With its brightening, anti-ageing and acne-clearing abilities, turmeric is the golden child (no pun intended) of the beauty world. In fact, it’s fast becoming a favourite natural ingredient in both DIY face masks and store-bought skincare.
According to US-based naturopathic physician Dr Trevor Gates, turmeric has been shown to soothe redness and itchiness—and there’s a lot of scientific backing for the spice’s anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties which help in the fight against pimples.
“Turmeric manages micro-organism growth on the skin, helping ward off acne-causing acne bacteria, and prevents other infections from spreading,” says Dr Gates. “It also contains powerful antioxidant properties, balances sebum secretion, and helps clean out pores.”
It’s no surprise Hollywood is jumping on the turmeric bandwagon: actress Thandie Newton has called the spice her “secret weapon”, and Star Wars star Daisy Ridley—who has openly shared details of her own struggles with adult acne—tried a homemade turmeric mask to help treat her skin condition.
So what exactly is turmeric?
Turmeric is the ground-up root of the curcuma plant (part of the ginger family) and has been an important part of ancient Indian Ayurvedic traditions within both cooking and medicine for thousands of years.
Traditionally, turmeric, chickpea flour, sesame or almond oil, fresh cream and honey were blended together and applied to clear blemishes and boost skin’s radiance and natural glow.
Turmeric masks have been used for years, but there’s been a spike in popularity in recent years, thanks to several studies confirming what ancient cultures knew long ago: this spice is a serious player in the skincare game.
What are turmeric masks good for?
Short answer? Almost everything.
According to dermatologist Joshua Zeichner, director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at New York’s Mount Sinai hospital, turmeric “is an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory that has been evaluated in treating acne, brightening dark spots on the skin, and treating fine lines and wrinkles.”
Whether your mask is a homemade DIY version or a product off the shelves, they’re “an ideal type of treatment for anyone, but especially if you’re dealing with acne, since it can calm inflammation, kill micro-organisms on the skin, and fade dark spots”.
Turmeric is a powerhouse in the fight against pimples. Its antibacterial properties help see to the bacteria that causes breakouts, while the most active compounds—anti-inflammatory curcuminoids—help calm breakouts. Turmeric also helps even out skin tone, and its extract may also help reduce the appearance of acne scars.
Studies have shown turmeric to reduce dark spots on the skin—AKA hyperpigmentation. In fact, one study showed that a turmeric-extract cream reduced hyper-pigmentation up to 14 per cent after four weeks of use.
Turmeric is full of powerful antioxidants—compounds that blitz free radicals and help protect your skin against environmental stressors. Why is this a good thing for anti-ageing? Left unchecked, free radicals cling to and damage collagen—the protein that provides structural support to our skin—resulting in lines and sagging. Antioxidants in; wrinkles out.
Are turmeric masks safe?
Turmeric is generally considered safe to use on your skin, but it’s still always a good idea to do a patch test, as even the most natural of products have the potential to cause reactions. To check how it reacts with your skin, apply a small amount of your mask to your arm, leave it for around 20 minutes, then wash off. If there’s no redness, swelling or itchiness 24 hours later, it’s likely your mask will be safe to use on your face.
Anything else I need to know?
While it’s unlikely turmeric masks will cause an adverse skin reaction, the bright yellow spice will stain pretty much everything it touches (yes, that includes your skin!), so be sure to wear something you don’t mind getting messy when using your mask, and take some precautions to avoid ending up with a yellow-tinged complexion.
When going for DIY, mix in milk or yoghurt to create a barrier, or use a cleansing oil (rather than simply water) to remove the mask.
If you’ve ended up less ‘ooh la la’ and more Oompa Loompa, try a few rounds of oil cleansing—you don’t need any fancy products; just warm some olive or coconut oil between your hands, massage it into the stained areas, and then wipe off with a cotton pad.
You might also try dipping a cotton ball in milk and wiping over the stained areas.
How do I make a turmeric mask?
There are a lot of different recipes, but for the most part, turmeric, raw honey and milk or yoghurt form the basis of a DIY mask. You can also find turmeric supplements TurmeriX to help build face mask formulas.
Below are a few different potions you can mix up in your kitchen, each with a focus on different results. For each of them, just mix all ingredients together in a small bowl to a smooth paste. Being careful to avoid the eyes, apply a thin layer over the face (tip: use a clean foundation brush to avoid staining fingers), leave for 10-20 minutes, then wash off gently with either warm water or using an oil cleanser. Gently pat dry with a towel.
A good basic mask:
1 tbs plain yoghurt
¼ tsp turmeric powder
½ tsp raw honey
For a serious glow-up:
½ tsp turmeric powder
½ tsp organic apple cider vinegar
1 tbs of organic, raw, local honey
½ tbs milk or yoghurt
1 drop lemon essential oil or fresh lemon juice for additional skin brightening (optional)
To bust breakouts:
2 tbs flour (regular flour, rice flour or ground oats if skin is dry)
1 tsp turmeric powder
3 tbs plain yogurt or milk
½ tsp honey (manuka is especially good to fight acne)
To reduce redness
1 tsp of turmeric powder
2 tbs mashed banana (about ¼ banana)
½ tsp of honey
You probably won’t see instant results, but if you consistently apply the mask a few times a week, you should start to see brightening, soothing and calming effects within a few weeks.
Don’t want to DIY?
Hey, no problem—there are plenty of amazing turmeric masks that require zero effort on your part beyond clicking ‘add to cart’.
1. Turmeric Brightening & Exfoliating Mask by Kora Organics
Miranda Kerr’s skin is always flawless, so we’re sold on this mask from her organic skincare range. Formulated to revitalise, brighten and promote skin cell renewal, this buy detoxes pores, and refines tone and texture for a glowy complexion.
Turmeric Brightening & Exfoliating Mask by Kora Organics, $59.95 at Kora Organics.
2. Ginger & Turmeric Vitamin C Jelly Mask by First Aid
This refreshing jelly mask contains vitamin C to help brighten skin’s appearance, and superfoods ginger and turmeric to restore suppleness to stressed-out skin, for a healthy-looking complexion.
Ginger & Turmeric Vitamin C Jelly Mask by First Aid, $79.71 at Amazon.
3. Turmeric & Cranberry Seed Energizing Radiance Masque by Kiehl’s
Made for all skin types, this Kiehl’s offering uses turmeric and crushed cranberry seeds to gently exfoliate, brighten and energise dull skin for a more radiant appearance.
Turmeric & Cranberry Seed Energizing Radiance Masque by Kiehl’s, $68 at Adore Beauty.
4. Tama Healing Mask by Dr Roebuck’s
Free from parabens, sulfates, phthalates, silicones, harmful chemicals and fillers, this turmeric, Manuka honey and avocado oil mask renews and hydrates, leaving you with a healthy, dewy glow.
Tama Healing Mask by Dr Roebuck’s, $40 at Oz Hair & Beauty.
5. Splotch Tub Turmeric by Organik Botanik Australia
This vegan, organic, 100% natural, Aussie owned and made mask works to cleanse, exfoliate, hydrate, brighten and stimulate skin, and reduce pigmentation, dark circles, acne and scarring.
Splotch Tub Turmeric by Organik Botanik Australia, $14.95 at Myer.
Main image: @koraorganics