Turmeric is a spice, a ground root similar in many ways to ginger, and it has a characteristic golden color that stands out in almost everything it’s in. Recipes like golden milk call for turmeric as a healthy supplement, with its purported ability to reduce inflammation and fight off harmful microbes throughout the body.
That’s not enough, however. Some people are exploring turmeric as a healthy ingredient in other applications, including topical treatments for acne. Does it work, and if so, how can you make use of it?
The Benefits of Turmeric
Turmeric has been used for a very long time as a kind of herbal remedy, a spice that is both delicious and helpful to a wide variety of health conditions. Like all herbal remedies, throughout history, it has been used to treat a lot of different things it definitely cannot treat, but that doesn’t mean it’s useless as anything more than a flavoring.
Turmeric is antimicrobial. Specifically, turmeric may have some antibacterial properties, both when ingested and when used topically. Some studies on the active ingredient in turmeric, curcumin, indicate that it can inhibit the growth of the bacteria that causes acne, among others.
Turmeric is anti-inflammatory. Curcumin, again, is the active ingredient in this benefit. The compound, when taken orally or applied topically, has been observed to help reduce inflammation, including the inflammation caused by acne. Not only does this help your body fight off the bacteria, but it also makes it less irritating to deal with when you have it.
Turmeric may help lighten dark spots. One problem associated with acne, beyond the pain and the infection of the bacteria itself, is the dark spots on the skin leftover from it when the flare-up has passed. Turmeric topical applications have been observed to help reduce those dark spots and restore your natural complexion beneath. Just note that this is focused solely on the dark spots of skin that are caused by hyperpigmentation, not the spots leftover by scarring.
Turmeric may help with depression. Acne can be a difficult condition to manage, and it takes a toll on self-esteem and mental health just as much as physical appearance. Turmeric has some potential to possibly fight depression when taken orally, though there’s not a lot of available research yet.
Turmeric can help with headaches. Ginger is a known headache treatment, and turmeric is a very similar root spice. Some people have found that turmeric preparations work very well as a way to fight off headaches, including migraines, though again, there’s not much research yet.
So, if you’re convinced that turmeric can help you, or if you’re just willing to try anything at this point, here are a bunch of different ways you can use turmeric to help fight acne.
Topical Applications of Turmeric
While you can find a wide range of different skincare products that have turmeric as an ingredient these days, we’re always looking for more natural and homemade remedies, so we’re not going to just post a bunch of product links here. Instead, let’s talk about some recipes.
Honey Paste: Mix up one teaspoon of turmeric powder with a half a teaspoon of raw honey. Make sure to use honey that wasn’t made with flowers you’re allergic to. Honey has antibacterial properties of its own. Mix the two ingredients into a thick paste, and apply dabs of this paste as a spot treatment. You can also make a full mask and apply it to your whole face. Either way, let it sit for 10-12 minutes, and then rinse it off with water. Repeat once per day until your acne has receded.
Yogurt Cream: Mix two tablespoons of yogurt with half a teaspoon of turmeric. This will create a blend similar to skin cream. The lactic acid may help exfoliate and strip away some of the oils and dead skin that contribute to acne, and the antibacterial properties of the turmeric fight the acne bacteria. Slather this mixture over your acne and leave it for 15 minutes before rinsing with water. Repeat 3-4 times per week as necessary until you see results.
Aloe Cream: Aloe vera is soothing for the skin and can help heal lesions and skin damage faster than not using a treatment. Aloe is also safe to use topically without as many precautions as aloe juice or another comparable use. Harvest roughly two tablespoons of gel from the center of an aloe leaf. Add in half a teaspoon of turmeric to the gel and mix it well to form a paste or cream. Apply this mixture to the affected skin and leave it in place for 10 minutes before rinsing off with water. Repeat every 1-2 days until your acne fades.
Baking Soda Paste: Baking soda is a very absorbent ingredient. Many people use it to dry out acne-afflicted skin to help reduce the bacteria’s breeding ground. Whether or not this works may depend on the user. To try it yourself, mix together half a teaspoon of turmeric, a quarter teaspoon of baking soda, and just enough water to make a thick paste. Apply this paste to your acne with a cotton swab as a spot treatment. Leave it until it dries, then wash it off. Limit this treatment to once or twice a week at most, otherwise, you risk damaging the surrounding skin by over-drying it.
Lemon Turmeric: Lemon juice can help dissolve acne cysts and clean out pores, but it also dries out the skin. More importantly, lemon juice can leave your skin photosensitive, so you want to make sure you use sunscreen after using this recipe, before going out. You can use this as a spot treatment every day, but be careful to watch for skin damage and stop if you see it happening. Mix together one tablespoon of lemon juice, one tablespoon of water, and half a teaspoon of turmeric. Apply this mixture, either as a paste if it’s thick, or by applying it to a pad or swab, and let it sit for 10-12 minutes. Wash it off and protect the skin from damage.
Besan Paste: Besan is a flour made from chickpeas, and is also called gram flour. You may need to look for it at a world market or buy it online if you can’t find it at your local grocer. You can mix up a paste using a teaspoon of turmeric, two teaspoons of gram flour, and 2-3 teaspoons of either yogurt or rosewater. Adjust the amount of liquid to make a paste of your desired consistency. Apply the paste to your acne and let it rest for 10-20 minutes before rinsing it away. Repeat this process twice per week.
Vinegar Turmeric: Apple cider vinegar is a common health ingredient both for consumption and for topical applications. Many people believe it can change the pH of the skin, and can even out skin tone, in conjunction with helping to fight acne. To use it, mix a teaspoon of water, a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar, and half a teaspoon of turmeric into a thin paste. Again, you can adjust the liquid to make a paste of your desired consistency. Apply this mixture as a spot treatment and leave it to dry. Once dry, rinse it off. Use this once per day as necessary.
Oral Applications of Turmeric
You can use topical applications for turmeric in conjunction with oral applications as much as you like. It’s going to be pretty hard to overdose on turmeric through normal culinary means, even when you’re taking it in several forms throughout the day. Here are some recipes you can use for ways to consume turmeric.
Golden Milk: There is a wide range of golden milk recipes out there. The simplest is to mix a glass of milk with a teaspoon of turmeric, boil it, and drink it while warm. You can substitute coconut milk or almond milk, and you can add other ingredients, like cinnamon, black pepper, or even maple syrup to customize the beverage. Drink a cup of this each night to get all of the dietary benefits of turmeric.
Turmeric Tea: turmeric is often boiled, either as slices of the root or as a powder, and made into a tea. You can use this as it is, just turmeric and water, but we recommend blending it with your favorite black tea blend. Black tea with chai ingredients, or a black tea with nutmeg, cinnamon, and cardamom, both go very well with turmeric. Pretty much any tea mixture can have turmeric added to it, to give you all of the health benefits of the turmeric in the best available way.
Turmeric Foods: You can add turmeric as a spice to pretty much any savory food with little issue. It will give it a bright yellow or golden color, and the flavor of turmeric is unique and blends well with a lot of different spice mixtures. This article lists 20 different recipes that use turmeric, any of which can be a great lunch or dinner to give you a daily dose of turmeric for the health benefits.
Pure Turmeric Supplements: If you don’t want to mess around with cooking anything, you can simply take turmeric as a supplement. Turmeric capsules are easy to find, and you can buy empty capsules and fill them yourself if you’re willing to do the work. Turmeric is not very bioavailable, however, so it’s generally better to cook it into something to slow your digestion and let your body process it more readily.
Potential Risks of Using Turmeric
Turmeric is a spice, and as such, it’s generally healthy in most situations. However, it’s not always 100% safe in every situation. There are three possible problems you might encounter using turmeric as a health treatment.
The first is that some people find that they’re slightly allergic to turmeric. An allergy bad enough to cause anaphylaxis is rare, but you may find that turmeric can cause minor irritation and contact dermatitis. We recommend that you test any topical turmeric preparation on a small area of skin first, such as your inner wrist, before you use it on acne. It wouldn’t be very good to slather a cream on your acne when that cream just causes hives on top of it, would it?
The second risk is a narrow medical concern, specifically with people who have gallbladder disease. Turmeric can interact with some of the medications usually used to fight gallbladder problems, and that can cause gallbladder problems to flare up. The cure would be worse than the disease, in these cases, so make sure to consult your doctor before you invest in a turmeric cure.
The third risk is that, in some cases, the turmeric you buy may not be as pure as you think it is. Investigations over the past few years have shown that some turmeric sources are artificially dyed yellow to make it look more vibrant and that the dye used in the spice includes lead. Ingesting lead, of course, is very dangerous. Not all turmeric is contaminated in this manner, and the source of this particular contamination may have been sorted out, but you still want to make sure you’re buying your turmeric from a reputable source.
Finally, while not exactly a risk, turmeric’s bright yellow color can stain things like clothes and skin depending on how it’s used. Much like activated charcoal, it’s a difficult powder to use without getting it everywhere, so you want to be careful with it until you’re familiar with how to handle it. On the bright side, a turmeric stain isn’t the end of the world.
We often give advice on how to fight various health problems with natural remedies and supplements, but we don’t often get to hear about whether or not our advice works. So, we have a request:
If you’ve used any of these turmeric remedies to fight off acne or another skin condition, would you leave us a comment and let us know how it worked? We’d like to hear your stories!