Want to spice up your beauty routine? Think turmeric. The peppery, bitter root (a cousin to ginger that has been harvested in China and India for more than 5,000 years) may be better known for giving mustard its traditional golden hue and for flavoring Thai curries, but it has also long been used as a powerful anti-inflammatory in both the Chinese and Indian medicine. Today, beauty brands are jumping to add the rootstock to skincare basics. That’s because turmeric has perhaps more anti-aging powers than any other natural ingredient.
According to Paul S. Nassif, M.D., F.A.C.S, turmeric is almost as versatile in skincare as it is in cooking. “This natural multi-functional ingredient helps give the skin a youthful radiance,” he says. “As a bacteria fighter, an exfoliating agent, a reducer of pigment and oil activity, as well as an anti-inflammatory and an antiseptic, turmeric is one of the most all-around natural active ingredients available to formulators.”
But, he’s not talking about turmeric on its own. Woe betide anyone who thinks they can run out to a local India Sweets & Spices store and pick up a bag of the good stuff to make a custom frothy concoction. That could stain skin. Trust me, I’m Indian and I once thought it was a sensible thing to whip turmeric and milk into a face mask and ended up with a Marge Simpson-like glow. Nassif says turmeric’s skin care benefits come out when it’s blended properly with other supporting active ingredients.
You’d think store shelves would be stocked with plenty of turmeric-infused beauty products, but they’re not. Only a handful of items currently feature the wonder root, and they’re more likely found at prestige retailers than the corner drugstore. The real question might be how to incorporate turmeric-treated products into your everyday use. I urge you to start off with June Jacobs Anti-Aging Blemish Control Foaming Cleanser (above, $48). It has turmeric blended with 1% salicylic acid to exfoliate oilier or acneic skin types. The watery formula actually pumps out as a foam and smells strongly of camphor, but surprisingly won’t strip your skin thanks to gentle green and white tea extracts.
If you’re looking for a biweekly manual scrub, Cinq de Mondes Seeds & Flowers Exfoliant (above, $52) is a gentle oil-based treatment with a hefty dose turmeric and a pretty marigold yellow tint to show for it. Softly scented with hibiscus, gardenia and white lily floral extracts, the scrub gives skin a legitimate buff without feeling the least bit scratchy.
For a quick weekend beauty upgrade, add Juara Turmeric Antioxidant Radiance Mask ($35) to the scrub schedule. A little dollop of this creamy pale yellow cream spreads evenly and after one use, my skin looked brighter while fine lines looked a smidge less noticeable.
If you’ve got lightly freckled skin, consider using Darphin Melaperfect Anti Dark Spots Perfect Treatment (above, $95) as your spring serum. The texture is silky and though it will take prolonged use before you notice considerable lightening, it’s well worth the effort to stick with the routine. Turmeric has been shown to inhibit the production of melanin in the skin. If you’re intolerant to hyperpigmentation serums (that use retinol or hydroquinone), Darphin’s version is a safe bet to help even out your overall tone and clarity.
The baddest boy on the block is Clè de Peau Beautè uv protection cream spf 50 (above, $120). The non-greasy but dense sun protectant has a slightly whipped texture that blends into skin beautifully with a swipe. In addition to providing substantial sun protection the cream is marvelously hydrating, which means I can skip the moisturizer and wear it easily under my foundation daily.