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Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Turmeric



The beauty 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.

Turmeric is a spice used mainly in Asian cooking—specifically, Thai and Indian. This bright orange-yellow spice gives curry its distinctive flavor and color. Just like many other amazing natural ingredients, it offers valuable skin benefits, too. In fact, Indian women have been using turmeric as a skincare ingredient for centuries.

“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 the skin.”

  • Type of ingredient: Natural antiseptic.
  • Main benefits: Antibacterial, antimicrobial, reduces scarring, soothes inflammatory skin, brightens.
  • Who should use it: Those with acne, scarring, or inflammatory skin issues would benefit most from using turmeric.
  • How often can you use it?: A turmeric mask can be used up to two to three times a week. Some products containing turmeric can be used daily, as well.
  • Works well with: In general, turmeric can be used with most products and ingredients.
  • Don't use with: Turmeric-based products can be used with most ingredients.

What Is Turmeric?

Crowned as one of the most beneficial natural ingredients, turmeric is has been used in India for thousands of years as part of delicious recipes, but also to reap the multitude of skin and hair care benefits that it offers. Turmeric is a spice that is harvested directly from the Turmeric plant and holds a yellow-hued component known as curcumin, which gives the spice its bright tone.

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.

turmeric skin
Michela Buttignol/Byrdie

Other Cosmetic Uses for Turmeric

In addition to its uses as a spice and as a beauty product, turmeric also functions as a dye. Hence, people use it as an all-natural self-tanner. Before you slather yourself in the spice, though, know that very few skin tones match turmeric perfectly. Especially if you have light skin, turmeric will probably temporarily stain your skin yellow; other skin tones might get just a radiant glow. Don't let it scare you, though. If you're apprehensive about trying a treatment, apply it before bed so that, if your skin does change to a funky color, it doesn't happen right before you need to leave the house. In any case, you can scrub your turmeric tan off fairly easily with soap and water.

How to Make a Turmeric Face Mask

If you happen to have turmeric lying around, it’s pretty easy to whip up a skin-perfecting mask. Try adding a bit of turmeric to your favorite face mask recipe, or use this one, which will help clear and smooth your skin, minimize the appearance of pores, and make your skin appear fuller and plumper:

  1. Heat up a teaspoon of raw honey in the microwave for 10 to 15 seconds.
  2. In a dish, combine the honey with a teaspoon of turmeric and a teaspoon of milk or Greek yogurt.
  3. Wash your face, pull your hair back, and apply the mask to your face using your fingers or a spoon. If you don't want your fingers stained yellow, wear gloves when applying the mask.
  4. Relax for 20 to 30 minutes as you let the mask dry and harden.
  5. Rinse the mask off with warm water, moving your fingers in tiny circles to take advantage of turmeric's exfoliating ability. If the turmeric stains your face, simply wipe it off with a facial toner.

Glowing Skin From the Inside Out

For a more holistic, from-the-inside-out approach, you can get still more of the skin benefits from turmeric by drinking a concoction made with the spice. This recipe comes from Dr. Andrew Weil, a well-known American integrative health specialist:

  1. Boil two cups of water.
  2. Add half a teaspoon of ground turmeric.
  3. Stir, and then cover.
  4. Simmer for 10 minutes.
  5. Filter through a tea strainer.
  6. Sip and enjoy.

You can drink this cold or hot. Add a sweetener such as honey, or drop a piece of ginger root into your mug to punch up the taste.

Add honey or a piece of ginger root to punch up the taste and boost anti-aging benefits.

Want to include more turmeric in your routine? The spice-infused products below are your key to better skin, hair, and overall well-being.

May Lindstrom Skin The Problem Solver
May Lindstrom Skin The Problem Solver $100

With activated charcoal, cacao, soil nutrients, and turmeric, this unbelievably effective mask really does solve all our skin’s woes in one go. (We also guarantee that you’ll be addicted to its warm spiciness.)

Aveda Invati Exfoliating Shampoo
Aveda Invati Exfoliating Shampoo $23

Because of its high antioxidant content, some natural beauty proponents argue that curcumin can aid with hair loss. Either way, use this turmeric-infused shampoo to nourish your scalp and your strands.

Root Science Superfood Facial Exfoliant
Root Science Superfood Facial Exfoliant $60

This wonderfully gentle exfoliator uses natural ingredients like fruit fibers, clay, and herbs for its scrubbing action—and it never fails to give us noticeably brighter skin after use.

Vicco Turmeric Skin Cream
Vicco Turmeric Skin Cream $6

One friend of ours swears that this Amazon find erased virtually all of her acne scars.

The Mahalo Balm
Mahalo Skin Care Treatment Balm $90

Come for the gorgeous, Instagram-ready packaging, stay for the lusciously scented, skin-soothing formula. In addition to anti-inflammatory turmeric, macadamia balances oil production, tamanu fights acne, and carrot and sea buckthorn accelerate healing.

The Beauty Chef Glow Advanced Inner Beauty Powder
The Beauty Chef Glow Advanced Inner Beauty Powder $70

Turmeric is one of the prime ingredients in this beloved ingestible beauty powder, thanks to its antioxidant content and uncanny ability to settle a finicky digestive system.

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