Turmeric may be associated with lattes and curry, but it’s just as good for your hair as it is for your palate. The bright yellow spice wields medicinal properties that have been used for thousands of years, says trichologist William Gaunitz, adding, “[It's] main purpose in the 21st century is as a powerful anti-inflammatory herb." That would explain why it can be found in everything from ayurvedic medicine to beauty treatments. And regarding hair care specifically, turmeric is being lauded for treating conditions like dandruff and hair loss, the only question is: Does it actually work? We took up the topic with Gaunitz and dermatologist Dendy Engelman to find out more.
Meet the Expert
Keep reading to learn about the benefits of turmeric for hair, as well as how to use it.
What Is Turmeric?
“Turmeric is a flowering plant with roots that are a vibrant yellow color due to a chemical called curcumin,” explains Engelman. “Because of curcumin, turmeric has anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidative, antibacterial, and anti-neoplastic (anti-cancer) properties. It is sometimes used in skincare, haircare, and cosmetic products for its health benefits and bright color.”
- Type of ingredient: Anti-inflammatory and antioxidant.
- Main benefits: Treats dandruff, helps with hair loss, and is antibacterial.
- Who should use it? Anyone looking for a hair growth boost, to keep their scalp healthy, or to treat dandruff.
- How often can you use it? As often as needed.
- Works well with: When using turmeric to treat dandruff, pair it with soothing and hydrating ingredients, such as olive oil.
- Don't use with: If you are taking turmeric orally, it’s important not to pair it with medications that are known to slow blood clotting, such as aspirin and ibuprofen. Turmeric naturally may slow down blood clotting, so combining it with these medications can cause internal bruising and bleeding.
Benefits of Turmeric for Hair
“Turmeric does have benefits for your hair because of its anti-inflammatory properties,” Gaunitz says. Its range of perks makes it a versatile ingredient for hair. You can find it in everything from shampoos and conditioners to hair masks and treatment oils. All that to say, by applying turmeric to your strands, you might experience several benefits:
- Prevents hair loss: Turmeric’s anti-inflammatory powers are a major boon to thinning hair, as it may stimulate growth. “Most hair loss is caused at least on some level due to inflammation,” Gaunitz says. “Reducing inflammation, in turn, reduces the impact of pattern hair loss or directly inflammatory hair loss on the scalp and hair follicles.”
- Fights dandruff: “When used in hair, turmeric’s anti-inflammatory and antibacterial benefits can help with dandruff,” Engelman says. “When dandruff is left untreated, it can eventually lead to hair loss. Treating the hair with turmeric can keep the scalp healthy, which is a key component in healthy hair and new hair growth.”
- Controls oil: “Turmeric is great for treating oily hair and scalps due to its anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties,” Engelman says. Those anti-microbial properties stop the growth of microorganisms, which oily scalps are prone to.
- Improves scalp health: Turmeric’s anti-inflammatory benefits give an overall boost to the health of your scalp. “The healing and anti-inflammatory properties of turmeric naturally help with irritation of the scalp—unlike other products that do this by adding artificial ingredients. [It's] a great natural addition for a healthy scalp and hair,” says Engelman.
- Protects hair from environmental stressors: Free radicals can wreak havoc on your hair, scalp, and complexion, but one of the many reasons antioxidants like turmeric are so loved is because they fight them off. As a result, hair follicles are protected from damage by harmful molecules.
Hair Type Consideration
Our experts agree that turmeric can give any hair type a boost. “However, if you have an inflammatory scalp condition, you must make sure that you are tracking your progress during the use of turmeric,” Gaunitz says. “In some cases, I’ve seen turmeric aggravate inflammatory scalp conditions that are caused by allergies or ongoing chemical exposure. The reason for that is turmeric is enhancing the immune response, which ultimately is causing hair loss. These are rare conditions, though.”
How to Use Turmeric for Hair
Turmeric may be applied topically or taken orally. Regarding the latter method, “Turmeric can be used daily when you follow the normal recommendations for systemic use," says Gaunitz. "Depending on the concentration of turmeric, you should take between 500 and up to 2000mg per day.” Just remember that if you’re taking turmeric orally, don’t combine it with medications that can slow blood clotting, including aspirin and ibuprofen. And in case you're looking for more expert-approved uses for turmeric for hair, you're in luck:
- Apply as a mask: “A great moisturizing DIY turmeric mask can easily be made by mixing equal parts olive oil and turmeric,” Engelman says. “You may also add a small amount of honey to make the mask more moisturizing. Apply the mask evenly and let it sit for 15 to 20 minutes, allowing the ingredients to soak into the hair. Finally, rinse and cleanse your hair with your favorite shampoo and conditioner.”
- Nourish your scalp: Engelman also recommends combining turmeric with essential oils like lavender to create a soothing scalp treatment.
- Take as a supplement: In addition to being applied topically, turmeric can be taken as a supplement, delivering hair and skin perks. “The best way to use turmeric for your hair is to take it internally so that it can be processed in your gut and have a systemic reduction of inflammation,” Gaunitz says.
- Use as a shampoo: A quick and easy way to incorporate turmeric into your routine is by finding a shampoo with "the golden goddess" ingredient. Simply, cleanse, rinse, and repeat.
The Best Products With Turmeric
Aveda's Invati collection is perhaps one of the brand's best-known and bestselling product lines. Customers with thinning hair swear by its three-step system, which this scalp revitalizer is a part of. And with claims like reducing hair loss, thickening strands, and stimulating the scalp, it's not hard to see why.
Beauty and wellness brand Tumerica is dedicated to all things (you guessed it) turmeric. And while their product offerings predominantly concern skincare, this oil, a blend of turmeric extract and coconut oil, works double-time by treating both hair and body.
Those with dry hair and scalp concerns will rejoice in this clarifying shampoo. It's formulated with a host of healthy ingredients for hair: African black soap, turmeric, neem, tea tree, and rosemary, to name a few. And did we mention that it's orangutan safe?
If you could use a break from damaging heat styling or you want to cut down on your hair routine, air drying might be for you. This cream, made especially for air-drying hair, works to strengthen dry and damaged tresses while also combating frizz. The result? "Golden goddess" hair.
Looking to "clean" up your beauty routine? Then this eco-friendly shampoo is a good place to start. Aptly named "Love Beauty and Planet" the brand is dedicated to creating quality products that are cruelty-free, ethically sourced, and made from 100 percent recycled bottles. So go ahead: wash up and rinse off—sans guilt.
Can I use turmeric powder on my hair?
Yes. For better absorption and distribution, combine with olive oil and honey to create a nourishing hair mask.
How often should I use turmeric on my hair?
Depending on how you are using turmeric (e.g. as a hair mask, shampoo, scalp treatment, etc.), will determine how often you use it. You can use daily or as needed.
Are there any side effects to using turmeric for hair?
Since turmeric is a blood thinner, if you are taking it orally, it's best to not combine it with other medications that can also slow blood clotting.
Front Pharmacol. Turmeric and Its Major Compound Curcumin on Health. 2020.
BMB Rep. "Anticoagulant Activities of Curcumin and Its Derivative." 2012.