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Woman lying on her sofa with a face mask on and cucumbers on her eyes

The benefits of turmeric for skin

Turmeric has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for millennia, and may also be helpful to use directly on your skin as a face mask. Jocelyn Bailey explains.

There's nothing new about turmeric. The golden spice has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years, but why has it become such a buzz ingredient, especially in skincare, and what can it do for you?

How does it work?

Turmeric's key ingredient is the high concentration of curcumin, which also gives it that vibrant shade of yellow; to simply enjoy it in your diet add a little of its peppery, slightly bitter flavour to soups, stews, curries or smoothies.

When it comes to beauty, however, turmeric can be used for a variety of issues such as blackheads, blemishes, hyperpigmentation, dryness and wrinkles. The best way to try it is in a home-made turmeric face mask, adjusting the other ingredients according to the effect you want, and then applying it once or twice per week.

TIP: Beware turmeric's legendary staining, especially on pale skin. Assess your risk by testing a dab on your inner arm. After one minute, wipe off a small amount. If there's no colour change, leave on the rest for four minutes, then wipe off another swipe. If there's still no stain, leave the remainder for another five minutes before wiping off.

Turmeric anti-inflammatory

Stir one teaspoon of turmeric into one tablespoon of aloe vera gel or coconut oil, then dab it onto the irritated area.

A hydrating treatment mask

Overhead image of a bowl containing turmeric powder, a separate bowl containing lemon juice, and two cut lemons and natural turmeric

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/4 tablespoon ground turmeric

Method

  1. Mix the ingredients together to form a thin paste
  2. Apply to skin, avoiding lips and eyes
  3. Leave on for 10-20 minutes
  4. Rinse off with lukewarm water, pat dry
  5. Finish with moisturiser

Tip: Remove minor skin staining by washing your face with milk. Otherwise you'll have to wait until the stained skin cells shed naturally.

Turmeric antioxidant

As a powerful antioxidant, curcumin neutralises free radicals before they harm healthy cells. It works in the same way as lemon juice reduces browning (another form of oxidation) in cut apples.

In the skin, this means it helps reduce the breakdown of collagen and elastin and slows signs of visible ageing such as lines and wrinkles.

A mask that soothes and tautens the skin

Overhead photo of a dish of turmeric powder, a jug of coconut milk, and a bowl of honey, with wooden spoons

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon coconut milk

Method

  1. Mix to a thin paste, adding extra coconut milk if necessary
  2. Apply to clean skin, avoiding lips and eyes
  3. Leave on for 10-20 minutes
  4. Rinse off with lukewarm water, pat dry
  5. Finish with moisturiser

Tip: Add a small amount of flour if your mask seems too thin and runny. For dry skin, use ground oatmeal instead.

Turmeric antibacterial

By helping to manage micro-organisms on the skin, turmeric could help in the management of breakouts. The easiest way to use it is simply to mix it with a little water (try half a teaspoon of ground turmeric to three teaspoons of water).

Antibacterial face mask

Overhead image of turmeric powder in a small dish, with a slightly larger dish next to it containing turmeric powder and yoghurt, with a face brush lying on top

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 3 tablespoons yogurt
  • A few drops of honey

Method

  1. Mix the ingredients to a paste
  2. Apply thinly to your skin, avoiding lips and eye area
  3. Leave on for 10-20 minutes
  4. Rinse off with lukewarm water, pat dry
  5. Finish with moisturiser

Tip: Stick to 10-minute treatments if your skin is pale, otherwise increase treatment time gradually to 15-20 minutes.

Never leave on your turmeric treatment overnight as it is likely to cause staining – including to your bedlinen. It isn't used as a yellow dye for nothing!

Jocelyn Bailey has been a health and beauty journalist for over 30 years, including 10 as beauty editor of Woman magazine. She is an expert in top-to-toe beauty, with a particular interest in ingredients.

Nothing beats a healthy, balanced diet to provide all the nutrients we need. But when this isn't possible, supplements can help. This article isn't intended to replace medical advice. Please consult your healthcare professional before trying supplements or herbal medicines.