What Everybody Ought to Know Before Using Turmeric for Acne?

So you are considering using turmeric for acne? Perhaps you’ve heard it can help, or even read positive reviews from other acne sufferers.

This is well and good, but most pages talking about using turmeric only tell you a part of the story. You may have read that several dozen studies have proven the healing properties of turmeric, but what’s missing is that almost none of those studies are done in humans. You may have seen recipes on how to make your own turmeric mask but not the fact that turmeric will make your skin sensitive to sunlight.

In this post I’ll go over these ‘missing facts’ so that you can make a truly informed decision.

Turmeric = curcumin

Before we plunge ahead, I want to clarify some terms. Turmeric is a yellow spice you can find in most supermarkets. Curcumin is the main active ingredient in turmeric. Most turmeric-related research is done with curcumin, and in this post I’ll use curcumin and turmeric more or less interchangeably.

What science really says about using turmeric for acne acne?

Scientific studies show turmeric may be helpful in acne. Topically applied it can kill bacteria and reduce acne-causing inflammation. Taken internally it may reduce some of the risk factors behind acne.

Turmeric has been used in traditional Indian medicine for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. But then again, humans have been doing ineffective and stupid things for far longer than that, so it doesn’t really prove anything.

The very same system of medicine (Ayurveda) holds that heavy metals, such as arsenic and mercury, have healing properties and intentionally adds these toxic substances to their remedies. Just goes to show that ‘surviving the test of time’ doesn’t automatically make something useful.

Some people are perfectly happy to try something ‘just because 2000 years ago a guru said it works’, but for those who prefer more reliable evidence, let’s see what science has to say about this.

Topical effects

Test tube studies have shown curcumin/turmeric to be:

  • Anti-bacterial, including against P. Acnes bacteria (the bacteria linked to acne). One study showed curcumin is 36 times stronger than azelaic acid
  • Anti-fungal, curcumin can kill Candida yeasts, though not as well as anti-fungal drugs
  • Anti-inflammatory

All of which makes turmeric potentially helpful in treating acne. But all of these results come from test tube studies. And we can’t be sure that the same thing happens in humans.

One of the few humans studies showed curcumin can be helpful in psoriasis – curcumin was more effective than the prescription drug calcipotriol. While acne is not psoriasis, the keratolytic effects (reduces clumping of skin cells that blocks the pores) seen in that study suggest it could also help acne.

Another study on psoriasis patients, this time using curcumin supplements (4.5g/day) showed no benefits.

Indirect benefits

Used internally curcumin/turmeric may also have indirect benefits to acne by reducing known causes of acne, namely insulin and inflammation.

Insulin

A recent paper outlined the potential of curcumin to reduce diabetes and improve insulin resistance. As I have written elsewhere, insulin is one of the cornerstone hormones in acne formation and anything that reduces insulin is likely to be helpful for significant portion of adult acne sufferers.

Anti-inflammatory activity

Studies show acne patients have higher levels of inflammation and lower levels of antioxidants than people with clear skin. Similarly, treatments that reduce inflammation and oxidative stress can reduce acne.

Like most plants and herbs, turmeric has some anti-inflammatory effects. A recent review found that curcumin might be useful for people suffering from inflammatory problems.

mTom inhibitor

Curcumin may inhibit the mTor-pathway, which is sort of a master regular in acne. This comes from test tube studies, but if confirmed it could be really helpful in acne.

Science summary

Science shows turmeric could maybe perhaps possibly be helpful in acne. Topically applied it can kill bacteria and reduce acne-causing inflammation. Taken internally it may reduce some of the risk factors behind acne.

The problem is that the most of this data comes from test tube and other preliminary studies. There’s reasonable human evidence for insulin and inflammation reducing effects, though. Evidence for direct benefits to acne comes from test tube studies, and it’s not at all clear turmeric has the same effects on living humans.

Problems and side-effects

Curcumin and turmeric are considered minimally toxic, but it doesn’t mean they couldn’t cause any harm.

  • Topically used curcimin is phototoxic, meaning it increases skin’s sensitivity to sunlight. So if you plan to apply it on the skin, make sure to also use sunscreen. Later research
    seems to show curcumin doesn’t make the skin more sensitive to sunlight. Wearing sunscreen is a good idea nevertheless.
  • Curcumin binds to iron and may increase the risk of anemia.
  • Curcumin can interfere with certain medication. So if you are taking prescription drugs, make sure to talk to your doctor before taking curcumin or turmeric.
  • Some clinical studies have reported gut-related problems, such as nausea, diarrhea and abdominal pain even at fairly low doses (450mg/day).
  • Test tube studies show exposure to curcumin can cause DNA damage. Similarly, curcumin has both oxidative and antioxidant effects. As with all test tube findings, it’s hard to say how these apply to living humans, but they do show curcumin may not be complete harmless.

Yellow.. and even more yellow

And let’s not forget the most obvious problem: curcumin is yellow, and I mean very yellow. And it stains. Like everything. If you are going to make turmeric-based home-remedies expect to spend some time cleaning afterwards.

Topically applied turmeric can also make your skin yellow. Though the staining apparently comes off fairly easily and doesn’t happen to everybody who uses turmeric masks.

Finally, some people report taking curcumin/turmeric supplements causes yellow sweat. Curcumin is excreted through the skin and this can stain your bedsheets and clothes.

Staining isn’t a huge problem, but it’s something you should keep in mind.

Conclusion

Indian food is delicious, thanks in no small part to turmeric. But I wouldn’t call turmeric medicine. Preliminary scientific studies show that turmeric, and its active ingredient curcumin, has some healing properties. It can reduce known acne causes; bacteria, insulin and inflammation. All of which makes it potentially useful as an acne treatment. But scientifically this data is still shaky, and it’s too early to say turmeric is proven to anything.

For a more comprehensive look at turmeric, please see this article from HealthyButSmart.com: The Truth About Turmeric (Curcumin) & It”s “Benefits”. This article focused on skin-related benefits, while the HealthyButSmart.com takes a broader look at the health benefits of curcumin.

That said, it’s minimally toxic and doesn’t cause any serious side effects, at least none have been reported so far. So if you are inclined to test home remedies, I can think of several options worse than turmeric.

Have you tried turmeric? Share your experiences below!

Don’t know how to get over acne? Let me help.

Feel like you’ve tried everything but acne still won’t budge? Read this page to understand why you get acne and what you can do to get over it.

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About Me

Hi, I am Acne Einstein(a.k.a. Seppo Puusa). I'm a bit of a science nerd who is also passionate about health. I enjoy digging through medical journals for acne treatment gems I can share here. You can read more about my journey through acne and how I eventually ended up creating this.

69 thoughts on “What Everybody Ought to Know Before Using Turmeric for Acne?

  1. I tried it several times and I didn’t notice any benefits but I wasn’t consistent. It turned my face yellow and that was awful, I had to use soap to remove it and soap is pretty harsh as we all know. So not anymore, acne doesn’t look beautiful but neither does yellow skin. I tried eating it but I hate the smell and the taste so even all the promises to magically improve my health couldn’t make me eat it. And once you add it to a dish, there’s no coming back – you can’t mask it with anything. But I guess I’m just a picky eater.

    • Hi ! You might try getting some turmeric capsules at any vitamin shop. I use the Vitamin Shoppe .You can also buy the empty capsules and make your own . Avoid eating it and get the effects . I am FIFTY and I occasionally get VOLCANOES. Got one the other night and mixed some turmeric with Neosporin. It worked great. I am now taking it internally . Each body like each mind is a world of its own but I thought I would share that. 😉 ~Good luck with your acne wars !!

      • I’m African American and it works well in my soap I use along with turamic and baking soda. ♡ I’m going to say it seems to help also with pseudo follicolitis u know them puss bumps with hair curled up in it SO I SAY 100% .YES.RINSE WELL AND USE A LIL BIT ON THE BUMPS

    • In regards to removing the yellow stain from the skin, I don’t use soap. First, rinse it off with water, and then, using a cotton pad (I find cotton pads work much better than cotton balls), rub some kind of skin-friendly oil (e.g. coconut oil, cold pressed olive oil, or vitamin E oil) on your skin and wipe it off with the cotton pad. Next, pour skin toner (I use witch hazel) on another cotton pad and wipe your skin again. (But if you don’t want to use toner, you can use oil again. Or just skip the oil and just use toner twice. It’s all a matter of personal preference. You know you’re done when the cotton pad doesn’t come away turmeric yellow anymore.)

      It’s annoying to do twice, in order to clear your skin, but at least it works and you’re not irritating your skin with soap.

  2. Neat article. Curcumin is an MAO inhibitor, so it prevents the breakdown of serotonin and dopamine. I do notice a mood boost when I take it.
    As far as natural treatments go, I have taken spirulina every day for the past 4 months, and my skin is better off. It is a good source of gamma linolenic acid, and has a lot of science behind it: https://examine.com/supplements/Spirulina/
    Unfortunately it took two months to begin seeing results, but I think it is worth it.

    • Great if spirulina works for you. I looked at the Examine.com page and at first glance it looks quite promising. The problem is that most of the effects are what are known as proxies, indicators or markers of something, like lipid peroxidation or markers of inflammation. Such things are often used as markers or risk factors for diseases, but it doesn’t automatically follow that reducing the markers also reduces the associated disease. In fact, often it doesn’t.

      Another problem I noticed that the studies referred were very small, often only 9 to 15 subjects per study. Small studies, while not invalid, are often prone to false positives and other errors.

      I do think that the Examine.com editors were a little too optimistic with their assessment of spirulina.

  3. Hi Seppo, thanks for sharing your views on spirulina. I first started taking spirulina for its nutritional value and initially it did seem to help with my acne, especially with redness. However, I’ve been taking it for over a month now and it seems like it’s doing nothing while my acne has never been worse. Perhaps like what Mark said, I need to take it for a longer period to see results. I have also been to the examine.com page for spirulina and it did strengthen my faith in spirulina, but now I’m not sure.

    By the way, I want to ask is superoxide dismutase a key antioxidant for acne? In your antioxidant articles, you’ve mentioned it before but not in length, as compared to other antioxidants like glutathione. Initially I thought it’s probably the superoxide dismutase in spirulina that’s helping with my acne, hence the question. Thanks!

    • The research on the role of oxidative damage in acne and the use of antioxidants as treatments is still at very early stages. So it’s not possible to comment on the role on individual antioxidants.

      In the papers I’ve referred to superoxide dismutases (SOD) is used as one of the markers of antioxidant status. But as I mentioned in the reply to Mark, relying on proxy measures is always problematic. It’s in no way guaranteed that doing something, such as supplementing, to change a proxy marker has any real effect on the actual disease we want to treat. For example, it’s possible that there’s some underlying factor that affects acne and SOD levels at the same time, and in this case there may be no direct relationship between SOD and acne. Makes sense?

  4. “Just goes to show that ‘surviving the test of time’ doesn’t automatically make something useful.”

    No, just goes to show that you have no idea what that phrase means. If lead and arsenic had “survived the test of time” as treatments, it would not be common enough knowledge that these are bad for health for you to have even made that comment!

    The phrase “surviving the test of time” means that the thing in question SURVIVES, as in, is not later proved to be wrong.

    • If we talk about the literal meaning of the phrase, then yes, you are correct. But the literal meaning differs from the popular use. When people say that something has been used for thousands of years, or that it has stood the test of time, they imply that it therefore has to work. And that it doesn’t matter if science shows it doesn’t, because how could all those people over thousands of years be wrong?

      If we go by the literal meaning of the phrase, we can say that almost none of the alternative and natural healing techniques have stood the test of time. Most of them have been shown to be no better than placebo.

    • Good point ….and they are still vaccinating us with mercury ridden vaccines. Go figure.

      In homeopathy, toxins are used as an immunizing agent. Perhaps this is why these toxic chemicals are used in our vaccinations. Do they have a beneficial effecst in minute quantities ?? I am too old to worry at this point. Seeing bright minds here brings many debates to life. Things you young people with a voice must address in the future.

      ~Gonna smoke some weed, drink some fluoride and get into some metaphysics vids. Good luck with the acne wars. Turmeric capsules are a wonder….but everyone is different.

  5. You have raised some good points in this article, mainly the fact that we can’t automatically trust remedies just because they’re ancient. However, most of the posts I’ve seen online are from personal experiences where the writers have experienced the benefits of the substance. I became interested in using turmeric to help alleviate symptoms of inflammation. I have lupus and, as a result, suffer from achy joints. I grew very tired of medication (namely, steroids)- the side effects are awful. I decided to make turmeric tea everyday, morning and evening and reduce medication gradually from 3 everyday to one every other day. The turmeric has definitely been working. I feel the difference when I forget or don’t have time to make it. So, to say that all it’s good for is making curries taste great, is a bit harsh. I also recently started using the mask. Although I don’t have acne, lupus affects my skin too so I’m seeing if it will help. It’s too soon to say if there’s improvement, but so far, no complaints.

    • So, to say that all it’s good for is making curries taste great, is a bit harsh.

      Yes, that would be harsh. Then again, I didn’t say that. I said that anyone claiming turmeric is proven to do anything else doesn’t know what they are talking about. I also quite clearly mentioned that there’s preliminary evidence to suggest turmeric could be helpful in acne.

      My intention is to give a reality check to the hype you see on many other sites. Many people buy turmeric believing it’s scientifically proven to help with their health problems – because natural health sites make grandiose claims based on preliminary evidence. Evidence that has no bearing on what happens when living humans take turmeric supplements.

      That said, I’m glad that it’s working for you. And I’m with you on trying to find alternatives to drugs. That’s one reason I started this site. To provide information that’s as reliable as possible, so that patients don’t have to go from one disappointment to another.

      • I suppose I read it differently and me being a bit of a turmeric junkie, I had a knee jerk reaction. My bad :-S…I totally agree with you though on the hype of all these things. I stay away from natural health sites, because most times, their interest is making the almighty buck. They’ll say anything! When I was first diagnosed, I was amazed at how many “natural” remedies there were and shocked that anyone would use medication at all. And I definitely have found many benefits from just reading blogs, etc…but of late, it has all just seemed like one exaggeration after another. One day detox is the best thing for you, the next it makes you sick. At the end of the day, I always just try things knowing they may or may not work and find what’s best for my condition and my body.

        Thanks for your effort in this area. I’m off to apply my mask! 😉

        • No worries 🙂

          I agree that some natural health sites are just out to make money and will say anything to that end. But I also believe that many of them are what skeptics (like myself) call true believers. People who know their natural remedies work, drugs are evil and nothing could convince them otherwise. They just want to evangelize spread the word of their new faith findings. They have good intentions but often base their actions on bad information.

          I’m not here to diss natural remedies, far from it. I just think we should scrutinize them with rigorous science to find out what works and what doesn’t.

      • I believe in testing ancient knowledge with whatever means we have for validity, but just because we have not tested things “our way” doesn’t mean that the ancients did not have a way of their own. There is an assumption here that Ayurvedic doctors never applied any means to test the validity of their science. Just because Western medicine hasn’t gotten around to testing it in a western way does not mean that Ayurvedic methods did/do not exist or are just superstitions. It could simply mean that we do not know how they knew what they know. Much of today’s leaps in quantum mechanics has been derived by applying so called modern methods to the knowledge of ancients which has stood the test of time for a reason. The same holds true for western psychology which even Carl Jung said was in ‘its infancy’ when compared to the psychology of the East. The west is just now catching up; and much still lags way behind, hellbent on treating symptoms and not root causes. Yes, there is ancient quackery out there too. But the modern man doesn’t even know how the ancients came to know so much without him; nevertheless he’s is like the student calling the master teachers ignorant; like the 20 year old who thinks he knows more than all his elders. NASA says it could not even build the great pyramid as well as the ancients. Modern man is not ahead in many categories. He is only beginning to catch up.

        • I’m sure our distance ancestors tested things their way, and I don’t mean to imply that we would be smarter or better than them. The point is that today we know more than our distant ancestors, and we are in a better position to study these things. Not because we are smarted but because we can build on the work and knowledge of the people who came before us.

          To put your argument in another way. You are saying we should all watch black and white TV from the 1960s instead of modern TVs – because it’s arrogant to claim our engineers today would know more than the engineers 50 years ago.

          As to the rest of your comment, I suggest you start getting your information from more reliable sources.

  6. I actually had been taking curcumin for about 8 months and Ive always had acne but I didn’t realize that curcumin could’ve been the cause for it getting worse…I stopped using curcumin for about 2 months and all of a sudden my face was clearing up very well…. then I finally had time to order curcumin, took it and the next day I woke up with 5 new pimples….I am taking curcumin to see if it decreases the growth of my bone tumor, but I don’t know if I’m willing to deal with this horrible acne again. 🙁

    • Sorry to hear you had such a bad experience with curcumin. Examples like yours are the reason why we can’t rely on testimonials and anecdotes and need controlled studies on these things.

  7. I don’t know about science but like many have said, personal experience matters. Whatever the facts are, it can change from person to person because something that affects one person badly may benefit another. I had awful and harsh acne scars for quite a while to the point that I struggled getting out of the house. But the scars that wouldn’t go away completely faded after using a very simple turmeric mask every other day in only two months or so. I benefitted from it so I would inevitably disagree with its potential risks and ‘uselessness’.

    • I’m glad to hear it’s working for you.

      I’d just like to point out that I didn’t say turmeric is useless or that using it is risky. I simply outlined what we know about turmeric as acne treatment today. I said that while there’s some preliminary data to suggest turmeric might work for acne, we can’t conclude that it works on humans based on test tube and animal studies. There’s nothing dismissive or controversial about these statements.

      Most people consider turmeric as completely safe and probably can’t imagine that anything bad could happen because of it. I just pointed out that it can make your skin more sensitive to UV radiation, and thus increase your risk of skin cancer.

      I don’t know about you, but I would guess that most people prefer to have all the available facts at hand before trying something.

      I’m also not against experimentation. On the contrary, I tell my readers to experiment all the time. I just use science to find the things that are most likely to work. If someone is disappointed and decides not to use turmeric after reading this post, then you should point the finger at people who spread unsubstantiated hype about these things.

  8. Turmeric isn’t a miracle drug. However, it does help in fading acne hyperpigmentation, from my experience and the experience of my friends.In india especially, turmeric is used in vanishing creams, which I have personally found useful. And turmeric masks leave my dark skin with a very pretty glow.

  9. My wife was taking cucumin extract, so I decided to give it a go, since we havent been eating Indian spices lately. I have a L shoulder rotator cuff thats damaged from a bike accident and it hurts most of the time, but I can ignore it. After taking it for a couple of weeks or so, I noticed my shoulder didnt hurt anymore! I can even lay on it when I sleep with no pain. My arm would usually hurt and get pin-prick sensations before.

  10. I love turmeric. It has dramatically improved my acne I have had for years. I use almond milk, honey and the powder to make a mask. I wash it off then use toner to get more off then of course a shower and it comes off my skin. Not only is it good for acne, the mask smooths my skin. I also use fresh turmeric, ginger, black pepper, vanilla, a lil almond milk, and honey to make a delicious tea I drink every morning as oppose to coffee. I grate it to make a tea. I believe its great for my internal organs(which may have been a cause for my acne). Indian foods are so beneficial for your insides which will show on the outside. Reading bad experiences is sad but everyone is built different. I am a big fan of natural remedies and highly frown upon pharmaceuticals(messes with your brain waves, addictions, wear and tear on your insides..etc). love love love I recommend it to everyone!

  11. You begin the article by pointing out that arsenic is a heavy metal. Arsenic is a light metaloid (ie somewhere between metal and non metal).

    If you’re going to talk on scientific levels about concepts you don’t understand, I would at least implore you to actually do some scientifically founded research…. or at least know enough to realise that arsenic isn’t in fact a metal (close to, but not), or a heavy metal, by any stretch of the imagination.

    Your basic misstatement of facts (facts known for centuries) is enough to confirm that in reality, you havn’t the faintest idea what you’re talking about!

    Please do some research before spouting your ungrounded opinions and citing barely reputable pseudo scientific sources – misinformation harms us all!

    you also said arsenic was a heavy metal. it isnt (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arsenic)

    its not even a metal, let alone one at the bottom (heavy) end of the periodic table.

    if you want heavy metal check out the band Cannibal Corpse… but don’t go misinforming us because you’re too lazy for a google search! honestly… acneEinstein… yeah right!

    You sure dont know more than our distant ancestors (who were acne free! might I add)

    You’ve made so many basic scientific mistakes and cant cite a single reputable source for your opinions.

    At best you fail.

    At worst, you’re harming others and pushing them away from a valuable natural medicine.

    -Tom
    (An actual scientist)

    • It seems you are the one who needs to check their sources. While arsenic indeed is a metalloid, it’s also commonly considered as heavy metal because of its toxicity: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heavy_metal_(chemistry).

      But let’s give you the benefit of the doubt and agree that arsenic is not a heavy metal. So what? You caught me on a comment that’s in no way relevant to the main point of the post. Curcumin may indeed be helpful in acne, and there is some highly preliminary data to suggest this, but at the moment there is no reliable evidence to show it’s helpful for anything. Absence of evidence doesn’t mean evidence of absence, and I was quite clear about this in the post.

      If you indeed are a ‘real scientists’ then you should know that in vitro data proof does not make. It should be painfully obvious that you can’t conclude what happens in humans based on in vitro experiments, and that’s what the vast majority of evidence for turmeric consists of.

      Again, if you indeed are a real scientist you shouldn’t have any trouble understanding this. And if you think I’m horribly wrong about this, you should have no problems producing reliable evidence to support your point.

      As it is, you come across as yet another raving altie who, for whatever reason, cannot stand the idea that their favorite ‘natural remedy’ isn’t the long suppressed cure for just about everything.

      I really don’t get it why many alties have such a hard time understanding and accepting the basic concepts of science. Some of these old remedies may indeed be helpful, and I’m sure some are, but we have to use rigorous science to figure out what they can and cannot do. Yet, anytime I post an overview like this there seems to be a long line of people who can’t wait to denounce me and call me an idiot. Which is fine, each to their own. I just don’t understand what you find so offensive about this.

  12. https://www.turmeric.com/skin-beauty/turmeric-can-help-get-rid-of-pimples

    Clinical evidence. Not in vitro.

    As someone with hereditary haemochromatosis, turmeric is beneficial to me for it’s iron chelating properties. It has also been linked to supporting collagen formation (I have ehlers danlos syndrome – a deformity of collagen)

    It is also rich in vitamin E which has been proven beneficial many times over for skin health but to me this and the skin clearing effects of curcumin are just an added bonus.

    I found that study within 2 seconds of a google search. There are also plenty of papers that I’d encourage you to read (if you can figure out the big words!)

    Want more evidence, research for yourself. As you should’ve before writing an uninformed OPINION as if it were scientifically grounded fact.

    ” first clinical evidence that curcumin may can aid conditions that range from acne and clogged arteries…”

    Oh look. Another one from 2004

    Try again Einstein!

    • It would be nice if you would share the links to the actual studies, not 3rd party sites talking about the study. Anyway, I saw that paper before writing this post. I didn’t mention it for 2 reasons. One is that it wasn’t about curcumin specifically. They tested a ‘polyherbal cream’, meaning a cream that contained a mixture of herbs.

      2nd, and more importantly, I’m not sure it is a clinical study. Did you see this “The formulations were tested for the anti-acne activity by turbidimetric method”. To me that indicates they tested the formulations in vitro. If they would have tested the creams on humans, I would assume the abstract would have details about average reduction in acne, etc. But I can’t say for sure since I don’t have access to the full PDF.

      Again, I want to stress that I have never said there’s NO evidence for curcumin. I listed several studies in the references section. The study on psoriasis patients is far more convinving than then ‘polyherbal cream’ acne study. My point is that the evidence is far from conclusive. It suggest that curcumin might be helpful for acne, but it’s too early to say anything.

      Want more evidence, research for yourself. As you should’ve before writing an uninformed OPINION as if it were scientifically grounded fact.

      Did you completely miss the ‘References section’ at the end of the post? It contains far more studies that you’ve shared here. And I have actually read those papers, instead of reading 3rd party sites that talk about studies. And I don’t use Google to find ‘evidence’. I use PubMed to look through published medical research. Because I’m interested in learning IF something works – not looking for whatever I can find to confirm my preexisting beliefs.

      All the points regarding turmeric in this paper are referenced to actual studies. It’s not my opinion. The fact that you don’t like what I wrote doesn’t change the validity of my statements.

      If you think turmeric works for you, then by all means keep using it. I never said it wouldn’t work and I never said anyone should not use it. I said it might work but there’s not enough evidence to say for sure.

  13. there are many papers behind paywalled medical journals. I suggest you subscribe to some and do your own research.

    on one hand we have:
    – Anecdotal evidence from millions of people spanning thousands of years
    – In Vitro studies supporting the observed effects
    – Clinical studies confirming positive results stretching back 10+ years
    – The basic knowledge that turmeric is:
    a. A potent antioxidant
    b. A potent anti-inflammatory
    c. Rich in vitamin C, E and several B group vitamins
    e. Contains many sulphur based compounds
    f. Rich in magnesium
    g. Useful for minimising lipid peroxidation (which is well known to be linked with acne)
    h. Can regulate serotonin production and other bio/neurotransmitters (again well understood to be linked to acne)
    i. Antimicrobial (especially against Propionibacterium acnes) (one reference off the top of my head: https://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/herb/turmeric)

    Curcumin aside all these factors indicate it is beneficial for skin conditions of all kinds, including acne.

    On the other hand we have you citing a few studies which aren’t all current and certainly don’t express the entirety of the issue, just a very limited scope, with no conclusive results obtained. By your own admission you use pubMed – one of many resources – and you ignore that there is more to the issue than curcumin alone as it is one of many chemical compounds contained in the plant.

    I’m sorry Seppo but I have to agree with Tom on this one. You couldn’t be further out of the ballpark so to speak.

    Source: I am a doctor (MD, MChD, MPhil, MD-PhD of Nutritional biochemistry (hons.))

    • While researching this post I actually trawled through the last 2 decades of research into turmeric and skin problems, using keywords like ‘curcumin/dermatology/skin/acne/psoriasis’, etc. And I went over a handful of systemic reviews. There may very well be research supporting turmeric on other conditions. But given how this is about acne, I only touched on it and conditions linked to it.

      I cited papers showing turmeric could be helpful in reducing insulin levels and oxidative stress (both published during the past 2 years – not exactly out of date as you claim), both of which could be indirectly beneficial in acne. To be fair, my tone was probably a bit too dismissive in those points.

      Yes, I understand that curcumin/turmeric has many potentially beneficial effects. As a doctor I hope you understand that improvements in proxy measures don’t always translate into clinical improvements. Some times they do, many times they don’t.

      As I stated many times in this post, turmeric is potentially useful, and there’s some preliminary data to suggest it is. And I’m willing to admit that the tone of this article is probably a bit too dismissive. But it’s quite premature to conclude from this that turmeric has been proven to treat skin problems. With such an impressive list of credentials after your name, this much should be obvious to you.

  14. With anything do research. I’ve used tumeric with GREAT success and would recommend it. I tell ppl everyone is different what works for me may not work for you. In no way should tumeric be a replacement for medication.

  15. Hi, I have had acne and cystic acne ever since I turned 25. As a teenager and young adult, I had magazine type beautifully clear skin. I am now 38 and skin is not so nice.

    Two years ago I went to India and stayed for about 9 months. While there all of my acne disappeared complete and my skin was totally rested and relaxed. No tingly, itchy, irritation or anything. Oh god I love that feeling.

    When I got home, the acne slowly started coming back. A few months later I went to visit some indian friends for 3 weeks, and the Acne stopped for about 2-3 months. But then returned.

    I went to India in spring for 2 months, and again the acne went away.
    Now I am home and some cystic acne on the jaw line has returned, and spots around hair line, eye brows.

    Several months ago (septemberish) I tried eating a thumb sized peice of fresh turmeric root, which I felt might have been related to the healing. Primarily because in India I was eating so much curry that my bowel movements had a yellowish color.

    It really seamed to help, but I can not get the totally clear skin except when I go to India (or strangely enough visit my indian friends). I feel some other herbs might be at work.

    Also, eating 2 meals a day one at 10am and one 5pm, and no snacking in between seems to be very balancing be very effective. (2 vegetarian meals without dairy products)

    In my experience, eating the root seems to be very effective.
    Putting on the skin, in my experience was almost placebo level effect compared to eating a thumb sized piece directly AFTER meals.. Because eating the root seems to address the overlaying issues that cause the acne.

    I have taken a break from eating the root, and again the acne comes back. Today for morning meal I will resume eating piece of raw root to measure its effect again.

    -Alex

    ps – While in India, I simply washed my face with water. I never used any medication.

  16. I’m a 37yr old female with acne, arthritis, bunions, and obesity…which are all inflammatory issues. Ive been taking at least 500 MG of turmeric (sometimes 1000mg) per day for about 2 weeks now.. I can say that I have noticed less joint pain, less bunion pain, and virtually no menstrual cramps this cycle (hallelujah!). As for the acne, the jury is still out, but I’m hopefull that it will improve as well. *interesting side note*…since taking turmeric, I have noticed a significant yellow colored bath water.

  17. hey nice article, i have a question would this lighten my skin due to hyperpigmintion and how often should i use it in a week?

    • I haven’t seen any research to show that turmeric would lighten hyperpigmentation, meaning we don’t know if it works or not. I’ve seen research on other natural substances, like licorice and vitamin C.

  18. Two teaspoons of Apple cider vinegar every morning and curcumin oil applied topically drastically shrunk the sebaceous cyst on my face within a week.

  19. Like any natural remedy, it’s not a magical substance. Everyone’s body is different and turmeric hasn’t been engineered to show instant “results”. Also, it’s not exactly going to be supported by the medical community as they (in general, in my experience) would much rather prescribe drugs.

    If you are implying that Indians have mindlessly been using it for thousands of years (and still widely do) without seeing any results, then you and your post come across as ignorant and fear mongering. If not, then these few “potential” negative side effects are a drop in the ocean compared to the overwhelmingly positive anecdotal evidence and your post does not appear balanced.

    P.S. Turmeric has worked wonders for me personally.

    • Yes, and Western medicine used bleeding to ‘mindlessly’ cure people for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. It’s a fact that humans are not very good as evaluating the effects of medical treatments, especially when they are subtle and occur over a long period of time.

      I’m not sure why you think that listing potential side effects for natural treatments counts as fear mongering. You would probably demand to see such information for drugs. While many natural treatments are fairly safe, it doesn’t mean they all are.

      As I mentioned in the post, it’s plausible that turmeric works for acne.

      • Hello
        Please refrain from saying stuff like Indians have been ‘mindlessly using arsenic for thousands of years’. That doesn’t make you sound balanced and well informed in the least. In Ayurveda,most of the medicines are pure herbal formulations and some of them could have side effects just like modern medicines. The metal rasa formulations exist but are rarely prescribed. The Harvard studies that denounced Ayurveda citing toxic metal content never released the brands studied. A large number of spurious players sell herbal remedies and call them Ayurveda while not maintaining good manufacturing practices resulting in toxic metal contamination. There are reputed Ayurveda pharmaceutical companies in India like Himalaya, Dabur etc. which most Indians rely on, not spurious online snake oil salesmen..

        Coming to turmeric, your article seems like a clickbait rather than a well researched one owing to the overly cautious tone about using something that’s basically regular food in India. Your logic reads like though people have been eating apples for centuries, we don’t know if it is safe because ancients sucked, so be careful and avoid apples because they may be grown using pesticides. Yea and how many non test tube studies have been conducted on apple’s cyanide content?

        Turmeric is no miracle drug. Using it topically on skin may help reduce acne inflammation and redness in some people and may not work for others. Personally, it helped me in controlling outbreaks though acne never went away in my experience of applying fresh turmeric root paste on skin while I was a teenager.

        P.S. I’m an Indian and it really feel awful when you brush aside an entire billion people as out there to kill everyone with toxic metals

        • Also, I have been to Ayurveda healthcare practitioners for treatment. They never claimed anything is a miracle drug in my experience. In fact, in India, if you have to practise Ayurveda, you need to complete a five and half year medical course that covers modern biology in a great deal is what I know

          • Yes, and in the west becoming a naturopath requires several years of studies, some of which include actual science. But that doesn't mean that the premise of Ayurveda/naturopathy/TCM/etc would be valid. As recounted by a former naturopath, naturopathic education is largely pure pseudoscience with some real science sprinkled on top.

        • Please refrain from saying stuff like Indians have been ‘mindlessly using arsenic for thousands of years’. That doesn’t make you sound balanced and well informed in the least.

          Yes, I agree it would make me sound bigoted. Having just read the post, I never said anything like that in the article. I said that people in general have done stupid things for thousands of years and that Ayurvedic medicine holds that arsenic and other toxic heavy metals can have healing properties.

          EDIT: Just realized that you referred to my comment above (which wasn’t visible to me at the backend where I reply to comments). I edited my comment above.

          The point is that unscientific medical traditions have advocated stupid ideas for thousands of years. 'Traditional' Western medicine advocated bleeding and cupping, which, I'm sure you would agree, are good for you.

          The larger point is that we shouldn't use treatments just because humans prior to discovering the scientific method thought it's a good idea. This applies to all silly medical traditions – not just the Indian variety of it.

          A large number of spurious players sell herbal remedies and call them Ayurveda while not maintaining good manufacturing practices resulting in toxic metal contamination.

          This is an entirely different issue. It seems you get hung up on the heavy metal issue. I could have picked up another silly belief from Ayurveda, or even TCM. For example, the silly idea that TCM uses powdered animal parts as medicine, or to boost male performance, putting many endangered species close to extinction.

          Coming to turmeric, your article seems like a clickbait rather than a well researched one owing to the overly cautious tone about using something that’s basically regular food in India. Your logic reads like though people have been eating apples for centuries, we don’t know if it is safe because ancients sucked, so be careful and avoid apples because they may be grown using pesticides. Yea and how many non test tube studies have been conducted on apple’s cyanide content?

          You seem to miss the fact that dose matters. Green tea has been used as food for thousands of years, and when consumed in moderate quantities as food is perfectly safe. Yet, ECGC, the most prominent catechin in green tea, has been shown to cause liver damage, or even death, when consumed in excess. Given that putting EGCG into pills makes consuming it in excess very easy, there's a very real risk of people doing so, as this case report shows.

          P.S. I’m an Indian and it really feel awful when you brush aside an entire billion people as out there to kill everyone with toxic metals

          As you should, but nobody here has claimed anything of the sort.

  20. Is there anybody else out there who has experience a sudden onset of photophobia after taking Turmeric? I don’t take any other medications, I just started taking it with my daily multivitamin and now it’s extremely difficult to go outside without glasses. Seconds outside in sunlight without glasses causes pain, redness, and watering of my eyes. This has been going on for about a week. No other adverse reactions. No headaches/migraines. Healthy 28 year old male. Going to try to stop taking it for a week and see if my eyes sensitivity to light returns to normal.

    • I did some quick PubMed searches. Curcumin is a known photosensitizers. It enhances antibacterial effect on red and blue light. It’s likely also phototoxic to mammalian cells. I didn’t find anything specifically on photophobia, but given that curcumin is phototoxic, it’s plausible it could also cause photophobia.

  21. Thanks for an interesting article, you have made some great points. I have just personally started taking turmeric this week and will be interested to see if there are any positive benefits for me.

  22. Isn’t it great that people are interested in natural remedies though? (Rather that than chemical filled face washes I reckon!)
    I’ve tried turmeric and yogurt face mask and got the yellow stain off easy with a bit of olive il.
    Not sure it’s doing anything yet but I know that when I’m consistent with using Apple Cider Vinegar twice I day my skin really clears up!

    • For THREE YEARS NOW, I’ve been using Turmeric, in combination with tea tree oil moisturizer (self-made in a 30 mL bottle; ingredients: cold-pressed olive oil, coconut oil, and 15-25 drops of tea tree oil).
      I don’t see acne on my face anymore unless I get lazy and stop doing the turmeric masks. The tea tree oil moisturizer (which I use everyday) helps keep most (around 80-90%) of the acne, inflammation and redness down, but it doesn’t keep all of it gone.
      The turmeric not only takes care of the rest it, but I’ve seen a great improvement on my acne scars. They are now skin coloured and almost not noticeable, and you can only notice them (due to the raised scars) if you go really close and study my skin in a bright light. But if anyone other than my doctor did that, they’d be a weirdo.
      Also, the turmeric evens out my skin tone and removes the appearance of dull skin. I’m not saying I look airbrushed, but, compared to my acne years, my skin looks almost flawless. However, if comparing my skin to someone who’s never had acne, you’d notice the slight scarring.

      I wouldn’t keep using the mask if it didn’t work.

      But, a word of caution: This may not work for you. I suggest you first do a patch test on your arm. If you don’t get any reaction after 24 hours, then proceed to do the same test on a small patch on your face. Wait 24 hours. The skin on your face is not the same as on your arm, which is why I suggest you do two tests. Wait 24 hours because some people have delayed reactions.

      Lastly, sometimes acne isn’t caused by only external factors. I’ve also had to change my diet. I’ve noticed that I break out if I eat white bread, white sugar, and fried (in oil) foods (basically processed foods), no matter if I’m following a rigid topical skin regiment. My neighbour breaks out when she eats lemons (which I find very unfortunate; I love lemons) and an old acquaintance had a reaction to dairy products. My poor dietary choices accounted for 30% of the acne on my face. I know because I’ve spent years and YEARS trying to figure out how to manage my skin. I’ve tested foods by process of elimination (keep the same simple diet and add one new food for the week and see if your skin gets a reaction a few days after eating that food.)

      Make sure you’re drinking plenty of WATER, not TEA or COFFEE. Water hydrates you, while tea and coffee are diuretics (they work in getting your body to expel more fluids, essentially dehydrating you). Reasons for drinking diuretics are when you are purposely trying to get your body to flush something out (eg. toxins). This doesn’t mean you can’t drink tea or coffee, it just means that you can’t count those/substitute them as your daily water intake.

  23. I mix equal quantities of powdered turmeric, ginger and cinnamon and keep in air tight jar. I use a dessert spoon every day on top of my cooked breakfast oats with boysenberries and yoghurt. At first it tasted quite earthy, but I soon got used to the flavour. My arthritic knees are mostly pain free now. When taking 1500 mg of glucosamine I didn’t get the pain relief as now when I have the spices as well. I have noticed that my perspiration is a lemon colour but not noticeable on my skin. I will keep using my blend for the pain relief it brings me.

  24. I had to stop using turmeric in my food as the yellow would come out of my skin and leave bright yellow stains on my clothes.

  25. I have been taking tumeric capsules for 2 months now. I have hormonal acne that pops up on my face, jaw line, chest and back. Occasionally I would have sporadic folliculitis on the back of my upper thighs. It has taken a good 8 weeks of taking tumeric capsules with every meal and I’ve finally noticed that my chest, back and face have not had any new breakouts in 2 weeks now. The folliculitis has also cleared up. I have also noticed the bumps in my hair near my neckline have started to heal. They have been there for months. Hopefully my story and many others who gave tumeric enough time to help is enough evidence to show That tumeric is highly effective. If you read enough stories of people’s experience with tumeric, that is a “human study” in itself.

    • Thanks for sharing your experience.

      But I respectfully disagree that that’s a ‘study’. Let’s say that 100 people take turmeric, 5 of them get good results while 95 see no difference. Those 5 are more likely to report their experience online, but just be reading their accounts you wouldn’t get an accurate picture of the real potential. We need to count both hits and misses.

      That being said, in cases like this where the potential risks are minimal there’s very little downside to self-experimenting in absence of good quality evidence.

  26. I have been applying a mixture of turmeric+basen on my face topically for the past ten days. For the first week the mixture was able to clear my skin out completely. I noticed the change immediately, right on day 1, and my skin just kept getting clearer, softer and less cracky/dry. But since the past three days, I have been noticing that the dryness is slowly making its way back and my dark circles are starting to reappear. I fear the pimples might return too. Maybe its because I was also adding a bit of lemon in my mixture, and even though the first few days with the mixture worked well for my skin because of the turmeric, the adverse effects of lemon started setting in later on. Or maybe its because turmeric isn’t as life-changing of a thing for acne as it is glorified to be; after a week’s use, my skin probably got used to turmeric and it stopped effecting me. I can’t be sure what the problem was. But after a week of living with a clear, beautiful face, my uneven skin is back with a bang. I’ve been dealing with genetic acne since I was 11 and I am now 19. My first week with turmeric actually disappeared them and I was elevated. But I guess it was just a game of easy come and easy go.

    • Good points. This is one reason I tend to take ‘user reviews’ with a grain of salt. People often post them during the excitement when they see positive effects. But the review is rarely corrected if things get back to normal.

      In your case, it could also be that lemon juice caused problems for you. It contains substances that make your skin more sensitive to sunlight, which could lead to inflammation in the skin.

  27. Turmeric made my acne worse. I broke out in cysts after taking it orally for about a week. Once I quit my skin calmed.

  28. Does applying turmeric has anything to do with facial hair growth in men? Will it reduce the rate of beard or mustache growth?
    Because Indian women apply turmeric to remove any hair growth on their body, more like an Indian alternative for ‘veet’. And so, generally not advised for men to use it for topical applications.

  29. I’d just like to note that heavy metals that you mention are in fact hugely beneficial. There’s a reason they are present in certain remedies, and even in nutritional supplements available today. Heavy metals can either be positivey or negatively charged, depending on ther source! We all have heavy metals present in our bodies (foods, environment, etc.) that build up over time. The idea is that ingesting heavy metals of the opposite charge will pull the heavy metals out of one’s system. I have taken supplements containing arsenic and Mercury, and the benefits were unbelievable to me. I’ve always had floaters in my eyes, but while taking the supplement, they became invisible. Could it be that the floaters I see are scar tissue (they are) that have build up of heavy metals and toxins that these supplements removed? Who can say? The color of my skin became vibrant, my terrible smoking habit became undetectable when I had bloodwork done for my life insurance. I was baffled. Science is great, but it is very limited. Anyway, when I read your mention about the heavy metals, it prompted me to comment here. Heavy metals found in organic matter (plants etc.) are typically the ones used in supplements and remedies, they they unquestionably come with many benefits – I am attest to that pesonally. Look into it! You’ll see 🙂

    • This is one reason I don’t like alternative medicine. They just make up these silly theories that run counter much of what we have discovered through the process of science. For starters, this is a good article that outlines many of the problems, and some benefits, of Ayurvedic medicines containing heavy metals.

      https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3113373/

      There have been over 80 cases of heavy metal poisoning due to these remedies. That being said, it seems that proper preparation negates many of the harmful effects of the included heavy metals. Still doesn’t make them beneficial though.

  30. Hi,
    I have been using turmeric powder and honey mask to spot treat cystic acne. I have combination skin with little more on the oily side in the T-zone. I breakout once a month just before or during the menstrual cycle and the acne is most definitely on my chin due to the hormonal activity. I don’t use too much turmeric as it can cause skin irritation if used in large quantities on an already sensitive irritated skin. However, I do apply turmeric and manuka honey on the cyst and it eases the pain. It has also helped me in dissolving the deep cystic acne pimples better than other creams and lotions. I know it works for me because I don’t use anything else but the mask that I just mentioned above.
    The rule is Don’t pick, don’t touch until the pimple dissolves completely.
    Thank you, Manna

  31. Turmeric has done wonders to me.
    The only common sense is to apply and use it in a sensible manner.
    You don’t have to use 1kg of turmeric on your face, which will ultimately cause it to be yellowish.
    The face mask has to be prepared with a proper set of other ingredients alongwith turmeric.

    Did you know?
    Drinking water a lot is also harmful!

    So, anything in excess is harmful and should be used wisely.

  32. I don’t mean to sound like an asshole but I honestly couldn’t take you seriously after I read the first few paragraphs.

    Heavy metals like Arsenic are still used for medicinal purposes today but you seem to think that these people take tonnes of arsenic lol. Arsenic is used in *extremely* diluted concentrations which doesn’t make it lethal at all. Hell, Arsenic is even found in many naturally grown food.

    And you wanted to make a point that we shouldn’t trust something solely because it’s been practiced for hundreds/thousands of years. But through your tone, you went to the other extreme and all but told us that we shouldn’t take alternative medecine seriously at all because it’s ancient stuff. (and no, I’m not defending alternative medecine.)

    Curcumin is the active ingredient being tested here so it makes sense for the tests to be centered around curcumin. (Almost all tests performed on dermatological products on done this way, for example aloe vera, etc etc)In no way does this automatically discredit the use of turmeric.

    I think it’s important for people to realise that the “ancient guru” who talked about the benefits of turmeric wasn’t talking about powdered (and heavily processed) turmeric that we find in supermarkets. Rather, he was talking of fresh turmeric – which contains no additives, no colouring, no preservatives etc.

    As for sunlight.. I have had acne practically all my life and the vast majority of products that I have been prescribed made my skin more sensitive to sunlight. Which is why I’ve had to use suncreen consistently over the years.

    That said, I’m glad that you presented the other side of the coin but I sincerely wish that you didn’t sound so biased (and condescending at certain points) from beginning to end. (I am honestly not bashing on you. Do forgive me if I have offended you)

  33. I use it every weekend. It made my skin clearer and my face actually glowed. So yeah, there’s no need for human testing since most humans use it already and find it effective.
    To get rid of the yellowness, don’t use soap or face wash as it will only undo your treatment.
    Just take some olive oil, massage it thoroughly, preferably leave it for a while, and then clean it with a baby wipe or simply with a damped tissue. Voilà….no yellowness.

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