Nutmeg is often overshadowed by its flashier fall-spice counterpart, cinnamon. But we're here to shine a light on nutmeg. In addition to being a cozy ingredient in your latte (seriously, a PSL would not taste the same without the flavor profile it brings), nutmeg is also a powerhouse skincare ingredient. It has anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and astringent properties, which may help brighten dull skin and even treat acne.
Meet the Expert
Intrigued? Us too. We spoke with a celebrity esthetician, a plastic surgeon, and two board-certified dermatologists to learn more about the magical benefits of nutmeg for the skin. Here's how to incorporate this spice into your skincare routine, whether you prefer to DIY or get your products from Sephora.
Type of ingredient: Anti-inflammatory
Main benefits: Decreases hyperpigmentation, balances oily skin, calms irritation
Who should use it: In general, nutmeg is suitable for all skin types, but it's especially helpful for sensitive, oily skin.
How often can you use it: Weekly in masks, daily in creams and serums
Works well with: Most other anti-inflammatory ingredients, like aloe vera, green tea, and mugwort
Don't use with: Generally, nutmeg is safe to use with most, if not all other skincare ingredients.
What Is Nutmeg?
As we said earlier, nutmeg is a spice typically used for cooking but is also beneficial for the skin as an anti-inflammatory ingredient. Corey Hartman, MD, board-certified dermatologist and the founder of Skin Wellness Dermatology in Birmingham, Alabama says, "Nutmeg has been an anti-inflammatory agent used for centuries in the Caribbean, especially on the island of Grenada, which produces 20 percent of the world's nutmeg, despite its small size."
Nutmeg is an anti-inflammatory superstar. Studies have shown that it's a strong antioxidant that can help fight pesky free radicals—you know, the stuff that causes premature wrinkles, sun spots, sagging skin, and collagen loss.
The autumnal spice is also found in a variety of skincare products, including but not limited to serums, facial creams, body lotions, and both hydrating and exfoliating masks.
Benefits of Nutmeg for Skin
- Reduces hyperpigmentation: "Nutmeg's natural anti-inflammatory quality helps to reduce redness and pigmentation, providing a more even complexion," says Hartman.
- Helps balance oil production: Nutmeg also helps balance oily skin "by tightening pores and exfoliating," according to Hartman.
- Decreases redness and irritation: Anti-inflammatory properties of nutmeg can help improve redness and irritation, making it perfect for those with sensitive skin. Anna Guanche, MD, board-certified dermatologist and the founder and director of Bella Skin Institute adds that "Nutmeg is most commonly used to treat hyperpigmentation, reduce oil on the skin, and calm down irritation."
- Is antibacterial: Studies show that nutmeg seeds have strong antibacterial activity to "fight acne and the bacteria responsible for acne flares," says Hartman.
- Improves scars: Nutmeg is traditionally used in Ayurvedic medicine in face masks to improve the appearance of acne scars.
- Evens skin tone: Many people use masks made from nutmeg to treat uneven skin tone. Alexis Parcells, MD, board-certified plastic surgeon, the owner of Parcells Plastic Surgery, and the founder of Sunnie Wrinkle Reducing Studio notes that, "Nutmeg can easily be applied alongside other ingredients as a weekly face mask. Honey, yogurt, lemon juice, or coconut milk are useful adjuncts to help deliver its active ingredients."
- Rich in antioxidants: "Nutmeg is a known antioxidant and assists with reducing and preventing skin damage," says Parcells.
- Available over-the-counter: Unlike some skincare ingredients, products containing nutmet are available in most beauty and drugstores.
Side Effects of Nutmeg
In general, nutmeg shouldn't cause any skin irritation or problems. According to Parcells, "The most common serious side effects of nutmeg are more related to large-dose ingestion as opposed to skin use. Nutmeg compounds myristicin and safrole, and when ingested in large amounts, they can cause symptoms like hallucinations and loss of muscle coordination. But for most people, nutmeg is incredibly beneficial, especially for people with sensitive to normal skin." Like all new skincare products, it's super important to do a patch test before using it—preferably behind your ear along your jawline.
If you're planning on using nutmeg straight-up (like in a mask, for instance), Joshua Ross, a celebrity aesthetician and the founder of SkinLab in Brentwood, California, recommends to "be sure to only use a tiny amount, or it can make the skin red."
How to Use It
One of the biggest benefits of nutmeg for skin is that it can help with hyperpigmentation, according to Ross. He recommends whipping up a DIY mask consisting of 1 teaspoon of lemon juice, 1 tablespoon of yogurt, 1 tablespoon of raw honey, and a pinch of nutmeg to help even out your skin tone. Mix all the ingredients, apply a thick layer to your skin, and leave on for 10 minutes for best results.
Of course, if you're not into DIY skincare, you can always search ingredient lists to find nutmeg in products.
The Best Products With Nutmeg
This warming mask combines the powerful effects of nutmeg with other spices, like cayenne, meant to help stimulate circulation and douse skin in antioxidants. The result: clearer, more glowing skin.
Really lean into the pumpkin-spice trend this fall with this exfoliating mask. It's formulated with pumpkin, along with skin-loving spices like cinnamon, ginger, and, of course, nutmeg.
This moisturizer combines five super-powerful natural ingredients—citrus peel, ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, and corydalis—with hydrating shea butter and ceramides to leave skin more luminous and hydrated.
Following the principles of Ayurveda, this product works to exfoliate and cleanse skin. The list of ingredients is simple, powerful, and 100 percent organic: rose flower, calendula, marigold, chamomile, hibiscus, peppermint, orange peel, nutmeg, oats and walnuts, and bentonite clay.
If you want to get into DIY options, a bottle of nutmeg essential oil is great to have on hand. To use, simply add a drop to a 15 ml bottle of jojoba oil (or any carrier oil you enjoy). You can even add a single drop of nutmeg essential oil to a jar of your favorite moisturizer, too. Just make sure that you're not applying it directly from the bottle, as that can cause skin irritation.
Like the name says, this body scrub smells (and feels) delicious. Cinnamon, ginger, and, of course, nutmeg give this lush body scrub an amazing scent. It does a great job of exfoliating dead skin cells, moisturizing dry skin, and helping boost circulation. Use right before shaving for an ultra-smooth feel.
Is nutmeg safe to use on all skin types?
Nutmeg is gentle enough even for those with sensitive skin, but also provides inflammation-reducing effects to those who suffer from acne or other skin conditions.
Can I use nutmeg on my skin daily?
Yes, nutmeg is gentle enough for daily use — though if you notice irritation, discontinue use and ask a doctor for advice.
Can nutmeg be used in conjunction with other skincare ingredients?
Yes, in fact, some other ingredients help amplify nutmeg's beautifying aspects. Products containing both nutmeg and cayenne, for instance, help boost circulation and reduce inflammation.
Matulyte I, Jekabsone A, Jankauskaite L, et al. The essential oil and hydrolats from myristica fragrans seeds with magnesium aluminometasilicate as excipient: antioxidant, antibacterial, and anti-inflammatory activity. Foods. 2020;9(1):37. doi:10.3390/foods9010037