Modern medicine has embraced turmeric, with over 3,000 publications dealing with the root over the past 25 years. Some of the most recent studies have involved turmeric’s affects on the skin. In addition to scientific evidence, we have other clues as to how turmeric may help us to look younger.
1. Protects from sun damage
In a 2009 animal study, researchers applied turmeric extract to skin that had been damaged by long-term, low-dose ultraviolet radiation. They found that it protected the skin from UV rays, prevented the formation of wrinkles, helped retain skin elasticity, and reduced the appearance of dark spots. Wow.
2 years later, a study mixed turmeric extract into a skin cream, and then applied it to skin for six weeks. Results showed that the cream protected against the sun, and also improved the skin’s ability to naturally moisturize itself. The researchers suggested that the extract could be incorporated into sunscreen formulas.
2. Helps reduce acne
Turmeric appears to have natural oil-controlling properties. In 2013, researchers evaluated cream with turmeric extract on acne sufferers. They first evaluated the amount of oil, or sebum, on the skin of the volunteers. They then gave some the cream with the turmeric, and others a cream without turmeric.
Results showed that those using the regular cream actually experienced an increase in skin sebum (more oil production) starting the sixth week of the study. Those using the turmeric cream, on the other hand, experienced a reduction in skin oil starting in the fourth week of use, and that reduction reached 25 percent by the end of the study period (10 weeks).
Research is still new in this area, but if you have oily skin that frequently breaks out, try adding turmeric extract to your homemade masks to see if it helps. If you’re using the powder, be sure to mix it with other ingredients, as otherwise it may, over time, leave a yellow stain on your skin.
3. Reduces risk of skin cancer
Here’s another reason manufacturers would be wise to add turmeric to sunscreens — it has anti-cancer activity. We have many studies showing that this natural ingredient helps slow the growth of cancer cells, and even shrinks tumors.
A few studies have looked at skin cancer, in particular. In 2011, for example, researchers pretreated mice with curcumin extract for three days. They then injected skin cancer cells into the treated areas, and measured the resulting tumors.
Results showed that in the control mice, tumor volume increased 2.3 times faster than in the mice that received the 15 mg curcumin extract. Researchers concluded that curcumin inhibits the growth of skin cancer cells, and blocks tumor progression.
An earlier 2005 study found similar results, with curcumin killing and stopping the growth of melanoma skin cancer cells. (Melanoma is the most deadly form of skin cancer.)
4. Helps heal wounds
Turmeric has a long history of being a wound-healer. Whether one was to suffer a bruise, insect bite, infected wound, or even mouth inflammation, a turmeric salve or paste was the answer.
Modern research has confirmed this is a good idea. A 2005 found that turmeric paste was just as effective as honey in healing wounds, helping skin to heal faster than it would have without the application of either substance. An earlier 1999 study compared turmeric with coconut oil and a control, and found that turmeric was more effective at helping the wound to close and heal.
In 2011, researchers assessed the use of a topical curcumin solution on burn wounds, and found it to be just as effective as the standard drug used on burns, silver sulfadiazine.
In 2012, researchers tried curcumin patches on wounds and found that not only did it improve healing time, but it also helped the skin repair itself, encouraging the production of collagen and promoting tissue regeneration.
5. Helps treat psoriasis
Curcumin has a natural anti-inflammatory action, which we now know can help treat the symptoms of psoriasis.
Patients with psoriasis have elevated “PhK,” a particular type of protein associated with the disease. In 2000, researchers found that curcumin helped inhibit the activity of PhK — with a corresponding decrease in the severity of psoriasis symptoms.
Some studies have also found that oral curcumin may also be helpful. In 2008, researchers reported that after giving 12 patients with psoriasis 4.5 grams a day of oral curcuminoid C3 complex, two of them showed an 83–88 percent improvement in their symptoms. Researchers suggested that larger studies may show more significant results.
A later study did just that — researchers gave oral curcumin 30 patients with psoriasis, and another 30 received a placebo. Results showed that the curcumin cut levels of inflammation in the blood by half, and improved symptoms.
6. Delays the appearance of aging
Turmeric contains potent antioxidants known to protect cells against free radical destruction. In a 2014 study, for example, researchers reported that curcumin protected cells from oxidant damage linked with Alzheimer’s disease — and that it did so in a way linked to preserving long life.
An earlier 2010 study also reported that curcumin could be a useful anti-aging substance. Not only does it potentially reduce the risk of many of today’s deadly diseases, including heart disease, cancer, and Alzheimer’s, it may improve the health status of the elderly because of its powerful anti-inflammatory properties. We now know that inflammation is behind many of our modern ailments, and that cooling it can improve and extend life.
“Curcumin can counteract the pro-inflammatory state,” researchers wrote, “which is believed to participate in many age-related diseases.”
It makes sense that topical application of turmeric may also help delay the appearance of aging on the skin. A couple studies have found that to be true.
In one, researchers applied a cream with both turmeric and niacinamide in it (niacinamide is a form of vitamin B used in many facial creams), or a cream with just niacinamide, to groups of women aged 40 to 60. They found that after eight weeks, those using the cream with both the turmeric and the niacinamide experienced a 15 percent improvement in fine lines and wrinkles over those using the cream with the niacinamide alone.
In a second study, women aged 25 to 55 were able to reduce the appearance of age spots by an average of 15 percent after eight weeks of using a cream with turmeric twice daily.
Both of these studies were supported by a company marketing the creams, so we have to consider that when looking at the results. As we wait for more research to be completed, though, it makes perfect sense that turmeric in a skin cream would have anti-aging properties.
7. Fades hyperpigmentation
Tired of age spots and melasma? Turmeric may help.
The spice seems to be able to affect melanin, which is the substance in skin responsible for pigmentation. If you have melasma, you have too much melanin on your cheeks, chin, and forehead. Age spots are also created by too much melanin in one place.
The curcumin in turmeric seems to block the activation of proteins that increase and regulate melanin production. In a 2009 study mentioned earlier, researchers found that curcumin extract not only protected from UV rays, but also prevented the formation of pigmentation caused by UV radiation.
A later 2013 study looked at the ability of curcumin to inhibit “tyrosinase,” which is an enzyme involved in the production of melanin. They found that it did indeed inhibit the activity of the enzyme, at a level comparable to other ingredients used in common products that help prevent hyperpigmentation.
Another study also compared a cream containing curcumin against a cream with four percent hydroquinone (a common lightening ingredient) in 50 human subjects, and found that while both showed comparable lightening effects after four weeks, the hydroquinone cream caused mild to moderate adverse effects, while the curcumin cream did not.
All in all, we saw that this root has definitely earned its recent hype.
By Annmarie Gianni