Ingredient Review: Curcumin otherwise known as Turmeric

Recently Sunday Riley dropped their latest face oil C.E.O. Glow. If you follow them on IG (@SundayRiley) you may remember seeing this incredibly elaborate, dramatic, gorgeous, and rather entertaining daily breakdown of the active ingredients they wanted to highlight. Scroll to see the second picture if it doesn’t show up for the completed breakdown otherwise you’re going to be looking at some jojoba beans, from which we get jojoba oil.

Now the very first ingredient they named was turmeric.

If anyone eats Indian food, you will be incredibly familiar with this little spice. It’s very mild but the color pay off is intense for your food. Use it with some control (unlike paprika which I bath everything in) because this little spice is a known natural, mild laxative. It’s been used in ayurvedic medicine, traditional chinese medicine, Unani (a persian traditional medicine), and other folk medicines for thousands of years. It’s unsurprisingly also used as a dye. As a spice is popular in Indian, Middle Eastern, and Spanish food. As a flower it’s actually really pretty.

Several years ago the turmeric tea craze ran rampant through the beauty community and yes I hopped on board full force. When making this tea with honey and peppercorns, not only do I get a very healthy morning poop in before work but I also get a decent dose of antioxidants which has been shown to decrease skin cancer risk among other health risk. The peppercorn is necessary to aide in the turmeric beneficial ingredients. Those are the internal benefits I get but we’re talking about applying it to the face.

An easy DIY turmeric face mask includes 1t. turmeric + 3T. yogurt + squeeze of honey. I’t s really all eye balled in my house. But that’s a rough estimate of how I mix it. It isn’t a bad recipe at all and will do some good for your skin. The yogurt has some fat to create supple, moist skin, some natural exfoliant, honey to help moisturize, antioxidants from the turmeric.

Chemical structure of curcumin

The primary constituent we want from turmeric is a little molecule called curcumin. Well it’s not little in chemical terms, but it’s nowhere near as big as a lot of other chemicals in skincare. Curcumic has several health benefits for the skin and we’re just now unlocking what all this can do.

Cancer inhibition and decrease in subsequent edema (swelling)
Protects against oxidative stress
Antimicrobial activity
Skin wound healing
and for those so inclined here’s a review from Aug 2018 reviewing the effect of curcumin in skin diseases. Beware it’s an intense read but highly informative.

For a more general review cover the effect of curcumin on other chronic health conditions for those who consume turmeric click here. In short, it helps with PMS, arthritis pain, depression, fatty liver disease, metabolism, and numerous cancers like stomach, esophagus, and renal.

A Google Scholar search of ‘curcumin, skin’ limiting it to papers online published since 2015 results in 18,700 hits. Thats a lot of publishing on a single molecule. And as much as I enjoy reading journal articles, 18,700 is a lot.

Major conclusions
There is zero reason to avoid turmeric in skincare (or recipes for that matter) and if you have a lot of excessive sun exposure over a long period of time it’s a wonderful addition. Seeing as I work outdoors, it might be smart of me to start adding this into my skincare routine.
The potential benefits of adding products that have turmeric to your skincare routine far outweighs any risks. The primary risk was as a potential allergen.
For those with rosacea I’m not sure how it will affect rosacea even though it’s anti-inflammatory effect is stronger than other products like lavender that has been used extensively in skincare for those with rosacea. I didn’t see many thorough evaluations with those with sensitive skin to give a decent conclusion.

A simple search for turmeric skincare in google present a huge list of products with turmeric in them.

Origins – Never a Dull Moments Brightening Face Polisher
Kora Organics – Turmeric Brightening and Exfoliating Face Mask
Sunday Riley – C.E.O. Glow
Kiehl’s – Turmeric and Cranberry Seed Energizing Radiance Mask
Not to mention the litany of indie brands you can find on Amazon and Etsy.

When searching for a product with turmeric/ curcumin I’d stay away from physical exfoliators. This product works best when soaked into the skin such as a mask or face oil. With a skin polisher/ physical exfoliant the product won’t stay on the skin long enough to do anything before it’s rinsed away. Face Oils, serums, and cream moisturizers are going to have the largest pay off because of the duration of contact on the skin and longevity of the antioxidant effect.

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