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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's got anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and astringent properties, which may help brighten dull skin and even treat acne.
Intrigued? So were we. 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.
Meet the Expert
- Joshua Ross is a celebrity aesthetician and the founder of SkinLab in Brentwood, California.
- Dr. Corey Hartman is a board-certified dermatologist and the founder of Skin Wellness Dermatology in Birmingham, Alabama.
- Dr. Alexis Parcells, M.D., is a board-certified plastic surgeon, the owner of Parcells Plastic Surgery, and the founder of Sunnie Wrinkle Reducing Studio.
- Dr. Anna Guanche, M.D., is a board-certified dermatologist and the founder and director of Bella Skin Institute.
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 that is typically used for cooking, but is also beneficial for the skin as an anti-inflammatory ingredient. Dr. Hartman says, "Nutmeg has been an anti-inflammatory agent used for centuries in the Caribbean, especially on the island of Grenada, which produces 20% 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.
Nutmeg is 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: Says Dr. Hartman, "Nutmeg's anti-inflammatory quality helps to reduce redness and pigmentation, improving scars and providing a more even complexion."
- Helps balance oil production: This anti-inflammatory ingredient also helps balance oily skin "by tightening pores and exfoliating," according to Dr. Hartman.
- Decreases redness and irritation: Nutmeg's anti-inflammatory properties can help improve redness and irritation, making it perfect for those with sensitive skin. Dr. Guanche adds, "Nutmeg is a natural anti-inflammatory. It 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. Dr. Hartman adds, "It also has mild antibacterial properties that fight acne and the bacteria responsible for acne flares."
- Improves scars: Nutmeg is traditionally used in Ayurvedic medicine in face masks to improve acne scars and hyperpigmentation.
- Evens skin tone: Many people use masks made from nutmeg to treat uneven skin tone. Dr. Parcells says, "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."
- Treats acne: "A major benefit of nutmeg is that it's super anti-inflammatory and antibacterial, making it a great natural ingredient for treating acne," says Ross.
- Rich in antioxidants: "Nutmeg is a known antioxidant and assists with reducing and preventing skin damage," says Dr. Parcells.
Side Effects of Nutmeg
In general, nutmeg shouldn't cause any skin irritation or problems. According to Dr. 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), Ross recommends to "be sure to only use a tiny amount, or it can make 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 together, apply in a thick layer to your skin, and leave on for 10 minutes for best results.
Or 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 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.
This cleansing powder follows the principles of Ayurveda to exfoliate and cleanse skin. The list of ingredients is simple, powerful, and 100% organic: rose flower, calendula, marigold, chamomile, hibiscus, peppermint, orange peel, nutmeg, oats and walnuts, and bentonite clay.
This hand exfoliator with truffle extract and nutmeg is the perfect companion to Molton Brown's signature lotions.
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.
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