What is Turmeric and Why is it Good for Acne?

You know that yellowy hue that curries and Indian food tend to have? Thought it was nasty food dye #5? I would have thought so too, but it’s not! It’s actually a revered spice called Turmeric which has a myriad of medicinal properties.

What’s Turmeric Going To Do For You?

  • Reduce inflammation. This is turmeric’s shining quality – it’s incredibly anti inflammatory. Acne is inflammation, so we definitely want this!
  • Detoxify your liver! Your liver is your body’s insurance policy, and keeping it tip top will help to keep your body stay healthy.
  • Fight free radicals. Free radicals disrupt and damage the sebum and cells in your skin, so we want them gone.
  • Sooth the digestive tract. Many acne problems start with poor digestion, so relieving digestive discomfort is a major plus.

How Can I Use Turmeric to Relieve Acne and Where Do I Get It?

Turmeric is actually a root that looks much like ginger root. I’ve only seen the actual root sold once… and that was at Whole Foods, and wow…. it was expensive! It’s much more commonly found in a powdered spice form and you can get it in the spice aisle of just about any grocery store.

Apparently you can also get big bags full of it at Indian groceries for a few bucks, which is great if you want to use a lot of it! Just make sure it’s pure turmeric without any other added ingredients.

If you truly want to get the medicinal properties out of turmeric, it’s best to use it consistently… like a spoonful or two per day. It has a vaguely pungent bitter flavour, but I don’t find the flavour overly strong… so you can add it to your food whenever you can. Since it has such a bright yellow colour, it can make your food look much more fun and exotic! I find this is especially true of rice dishes.

Other Ways to Take Turmeric

If you can’t find somewhere to hide turmeric in your food each day (I would suggest maybe seeing if it could be disguised in a green smoothie), some people will mix it with water and drink it down. Some don’t find drinking it very pleasant though, so they’ve decided that buying turmeric capsules from a health food store is the better way to go. That is definitely more expensive, but you could make a compromise and buy empty capsules and fill them up yourself!

Lastly, if you want to, you can apply it directly to your skin as a mask, and it can help with inflammation and acne scars on the face. You can mix it with a bit of honey and lemon juice, or perhaps aloe vera gel, and apply it to the skin – let it sit for a while, and gently wash it off.

I have to warn you though, this can turn your skin a bit yellow! I tried it once, and when I washed it off I thought I thought that I was in the clear on the yellow front… but the next day, in brighter sunlight, my mom asked me what was on my face. Knowing that she had more tact than to point out an acne blemish, I inquired further as to what she was talking about, and it turned out that ‘it look like I had jaundice’. Soo…. be careful! hahah … if you dare to venture into the world of turmeric masks, I would suggest maybe leaving it on for only ten to fifteen minutes as opposed to the half hour or so I had let mine sit.

Do you have any experience with turmeric?

photo by Carlos Lorenzo

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  1. Bridget says

    Hey Tracy! I love turmeric and just wanted to add that it tastes great in soup. I add it to lentil soup all the time….I’m sure it would be great in chili too. It definitely does turn your skin orange though! My fingers are always died for at least a day after cooking with it! I was going to ask you what you thought about using it as a mask before I read your full post and saw that you already answered the question! My worry is that when I use use cinnamon as a mask with honey I have found that my face gets SO irritated. It turns bright red and itches like crazy! I assumed that it was just because the cinnamon is too abrasive for my skin and maybe I’m not being gentle enough with it-(i tend to rub it in a bit to exfoliate). Do you think turmeric would pose the same problem or is it a finer, softer powder than cinnamon?? Maybe I’ll try it and just be really gentle with how I apply! I just don’t want to risk looking like an oompa loompa the next day! ;) Thanks for the post Trace!

    • Sampson says

      Bridget, there’s about a 99.9% chance you’re not using cinnamon.

      What most people consider “cinnamon” is actually a plant called Cassia. Basically if the cinnamon you’re using is more red than yellowish-orange, it’s not cinnamon. In the US and some other silly countries, Cassia and Cinnamon are one and the same. In many other countries though, selling Cassia as Cinnamon is illegal.

      Make sure to get real cinnamon, because I ran into the same problem.

        • Bridget says

          Thanks, Sampson! That is very interesting!! Hmmmm…..I had not heard that before. The cinnamon I have is definitely more of a red-brown, not a yellow-orange! I’m not sure where you live but I am in the US and got mine from a health food store called Vitamin Cottage/Natural Grocers. If this place doesn’t have the “real deal” then I don’t know where would! Where do you get yours from?? Thanks again for the info, I thought maybe I was just allergic to cinnamon! ;)

          • Sampson says

            I live in the US too. It’s not that Cassia is bad for you, it’s just that it’s simply not Cinnamon but most people consider it Cinnamon. Sort of like how we refer to the dark part of a pencil as “lead” when in reality it’s graphite. Or tin foil when in reality it’s made of aluminum.

            I’ve bought “real” cinnamon from Trader Joe’s before, so if you have one of those near where you live I would recommend looking for it there. I bet Whole Foods would too. The taste is slightly different too, it’s less sweet and more pungent sort of like a sweeter version of garlic. Also as it gets older if it gets exposed to oxygen for long enough I read it actually gets darker so I would imagine that either way it’s probably best to avoid reddish “cinnamon.”

      • says

        Hi Sofiyya,

        unfortunately, even natural products can cause allergic reactions. However, what most supermarkets sell as “cinnamon” isn’t the real thing (Ceylon cinnamon), but cassia bark. The taste is the same, but (at least in Europe) it usually isn’t labelled, and cassia is a well known sensitizer. You can find Ceylon cinnamon in many organic shops though.

  2. says

    I use turmeric a lot for its medicinal properties. It doesn’t really have much of a flavor so you can pretty much put it on anything and not really notice the difference. It will I put it on salads mostly and then any dish I think i will go well on.

  3. Beladona says

    I have bad Acid reflux so I’m a bit scared of taking this internally.I will try it out as a mask though

  4. Bruno says

    Hi Tracy :D, a-ma-zing post again, never heard of this spice and will definitely try it out. I’ve made an appointment with a holistic doctor that uses the electrodermal screening type of things. She was damn friendly over the phone, so I know that’ll be a success. Soon I’ll know what I’m intolerant to. Thanks for everything you’ve done!

    (if you don’t have time don’t answer these questions, don’t even read it, it’s not important at all)

    I made a real meal yesterday (I’m in exams and don’t have that much time on my hands to make healthy dishes so I mostly eat nuts, fruit, and quickly cook vegetables, but I can never really work on a dish) : sweet potato fries with a bell pepper that I steamed and I put some quinoa in the bell pepper, also some broccoli. It had been a while since I tasted something that good. You think it’s too much to eat a whole broccoli (like 450g) every day, or would it be hard to digest?

    What I really wanted to ask though, was : do you eat a lot of nuts? I try to be paleo, but meat really doesn’t help me, so I mainly eat nuts, vegetables, fruit and quinoa. I do eat fish though, quite often, I used to hate fish, but I’ve learned to appreciate it more now. And soaking my nuts was the best thing I ever did. Those almonds were damn tasty :D

    • Tracy says

      Hi Bruno! I think raw broccoli is pretty hard to digest… i’m sure you can eat as much steamed broccoli as you want! As for nuts, no I don’t eat a lot of nuts, just because they are kind of expensive… and too much of them can throw off your omega ratio as they contain a lot of omega 6 fats. But I guess so does non-organic grassfed meat, so if you would prefer to eat nuts, then go for it.

  5. Runimina says

    Haha yeah I’m really pale and I tried the tumeric mask before and I looked really bad because the color stayed yellow. X_X; But I think I will try it as just a spot treatment next time. I need to figure out how to get it in my food, I always forget though. I think you could put it in soups and things and wouldn’t be able to detect it.

  6. Tata says

    Oh my….so what I’ve been using all this time is not cinnamon but cassia! :( No wonder I feel burn everytime I apply the mask on my face…ergh! The battle is still on. Now off to find ‘real’ cinnamon! Thanks! Cheers.

  7. Brenda Kearns says

    I’m writing an article for First for Women magazine about home remedies, and I’m looking for someone who has used turmeric to help with their skin problems. If it’s worked for you and you’re willing to have a quick blurb in this article (just 30 – 40 words describing how you use it and how it works) I’d appreciate hearing from you. My e-mail: kearns@sympatico.ca. Thank you!

    Brenda Kearns

  8. Hernando Esquivel says

    Turmeric is really a good natural product to help in may problems.
    But we cannot get Turmeric pure or is difficult.
    Some criminals somewhere are adding rice powder or other products to Turneric.
    I used Turmeric for several weeks and got help for my Rhinitis that I had suffered for many years.
    The problem is that I decided to buy it from an Indian shop and my prblems started again!

    Now I must go back to the supermarket and pay more for the Turmeric that I know will work…

  9. laura says

    i luv tumeric in all my cookings…taste lovely,besides its a gd cure for boils too…,cuts,and best cure for pains in the joints.

  10. Michelle says

    As far as the yellow stain when using it as a mask, you can combine the turmeric with plain yogurt and coconut oil or sesame oil. a table spoon of each is fine and just mix it together, it should be creamy and smells a bit weird but it really works.

    After about 25 min, wash off with warm water and then your cleanser. Make sure you moisturize after. Coconut oil is a good moisturizer as well.

  11. Jane says

    I suffer from painful, itchy cystic acne on my chin since I was 23, I’m now 35. I was just short of going to an Endrocrinologist,because I had determined every Dermatologist I had been to was an idiot…within 2 days of taking tumeric (after a friend mentioned that it was a great cure for inflamation)and using lime juice as a toner after I washed my face. I haven’t had a break out since. I highly recommend this and it can’t hurt. If you don’t see results right away, I would at least test it out for 30-45 days giving your cell the natural progrssion time to turn over.

    Good Luck!

  12. Dee says

    Hello Tracy :) first, let me just say that i found your blog really cool, and very helpful. Thank you. :) About turmeric..I’m Indian and we use it all the time. We rarely use it directly on skin, tho, because of the yellowness it leaves behind. (Brides use turmeric and sandalwood masks all over their face and body before the wedding because the yellowness accentuates the natural wheat-ish colour of Indian skin.) I’ve found a really good mask that helped with scarring from picking at spots. I used it everyday on my hyper-pigmentation marks and they were gone in about a month. I make very little each time, because i don’t like to store this, and i use it only on the spots, and not my entire face.
    about half a teaspoon of plain yogurt, or curds
    about half a teaspoon of lemon juice
    one-eighth a teaspoon (or less-just a pinch) of turmeric. (any more than that, and you’ll turn yellow:) (i like to get it to the exact colour of my skin, so when i have the mask on the spots, you can’t really tell.)
    mix everything up, and leave it on for about half an hour. turmeric and lemon can increase skins’s sensitivity to sunlight, so i use this only at night before going to bed.
    also, i wouldn’t drink that much turmeric a day, because it turns your teeth yellow too. We use about half a teaspoonful a day in meals. for the whole family. :) and dont foget to rinse your mouth after!

    • Tracy says

      Hey Dee – have you ever heard of this thing about turmeric being used to whiten the teeth? Sounds weird and totally counter intuitive, but apparently it works!

      • Dee says

        Woah! I never heard of that! I just looked it up. Probably works :)
        Hey- I like the idea of miswak twigs instead of nasty plastic toothbrushes. :D i found that they sell them in the local market here. I’m SO going to get some.

      • Stephen says

        Hey there! I have recently discovered your blog and wanted to reply to this comment. I was interested in reading this article as I have used turmeric with honey as a facial mask for a few months now, and was intrigued by it also being used to whiten teeth! Crazy really when you consider how easily it stains everything. Anyway, after reading this yesterday I did a brief research on the net, then reluctantly made a turmeric toothpaste out of 1 tsp of powder and some water then brushed for 3-4 minutes.

        To put it simply, I was very surprised. It actually works. I even have 2 “fake” white crowns and it didn’t stain those either, just lifted off all of the stains from years of green tea! It’s worth brushing with a regular organic toothpaste afterward though.

        Thanks!! :)

        • Tracy says

          Hi Stephen!
          Great to hear you tried this out – I tried it out with the intention of making a video about it, but it didn’t really work for me – but truth is, I don’t think my teeth are very stained! I have always had fairly white teeth as far as I can tell. It was my bottom teeth that needed some help, but it didn’t make a noticeable difference. I was going to get my boyfriend to do it so that the video could still be made (provided it worked for him), but haven’t gotten around to it…… honestly, I can’t believe something so yellow and stainy can remove yellow stains on the teeth…. so weird!

  13. Erica says

    I put Turmeric on my face as a mask before bed for 2 years and it cleared my skin but now my acne has come back and turmeric only helps a little. I think it’s internal maybe that’s why…..it’s sucks. I took the pills for 2 months and it made me break out in huge cysts. I stopped taking it and my breakouts were less big. Idk maybe it was coincidence?

  14. Shimra says

    People who are Indian or of other ethnicities with darker complexions, or even yellow complexions, are more likely to get away with using turmeric masks without super noticeable skin stains. However, a lot of fairer skinned individuals have positive effects with white turmeric and don’t have to deal with the stains.

  15. Your Stranger Friend says

    When I was 14-15 years old I had TERRIBLE ACNE. Accutane cleared me it was tough but worth everything. My skin was fantastic for years, with an occasional pimple or Small breakout sometimes when that hormonal time of the month would come around but it was truley rare. I am going to be turning 21 years old now. I am working at a spa where they do all different types of beauty services. Because of the outstanding hookup of being an employee i thought why not take advantage of the great discounts and get facials or something. (FML) If only I could turn back and change my decision. Everyone there has beautiful skin employees and clients thou. Because of my scarring (which was not too bad at all) from my previous acne one of the estheticians recommended a microdermabrasion treatment so I followed through and had a facial maybe a week or two later with extractions also. I don’t know what happened or what this triggered I don’t know what or who to blame. My skin was freaking out. So I followed a series of salycilic acid peels. My skin was over dried it was so tight like on accutane again peeling left and right pimples on pimples and scars or scars. You can only imagine. So I have been religiously laying my face under a blue light therapy for 20-40min a 5 times a week followed by a quick high frequencey treatment on my face. BUT EVERY SINGLE DAY I have been making a mask COLOIDAL OATMEAL, TURMERIC, CINNAMON, HONEY, SQUEEZED LEMON. I make a decently thick (BUT NOT TOO THICK) consistency with these and paint a generous layer on my face with a brush and let it sit for an hour up to 4 every night. Its messy and stains so i just make it thick enough so its not running off my face and getting everywhere droopy Free but thin enough to easily spread. All these ingredients are 100% natural. I have been doing this 2weeks now. I wanted to see a dermatologist ASAP when I had a break in my busy schedule but honestly I am really starting to see results and I think it’s this magic mask. If anyone is an acne sufferer I know what you are battling. This at home remedy is the first thing to work for me and have tried and done and researched what I’d like to believe almost everything. I am going to continue this mask and if it completely clears me with in the next two weeks or so I won’t turn to the doc for meds. It took 2 weeks to start seeing results for me and I make this mask freshly before I apply every night for anyone who may be interested be patient. My skin does not really stain & I rinse well. I am also crazy when it comes to keeping my sheets and pillow cases clean no touching my face I wash my face with cleanser and moisturizer and have over counter treatments also I DRINK MORE THAN PLENTY WATER drink detox & cleansing juicer juices AVOID sugars and Dairys as much as possible. HOPE THIS HELPS ANYONE TRYING TO CLEAR THEIR SKIN. Its possible i have and its back to Haunt me but i believe it will be GONE sooner than later and hopefulllly for good this time around. Sending love and light my friends, good luck ! (=

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