Turmeric is a type of herb that has been used in many skincare products and DIY masks to lighten dark spots and hyperpigmentation of the skin. While it may take some time to see significant changes in the skin, the benefits of this anti-inflammatory herb are worth noting.
What Is Turmeric?
Turmeric is a yellow spice common in India, and has been used for many years for its healing, anti-inflammatory, and calming properties. It can be taken both orally and applied topically for its benefits.
How Does It Work?
Curcumin is the main polyphenol found in the turmeric plant. Polyphenols are a type of compound that helps the body fight oxidative stress.
When consumed, curcumin has been shown to affect cell pathways. It displays anti-inflammatory effects. Curcumin has even been shown to play a role in improving degenerative eye conditions (1).
One issue with curcumin is that it is not very bioavailable. This means that when consumed, the body is not able to properly absorb it, therefore reducing its benefits. However, this issue has largely been solved by adding compounds that enhance the absorption of the curcumin once consumed, such as piperine (1).
One way that curcumin brightens the skin is by reducing inflammation in the skin. It has been shown to inhibit NF-kB, which is a molecule that plays a role in inflammatory pathways, triggered by UV rays, pollution, obesity and other factors (1). By inhibiting this factor, curcumin can reduce inflammation in the skin, leading to brighter, less irritated skin.
NF-kB also plays a role in UV-induced photoaging. Photoaging is the effect of aging caused by light, such as the sun. One type of photoaging includes the darkening of pigmentation of the skin. By inhibiting this factor, curcumin works to prevent pigmentation from darkening.
In a four week study, turmeric was shown to improve the look of pigmentation in the skin of Chinese women. It was applied topically in the form of a cream (2).
Using a turmeric cream regularly may be able to improve the look of hyperpigmentation in the skin over a period of 1 month. This is because the skin renews itself over a period of 4 weeks – The epidermal cells differentiate, gain functions to protect the skin, then eventually fall off at around 4 weeks later.
It is best not to DIY skincare products. Over the counter formulations include additives to their products that can enhance the penetration of turmeric into the skin. Therefore, these creams and/or masks should be used instead of homemade ones.
Turmeric has many other benefits to the skin and body. This includes reducing inflammation in the joints to improve arthritis (1). In addition, it has antioxidant activity similar to vitamin E, in which it can scavenge free radicals and protect the body from oxidative damage. Also, turmeric has been shown to lower triglyceride levels (1). Inflammatory conditions like acne have also shown improvement. Even memory, fatigue and attention span increased after chronic treatment of turmeric (1).