Ready to feel more confident when reading your beauty products' ingredient labels? Enter, the ishonest Ingredient Index. In this comprehensive guide, you'll find everything you need to know about the most in-demand (and under-the- radar) ingredients in your favorite skin-care products.Turmeric can be a bit bewildering, and we're not talking about the pronunciation. (Tur-meric? Tur- mer-ic?) And what's this delicious spice doing in so many skin-care products? How can something that's spicy by definition ironically calm skin? Why on Earth would anyone want to use an ingredient that could temporarily stain your skin with a yellow tint?
Although turmeric has been used in cooking, herbal medicine, and skin care for ages, you may understandably have questions about why a number of beauty brands are inviting it into their formulas and countless DIYers consider it an essential part of their at-home self-care recipes. We spoke to dermatologists and a cosmetic chemist to get a better understanding of this long-loved botanical extract.
What is turmeric?
Turmeric is a plant in the ginger family, but the word also refers to the yellow powder extracted from the plant's rhizome. "Turmeric is a staple in Ayurvedic medicine," explains cosmetic chemist and founder of BeautyStat Ron Robinson. The fragrant extract â€” often said to have an earthy or mustard-y aroma â€” is also widely used as a spice in cuisine across Asia. "The most active component in turmeric is an ingredient called curcumin."
This bioactive aspect of turmeric is the key to why so many skin-care formulators are including it in topical products. "Turmeric is full of anti- inflammatory components and antioxidants," says Boca Raton-based, board- certified dermatologist Jeffrey Fromowitz, M.D., who adds that these properties are believed to help boost brightness. "[Its] curcumin functions as a free- radical scavenger and may aid in wound healing."
How does turmeric benefit skin?
Robinson says turmeric-infused skin care may help soothe skin, even out skin tone, and even encourage collagen production. "Further testing might be needed to actually confirm these claims," he says, but so far, research is showing impressive results.
"Studies have shown that curcumin, found in turmeric, can help wounds heal more quickly by decreasing inflammation and oxidation," explains Jupiter, Florida-based, board-certified dermatologist De Anne Harris Collier, M.D. But that's really just the beginning. Dr. Collier adds that the anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial qualities of turmeric may target facial pores and calm the skin, helping to clear up acne breakouts. "This also ultimately reduces acne scarring, as well as builds collagen, allowing aging skin to appear more firm and vibrant." She adds that turmeric has also been shown to decrease hyperpigmentation.
In other words, as Dr. Collier puts it, "turmeric contains properties that encourage the skin to bring out its natural glow."
Are there any risks associated with using turmeric topically?
Although turmeric is considered very tolerable, both Dr. Fromowitz and Dr. Collier recommend patch-testing by applying a small amount of your chosen turmeric-infused product to your forearm and waiting a day or two to see if you develop an allergic reaction. It would likely manifest as irritation, redness, and swelling. If you already know you're allergic to it when it's in food, don't even bother trying to apply it topically.
The biggest complaint typically heard about turmeric is that its vibrant hue can stain skin. "Expect that it might discolor or stain your skin yellow," Dr. Fromowitz says. But fear not: "This typically washes off easily."
Robinson says a good cleanse with your usual face wash should do the trick, but Dr. Collier likes a couple of other methods for thoroughly removing any lingering tinge. "To remove the yellow stains, use slightly warm olive or coconut oil, as turmeric is oil-soluble," she explains. Dab a cotton ball with the oil of your choice and rub it gently over the affected areas for 30 seconds, followed by a rinse with water. "Another way to remove the yellow stains is to rub a milk-soaked cloth or cotton pad over the skin in a circular motion to lighten the stains. Afterwards, rinse your face with a mild cleanser and water."
What kind of products contain turmeric?
Although turmeric has been around for a long time, Robinson has noticed that it's gained even more popularity in recent years â€” which may account for why you can find it in so many types of products. Furthermore, he says, "It plays well with other ingredients."
Both Robinson and Dr. Collier note two specific types of products in which the herb is frequently found. "Turmeric is most often used in masks and serums to reduce acne, inflammation, and hyperpigmentation," Dr. Collier says. Robinson is a fan of Kiehl's Turmeric & Cranberry Seed Energizing Radiance Masque because of how quickly it makes skin look more radiant. As for serums, Dr. Fromowitz likes Verso Antioxidant Turmeric Booster, which helps protect easily irritated skin from the onslaught of free radicals and other environmental agitators.
Courtesy of brand
Verso Antioxidant Turmeric Booster
Of course, there are plenty of other types of products in which turmeric shows up. Dr. Collier appreciates the formula of Kora Organics Turmeric Glow Moisturizer, a refillable face cream that teams up the extract with licorice to help combat discoloration. Dr. Fromowitz also recommends the Best of Beauty Award-winning Farmacy Green Clean Makeup Meltaway Cleansing Balm.
Courtesy of brand
Farmacy Green Clean Makeup Meltaway Cleansing Balm
And don't be surprised if turmeric starts showing up in your SPF products. "Due to recent innovations in topical delivery and enhanced bioavailability, curcumin also shows promise as a new sunscreen filter," Dr. Collier tells ishonest. "So we may start seeing turmeric's active ingredient in sunscreens and moisturizers used concomitantly with sunscreens." (Just be sure to keep using FDA-approved sunscreens â€” don't rely on turmeric alone.)
How can turmeric be used in DIY skin care?
Turmeric is one of the most popular ingredients in DIY skin-care recipes. (Hey, if it's already in the pantry, why not?) As a cosmetic chemist, Robinson prefers to stick to products from reputable manufacturers. However, if you're feeling creative, Dr. Collier says there several ingredients that may already be in your home that are agreeable with turmeric for a safe DIY skin-care treatment.
"Turmeric combines well with honey, as honey is a natural humectant. It also combines well with milk or yogurt because of the lactic acid, a natural exfoliant," Dr. Collier says. She personally loves an easy-to-make mask that involves a tablespoon of honey, a teaspoon of turmeric, and a few drops of rosewater. "Mix this blend into a paste. Keep the mask on for five to 10 minutes, and then rinse well with warm water."
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