How to Use Turmeric, the Beauty World's Most Powerful Natural Ingredient
There was a time when I used to DIY the bulk of my beauty routine. From hair masks to shampoo to moisturizer, I was perpetually amazed to see my skin and hair transform with ingredients I had dug from the depths of my pantry. I fancied myself a bit of a geek in this respect; I remember googling the science behind omega-3s and the chemistry of jojoba, almond, and coconut oils—all the better to see which would absorb more easily into my skin. It was largely through this hobby that I came to understand the immense power of plant ingredients—something that has shaped my routine and lifestyle to this day.
While I still dabble a little in DIY, nowadays I stick with plant-based products I know and love—owing in part to the fact that I no longer have hours to kill between college classes, but mainly because there are so many brands crafting far more incredible all-natural formulas than I, the scrappy amateur, ever could. Even in the last two or three years, the market has become drastically different: Green beauty is a much larger piece of the pie, and even the brands that aren’t exclusively natural are tuning into this trend and harnessing the far-reaching, science-backed benefits of nature-born ingredients. And right now, few plants are experiencing more crossover and praise than turmeric.
Keep reading to see how this incredibly powerful and versatile spice can transform your beauty routine.
“Turmeric is definitely a favorite of mine,” says May Lindstrom, the natural beauty guru behind the cult-fave eponymous skincare line. For skin specifically, she says, it’s an anti-inflammatory powerhouse: “Turmeric is rich in curcumin, a natural active ingredient that promotes the healing and brightening of skin.”
There is a ton of research that speaks to this. One 2001 study found that thanks to its exceedingly potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, curcumin can actually help speed up the healing of wounds. Another conducted in 2007 found that the compound aids in skin regeneration in a variety of respects, from boosting collagen production and diminishing psoriasis to protecting against free radicals. Researchers have found that when taken internally, curcumin can help relieve symptoms of arthritis, Alzheimer’s, and digestive inflammation. Many scientists are even excited at the prospect of its abilities to fight skin cancer.
This is all modern science, but “women have been applying turmeric topically for hundreds of years,” says Lindstrom. And while those struggling with inflammatory skin issues like eczema, psoriasis, and rosacea will likely find a lot of relief with this pantry staple, anyone can see their complexion benefit from it. “It’s gorgeous for softening the symptoms of acne, rosacea, and to lessen fine lines and wrinkles,” she says. “Used internally, it does much of the same!”
If you happen to have turmeric lying around, it’s pretty easy to whip up a skin-perfecting mask. Because curcumin is like dynamite to acne, I like to use it to target blemishes and clogged pores, especially in conjunction with detoxifying clay powder. The beautiful bonus is that it always visibly brightens and evens out my complexion, too.
See my go-to recipe below:
- 1 tbsp. clay powder (I love Aztec Secret’s Indian Healing Clay, $7)
- 1 tbsp. turmeric
- 1 tbsp. coconut oil (plus more as needed)
Blend your ingredients in a small bowl until evenly combined. If your paste is too thick, add a little bit more coconut oil as needed. Brush the mask onto your skin (Glamglow’s mask brushes are a wonderfully mess-proof invention) and leave on for 20 to 30 minutes before rinsing.
Want to include more turmeric in your routine? The spice-infused products below are your key to better skin, hair, and overall well-being.
Check out more of turmeric’s skin-specific benefits.