Acne1 is a common problem affecting millions of men and women across the world. It is a skin problem that starts when oil and dead skin cells clog up your pores.
Acne is most prevalent in our younger years, but for some people, acne could still be a problem even later in their lifetime.
There are prescription medications for acne, but many of the leading medications such as antibiotics and benzoyl peroxide have adverse side effects. In addition, the bacteria that causes acne often becomes immune to antibiotic treatments, leading those with severe acne to seek out alternative solutions such as turmeric.
What is Turmeric?
Turmeric2 is most commonly known as a popular curry spice. It is most popular in India and Thailand, though it can be found in cuisines throughout the world.
Hile turmeric is popularly known as a spice, turmeric is also a popular choice for various health reasons as well.
Turmeric and Health
According to Ayurveda3, a 5,000-year-old healing system of natural healing originating in the Vedic culture of india, turmeric has been used for centuries as a medicinal tool due to a nutrient inside turmeric known as curcumin4.
According to a review of studies published in the Wall Street Journal in 2005, there is an increasing body of scholarly research indicating that curcumin could be used to prevent a range of illnesses, from cancer to skin disorders.
Empirical evidence shows that cultures dependent on turmeric as a part of their daily diet like India have lower cancer rate per capital than in developed countries like the United States despite India’s less desirable living and health conditions. Somehow, scholars believe there is a correlation between less cancer rate, and turmeric diet (correlation, not causation, mind you).
Turmeric and Acne
Acne is generally caused by bacteria which grows beneath the skin (oil and dead cells that got clogged) and cause inflammation.
Mainstream medication for acne include antibiotics. It aims to reduce the bacteria that might cause inflammation in the skin (ergo, acne). Unfortunately, consuming antibiotics over a prolonged period of time makes it lose its effectiveness as the bacteria learns to adapt and mutate, growing more resistant to antibiotic treatments. Therefore, the acne comes back.
Turmeric has no antibiotic properties. It has, however, anti-inflammatory properties. Turmeric, logically, can prevent the bacteria from causing visible acne blemishes (by stopping inflammation).
The real question however, is: Does turmeric really work?
What does science say?
No clinical trials are in progress examining turmeric as an acne treatment. Most reports of turmeric for acne come from Ayurvedic medicine supporters. However, animal studies suggest promising benefits from turmeric.
A study published in 1982 claims that a series of tests on rats appears to indicate that turmeric has anti-inflammatory properties. Several studies since have also indicated anti-inflammatory activities, confirming that turmeric may be safe and effective for human use as well.
In 2003, Dr. Nita Chainani-Wu from the University of California in San Francisco (UCSF) performed a systematic review of all available published studies available on turmeric for both its safety and efficacy as an anti-inflammatory agent. It revealed that turmeric is safe to use and causes no side effects.
As far as its effects on inflammation, Dr. Chainani-Wu states that curcumin does appear to have demonstrated anti-inflammatory activity, however, this was limited to only six studies.
Another study was looking for antibacterial properties of turmeric. If turmeric showed any success as an antibacterial/antibiotic, then presumably it would be even more effective as an acne treatment. The researchers tested turmeric essential oils to other oil extracts, including cinnamon extract and clove.
The research found that turmeric oil had no antibacterial properties, at least on the two bacteria it was tested against.
This is no definitive by any means. There were problems with the study, including:
- Extraction Method – The researchers only tested turmeric as an essential oil. It’s possible that if antibacterial properties existed they could come from ingestion, or a powder, or some other type of mixture. Oils are only one type.
- Bacteria – Turmeric was not tested on all bacteria. Only two bacteria were used, and acne is often made up of countless bacteria that could potentially be affected by turmeric for acne.
Topping it All
Topping it all, there is no substantial scientific evidence stating definitively that turmeric can help human cure acne. While there are several studies testing the theory that turmeric has anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties, none have been completed in a way that can provide any definitive reference for whether turmeric does or does not improve acne appearance.
All the studies have in common is that turmeric appears to be safe, as currently no known side effects appear to exist.
How to Prepare Turmeric as an Acne Treatment
Because there is little research into how to use turmeric for acne, there are also no “proven” ways to create a turmeric acne treatment.
Yet most Ayurveda supporters claim that eating turmeric is not necessarily the way to treat acne. They claim that the best thing to do is turn turmeric into some type of mask or cream. While there are a variety of turmeric skin cream recipes, one of the simplest is simply:
- ¼ teaspoon turmeric powder
- One or two tablespoons milk cream
Mix together until it becomes a paste, and gently place the paste on your skin as evenly as possible. Wait for about 15 minutes, then wash off with cold water and gently dry to avoid creating any excess irritation.
Other recipes involve adding sandalwood, or using other types of cream. Many experts recommend avoiding too much turmeric as it tends to irritate the skin.
1“Acne | American Academy of Dermatology.” 2015. 14 Mar. 2016 <https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/acne-and-rosacea/acne>
2“TURMERIC: Uses, Side Effects, Interactions and Warnings …” 2016. 14 Mar. 2016 <http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/ingredientmono-662-turmeric.aspx?activeingredientid=662>
3“Ayurveda | The Chopra Center.” 2013. 14 Mar. 2016 <http://www.chopra.com/our-services/ayurveda>
4“Curcumin – Scientific Review on Usage, Dosage, Side …” 2015. 14 Mar. 2016 <https://examine.com/supplements/curcumin/>