Turmeric is a yellow-orange colored spice that people in Asia have used for centuries in traditional medicine. It's main active constituent is curcumin, a compound with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
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Scientists are finding that the compound's benefits have value for an array of health maladies, including some affecting the skin. The compound is an ideal alternative to traditional therapies for skin ailments because it's well tolerated, states a 2013 study published in the Journal of Drugs in Dermatology.
According to the authors of this study, oral administration of turmeric is advantageous, but the therapeutic effect is limited due to poor bioavailability. Conversely, applying it to the skin brings it directly to the affected tissues, thus enabling it to work its beneficial effects.
Read more: What Are Turmeric and Curcumin Good for?
Turmeric for Acne
Glands in the skin produce an emolient substance called sebum, which protects against harmful chemicals and microbes, explains a 2013 investigation featured in the Tropical Journal of Pharmaceutical Research. When an excessive amount of sebum is present, the skin becomes oily and acne develops.
Turmeric benefits for acne are considerable. The authors of the investigation tested a twice-daily facial application of a turmeric-containing cream on human volunteers. The results showed the treatment improved skin condition, indicating it could greatly help people who have excessively oily skin.
Turmeric for Dark Spots
Age spots are dark areas of hyperpigmentation on the skin that commonly appear after age 50. Most, but not all, are harmless, says the Mayo Clinic.
A 2018 review appearing in The Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology showed turmeric may help reduce dark spots. Researchers examined studies that explored the effects of using natural ingredients to treat hyperpigmentation.
The review noted that one clinical trial tested the efficacy of turmeric extract cream on the disorder in Chinese women. After four weeks of treatment, the women's hyperpigmentation was reduced by 14 percent. This trial has yet to be published in a journal.
Turmeric for Skin Cancer
Authors of a 2018 study published in Nutrition and Cancer state that researchers are currently studying curcumin extensively for its anticancer properties. They point out that the spice's value for fighting cancer, including skin cancer and melanoma, stems from its ability to suppress a broad range of pro-carcinogenic molecules in the body.
Turmeric for Skin Rashes
Turmeric skin benefits include the remediation of rashes. A 2014 study featured in Radiation Research assessed the effects of curcumin on radiation dermatitis in breast cancer patients. Oral administration of the compound successfully reduced the severity of the condition, which afflicts 95 percent of those undergoing the treatment.
Read more: Benefits of Turmeric Powder
Precautions to Consider
When applied to the skin, turmeric produces a yellowish discoloration, says Healthline. This is normal, and although it's unsightly, it isn't harmful.
Turmeric can produce an allergic response of redness, irritation and swelling in some people, warns Healthline. Before applying the compound to the face, test a dime-sized amount on your forearm and wait 24 to 48 hours to see if signs of an allergy appear. In addition, don't use the spice on your face if you are allergic to it in food.
The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health says when used in recommended amounts, turmeric is safe whether taken by mouth or applied to the skin. High doses or long-term use may cause intestinal complaints. It's always best to consult a doctor before starting on a supplement.
- Journal of Drugs in Dermatology: Curcumin: A Novel Treatment for Skin-Related Disorders
- Tropical Journal of Pharmaceutical Research: Effect of Turmeric (Curcuma longa Zingiberaceae) Extract Cream on Human Skin Sebum Secretion
- Mayo Clinic: Age Spots (Liver Spots)
- The Journal of Clinical and Aesthtic Dermatology: Are Natural Ingredients Effective in the Management of Hyperpigmentation? A Systematic Review
- Nutrition and Cancer: Next-Gen Therapeutics for Skin Cancer: Nutraceuticals
- Radiation Research: Curcumin for Radiation Dermatitis: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Clinical Trial of Thirty Breast Cancer Patients
- Healthline: Turmeric for Skin: Benefits and Risks
- National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health: Turmeric