Turmeric – Turmeric Masks
One of the best ways to use turmeric topically, especially on the face is through turmeric masks.
There are several types of turmeric masks which can be made based on the requirement and skin type. You can get a good list of the same here – Turmeric Masks for Great Skin
You can use any good brand of turmeric powder to apply topically. If you are confused about the brands, here is a quick list of recommended ones – Recommended Turmeric Brands
Turmeric Stains – How to Get Rid of them
One key issue while using turmeric topically is the stubborn yellow stains it can leave on your skin and clothes. The stains can indeed take some time to go.
So, applying turmeric masks just before you want to go out may not be a great idea.
If your clothes get stained, here are some quick tips to remove them – How to remove turmeric stains
Sharing is caring! Have you used turmeric topically? If yes, for what and how did you use it? do share your experience with us!
11 thoughts on “Is Turmeric Really Absorbed Through the Skin? How to Use it?”
Tumeric worked wonders for arthritis and for general pain but my stomach won’t tolerate it now. Can an otc patch help me? I hope so because it is a significant pain killer
Hi. If turmeric does not suit your stomach, please consider reducing the dosage or discontinue it’s use altogether. Please consult your health practitioner before taking any supplements.
can I APPLY TURMERIC PASTE ON THE LOWER ABDOMEN TO TREAT ENDOMETRIOSIS OR FIBROIDS?
Topical application of turmeric is unlikely to help in treatment of endometriosis or fibroids. Oral consumption of turmeric may be beneficial. You can check our article on the same:
One way to increase skin absorption of turmeric would be DMSO, I would think. Also, instead of the powder, could one use the extract on the skin?
The extract has a peppery taste … interesting in coffee.
Will using turmeric on the skin away from the gallbladder still cause gallbladder problems if you have gallstones
Hi Marianne. No, topical use of turmeric should not cause any gallbladder related issues.
I used turmeric + ginger mixed in oil of coco and/or in oliv oil, for about 4 weeks for squamos cell carcinoma, taking orally also 3 x 400 mg of curcumin simultaneously. After 1 month there was not any noticable positiv effect. Indeed the carcinoma appeared even worth than before.
Hi. We are so sorry to hear that the carcinoma did not respond to turmeric. Did the curcumin supplement contain bioperine for better absorption? We have outlined a dosage plan for cancer and related conditions and yes in that we have noted that there is a possibility that after taking curcumin for the recommended period, if there is no response then curcumin is less likely to help.
DMSO would have worked.