- Turmeric is a spice used in traditional medicine.
- This spice may potentially lighten hyperpigmentation.
- Although preliminary studies show promise, further research is needed to establish its efficacy in treating dark patches of skin.
While turmeric is currently a popular spice used in cooking, many traditional medicine systems have long used turmeric for hyperpigmentation, the result of production of excess melanin in the skin.
Hyperpigmentation appears in the form of age spots, freckles, dark patches and melasma. It can also present as acne scars or postinflammatory hyperpigmentation.
Although no clinical studies have definitively proven that turmeric can lighten skin, several in vitro studies have established this possibility.
What Is Turmeric?
Turmeric is the powdered root of a Southern Asian plant, Curcuma longa. In addition to being found in many Asian cuisines, it is used in traditional Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine for anti-inflammatory and wound-healing purposes. However, the medicinal properties of curcumin—the active component in turmeric—have not been well-established.
Benefits of turmeric for skin
Turmeric has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that may protect the skin from free radicals. It may also work as an antibacterial and be beneficial for treating skin conditions such as eczema.
Can Turmeric Treat Hyperpigmentation?plausibility
A number of preliminary studies have demonstrated that turmeric has the potential to treat hyperpigmentation. However, due to the lack of clinical studies on the subject, turmeric’s skin-lightening efficacy has not been determined, and no protocol for using it has been established.
How does it work?
Curcumin has been demonstrated in in vitro studies to inhibit the activity of tyrosinase, an enzyme necessary for melanin production. While this characteristic has not yet been tested in clinical studies, it leans toward the premise that regular topical applications of turmeric may gradually lighten skin. Over time, as darker skin cells are naturally exfoliated, they would be replaced by cells that represent one’s natural skin color.
How to Use Turmeric to Treat Hyperpigmentation
Turmeric powder can be combined with water or milk to form a paste that is then applied to the face. Leave the mixture on for 10–20 minutes or until it has completely dried, then rinse off with warm water. Repeat daily until your hyperpigmentation has lightened, a process that will likely take several months.
If you do not know how your skin will react to turmeric, perform a patch test on a discreet area of skin first’ if there is no reaction after 24 hours, the turmeric is safe to use. In rare cases, topical use of turmeric can result in an allergic reaction characterized by swelling and redness.
Turmeric Face Masks for Hyperpigmentation
For additional skin health benefits, other natural ingredients can be added to a turmeric mask.
As well as lightening hyperpigmentation by preventing melanin production, a DIY turmeric face mask can exfoliate and brighten the skin, and its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties may help treat acne.
Turmeric and honey face mask
This DIY face mask has the additional antioxidant and antibacterial benefits of raw, unpasteurized honey.
- 1 tbsp turmeric
- 1 tbsp unpasteurized honey
- Combine ingredients in a small bowl
- Apply to the face; wait 10–20 minutes
- Rinse off with warm water
Honey’s antibacterial properties and turmeric’s exfoliating powers combine to make this mask ideal for oily skin prone to blemishes and breakouts.
Turmeric and lemon face mask
Lemon juice has well established skin-lightening properties and contains vitamin C, which has multiple benefits for the skin
Aloesin, a chemical in aloe vera, has been linked to tyrosinase inhibition and prevention of melanin production in another in vitro study. Aloe vera also serves as a soothing moisturizer for dry skin in this DIY mask.
- 1 tbsp turmeric
- Juice of one-half lemon
- 1 tbsp aloe vera gel
- Combine all ingredients; adjust the ratios as necessary
- Apply to skin; wait 10–20 minutes
- Rinse off with warm water
Do not leave lemon juice on your skin for longer than one-half hour as it is acidic and can disrupt your skin’s natural pH levels.
Can Turmeric Darken Skin?
Turmeric powder has a strong likelihood of staining whatever it comes in contact with, including your skin. If you have fair skin, there is a risk that frequent use of turmeric may give your skin a yellowish tint.
It is also theorized that turmeric can increase your skin’s susceptibility to sun damage. While this is true of some other skin bleaching agents such as lemon juice, it is not the case for turmeric.
Turmeric is a spice with a long history of medicinal use. While its ability to treat hyperpigmentation has not been established by scientific studies, a wealth of anecdotal evidence and some preliminary studies lend credence to this belief.
If applied regularly over a long period of time, turmeric may lighten hyperpigmentation by preventing melanin production in new skin cells as they develop. After several months, you may see results. For those with fair complexions, proceed with caution to avoid staining your skin.
- Hewlings, S. J., & Kalman, D. S. (2017). Curcumin: A Review of Its’ Effects on Human Health. Foods (Basel, Switzerland), 6(10), 92. doi:10.3390/foods6100092
- Hollinger, J. C., Angra, K., & Halder, R. M. (2018). Are Natural Ingredients Effective in the Management of Hyperpigmentation? A Systematic Review. The Journal of clinical and aesthetic dermatology, 11(2), 28–37. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5843359/
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- Tu, C., Lin, M., Lu, S., Qi, X., Zhang, R., & Zhang, Y. (2011). Curcumin Inhibits Melanogenesis in Human Melanocytes. Phytotherapy Research, 26(2), 174-179. doi:10.1002/ptr.3517
- Wang, Z., Li, X., Yang, Z., He, X., Tu, J., & Zhang, T. (2008). Effects of aloesin on melanogenesis in pigmented skin equivalents. International Journal of Cosmetic Science, 30(2), 121–130. doi:10.1111/j.1468-2494.2008.00432.x