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 to use turmeric for skin and hair.
The Benefits of Turmeric
“Turmeric is definitely a favorite of mine,” says May Lindstrom, the natural beauty guru behind her 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 2014 research review found that thanks to its exceedingly potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, curcumin can actually help speed up the healing of wounds and aid in skin regeneration in a variety of respects, from boosting collagen production and potentially 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 and other cancers.
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 may 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!”
Using Turmeric in Face Masks
If you happen to have turmeric lying around, it’s pretty easy to whip up a skin-perfecting mask. Because curcumin can be like dynamite to acne, I like to use it to target blemishes and clogged pores, especially in conjunction with clay powder. The beautiful bonus is that it always visibly brightens and evens out my complexion, too.
Skin-Perfecting Mask Recipe
See my go-to recipe below:
1 tbsp. clay powder (I love Original Aztec Healing Clay, $10)
1 tbsp. turmeric
1 tbsp. coconut oil (plus more 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.
Turmeric Products to Add to Your Routine
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 The Problem Solver
With activated charcoal, cacao, soil nutrients, and turmeric, this 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
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 Polish
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
A friend of mine swears that this Amazon find erased virtually all of her acne scars.
Come for the gorgeous, Instagram-ready packaging, stay for the lusciously scented, skin-soothing formula. In addition to anti-inflammatory turmeric, tamanu fights acne, and sea buckthorn accelerates healing.
The Beauty Chef Glow Inner Beauty Powder
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.
Tata Harper Soothing Muscle Gel
Oh, you thought we were done naming benefits? Curcumin has also been shown to reduce post-workout soreness—so by all means, give this muscle gel some real estate in your gym bag.
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Wilken R, Veena MS, Wang MB, Srivatsan ES. Curcumin: a review of anti-cancer properties and therapeutic activity in head and neck squamous cell carcinoma. Mol Cancer. 2011;10:12. doi:10.1186/1476-4598-10-12
Vollono L, Falconi M, Gaziano R, et al. Potential of curcumin in skin disorders. Nutrients. 2019;11(9):2169. doi:10.3390/nu11092169
Hosking AM, Juhasz M, Atanaskova Mesinkovska N. Complementary and alternative treatments for alopecia: a comprehensive review. Skin Appendage Disord. 2019;5(2):72-89. doi:10.1159/000492035
Ito H, Asmussen S, Traber DL, et al. Healing efficacy of sea buckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides L.) seed oil in an ovine burn wound model. Burns. 2014;40(3):511-519. doi:10.1016/j.burns.2013.08.011
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Nicol LM, Rowlands DS, Fazakerly R, Kellett J. Curcumin supplementation likely attenuates delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). Eur J Appl Physiol. 2015;115(8):1769‐1777. doi:10.1007/s00421-015-3152-6