A key spice found in curry, turmeric is hard to miss. The vibrant orange-yellow powder comes from a plant in the ginger family. Native to southwest India, it has been used through the ages in Asia as a natural dye, food seasoning, and medicinal herb. In fact, in Ayurveda, turmeric has traditionally been used to improve digestion, purify the blood, and balance the various doshas. Kanchani, one of its Sanskrit names, actually translates to “Golden Goddess.” It’s a fitting name when you consider the many beauty benefits that have come to be associated with the spice. “Turmeric has long been used in skincare, dating back to ancient India where it was used for its antioxidant properties and to give the skin a radiant glow,” says Rhonda Allison, founder and CEO of Rhonda Allison Cosmeceuticals. Today, turmeric is turning up in a variety of products and treatments as news of its many benefits become more widespread.
As an increasing number of spa-goers look to natural ingredients to care for their skin, they can rest assured that turmeric fits the bill. “Growing up in India, I was surrounded by the wisdom of Ayurveda, which is based on an ancient system for health and wellbeing,” says Sheetal Rawal, founder of Apsara skincare. “Unlike most cosmetic products, Ayurveda beauty remedies focus on using all-natural ingredients that are free of harsh chemicals, making it truly the healthiest option for a skincare routine.” A longtime fan of turmeric, she chose to include it in her own skincare line and a variety of do-it-yourself remedies. “Turmeric has too many skin benefits to ignore,” says Rawal.
Many of those benefits can be attributed to curcumin, the active component of the spice. “Curcumin is a known antibacterial agent, which further supports acne-prone skin,” says Allison. “Because of its antioxidant content, the iron-rich ingredient also protects against damaging environmental elements, such as UV rays, chemicals, microbes, and other free radicals, making it a highly valuable ingredient in pro-youth treatments.” At Acqualina Spa by ESPA (Sunny Isles Beach, FL), the Optimal Skin ProFacial ($160, 50 minutes) incorporates ESPA Optimal Skin ProSerum and Optimal Body TriSerum, both of which feature turmeric root extract. The ProSerum pairs the extract with omega 3-, 6-, and 9-rich echium, a flowering plant, and rosehip oils to help nourish skin and sunflower seed extract to protect against environmental damage.
A 2009 study from Ehime University in Japan suggested that turmeric extract protects the skin from ultraviolet B (UVB) radiation damage. Research also suggests that it may help repair sunburned skin. As a result, it’s one of the key ingredients in The Miracle Sunburn Relief and The Miracle Therapeutic Anti-Oxidant Skin Care Lotion by Bomm, which developed a formula that delivers the benefits of the ingredient without the bright color that has limited the use of turmeric in topical applications. “The pigment that gives turmeric its distinctive yellow color is the primary compound behind many of its emerging benefits,” says Nick Bitz, N.D., chief scientific officer for Youtheory, a lifestyle brand that manufactures supplements. “Since these compounds, called curcuminoids, tend to stain everything they come in contact with, most people opt to use turmeric internally rather than externally, as it’s less messy, easier to use on a continual basis, and can do wonders for the whole body.” However, as technology advances, the spice is turning up in an increasing number of topical treatments, sans the stains. “Turmeric provides protection from infectious micro-organisms and oxidation and is renowned for its anti-inflammatory actions,” says Al Bommarito, developer of Bomm.
While its ability to fight free radicals certainly helps it stand out, so, too, do its anti-inflammatory properties. “The all-natural spice lends itself as an important ingredient in skincare because of potent antioxidant properties and the fact that it is generally accepted by most skin types—even sensitive skins,” says Allison. According to Joanna Vargas, celebrity facialist and founder of Joanna Vargas Salon (New York City) and Skincare Collection, it’s especially useful for those with super sensitive skin, as it’s a natural anti-inflammatory. That makes it invaluable in products for treating acne, signs of aging, eczema, hyperpigmentation, and rosacea, says Allison.
Its strong anti-inflammatory properties make it an ideal ingredient in FarmHouse Fresh’s Buffing Biscuits. “It imparts deeper antioxidant benefits during the exfoliation and mask process, when pores are open and all makeup is removed,” says Shannon McLinden, founder and president of FarmHouse Fresh. “Many of us experience irritation as temperatures and seasons change, and turmeric is perfect for reducing inflammation.” Spa-goers at Indulgence Salon & Spa (Roanoke, VA) took advantage of the Top of the Morning Facial ($60, 50 minutes), a monthly special that incorporated the Mango-Poppy Seed Facial Buffing Biscuits. Turmeric and mango seed extract help clear acne and diminish the look of pores.
“As skincare professionals, our ability to select treatments and products that add value to the immune system, restore antioxidant levels, and prevent inflammation is the future of age reversal,” says Yaneth Acosta, corporate trainer for Osmosis Pür Medical Skincare. According to Acosta, the company’s Hydrating Herb Herbal Mask Treatment nurtures and calms the skin with ingredients such as comfrey, elderflower, green tea, honeysuckle, rosemary, and turmeric. It is incorporated into the Osmosis Medi-Infusion (starting at $95, 45 minutes), which is available at Marianne Kehoe Skin Studio (Studio City, CA). “Turmeric’s ability to strengthen the capillaries through vaso-tonic action relieves inflammation and provides antioxidant protection, offering the skin components to function at its optimal level,” says Acosta.
According to Celeste Hilling, cofounder, CEO, and product formulator of Skin Authority, the company’s medical director Munish Batra, M.D., was familiar with the ingredient and spent years sharing the medicinal benefits of turmeric with the team. “Shortly before he was married, his beautiful bride-to-be was painted in a paste of turmeric from head-to-toe to make her skin flawless,” says Hilling. Putting turmeric to the test, the Skin Authority team confirmed that it was, indeed, helpful in managing oil secretion, clearing blemishes, exfoliating, and lessening the appearance of wrinkles. “One of the most interesting things we learned in our research is the brightening effect turmeric creates,” says Hilling. “Turmeric treats pigment issues of the skin and produces a healthy, natural glow.” As a result, the company incorporated turmeric and blueberry into its Beauty Infusion for Brightening collection. Spa-goers can benefit from the brightening benefits with the Beauty Infusion Facial (starting at $90, 50 minutes).
While Jan Marini, CEO of Jan Marini Skin Research, agrees that it has the ability to brighten skin, she cautions that turmeric root and other derivatives aren’t all that powerful. “In order to produce truly measurable results, you need to use curcumin, the active chemical in turmeric that is responsible for skin lightening,” says Marini. “The active chemical has remarkable benefits for brightening and skin rejuvenation.” That’s why Jan Marini Skin Research recently launched Marini Luminate and Marini Luminate MD to brighten skin and treat discoloration. Formulated with a broad range of tyrosinase inhibitors and retinol, they also incorporate the active form of turmeric.
Utilizing Various Forms
Although turmeric is already found in many products and treatments, you can also add the powdered version of the root. “It’s a great ingredient to use in its raw form,” says McLinden. “If you’re not buying a product developed with turmeric, you can consider adding it to an exfoliator or mask.” According to Vargas, it’s important that you use pure, organic turmeric. “Some generic store-bought options contain dyes that can stain the skin after application,” says Vargas. “This is one ingredient in which you must go organic.”
While the spice is increasingly used in topical applications, it continues to offer many of the same benefits when taken internally. According to Bitz, turmeric is one of the top-selling botanicals in the natural channel, including health food stores, for two years running. Taking it internally in the form of a supplement is thought to benefit the skin, as well. “Turmeric is one of the few superfoods that actually supports healthy aging in a meaningful way,” he says. “It’s perhaps best known for its antioxidant properties, but it is pleiotropic, which is to say that it has many different effects inside the body.” Just as it does when applied topically, turmeric benefits spa-goers by improving the body’s defense system and supporting a healthy inflammation response. “Studies show that it not only helps to quench free radicals but it also helps revitalize the dermal matrix to support the structure and function of the skin.” Offering a cup of turmeric tea or a smoothie to spa-goers is another way to introduce the healthy benefits of this popular spice in your spa. Says Vargas, “This is one ingredient that should be added to everyone’s skincare routine and diet alike.”
Sprinkle your menu and retail area with products containing this exotic Indian ingredient.—Darby Radcliff
1. Andalou Naturals Turmeric + C Enlighten Serum: Brighten skin by targeting hyper-pigmentation and UV damage with this formula made with a fruit stem-cell complex, turmeric, and vitamin C. www.andalou.com
2. Bare Republic Milk & Honey Daily Recovery Serum: Repair skin with this hydrating serum featuring a natural antioxidant blend of calendula, calming oat milk, manuka honey, meadowfoam, and turmeric. www.barerepublicnaturals.com
3. Biologique Recherche Serum Biosensible: Rebalance clients’ skin with this targeted serum containing a high concentration of turmeric extract, which instantly reduces sensitivity and signs of aging. www.biologique-recherche.com
4. Bomm The Miracle Sunburn Relief: Improve skin texture with this lotion made with turmeric, which protects skin against free radicals. www.bommproducts.com
5. ESPA Optimal Skin ProSerum: Enriched with nourishing omegas 3, 6, and 9; tumeric; and more, this anti-aging formula brightens and evens out the skintone. us.espaskincare.com
6. FarmHouse Fresh Mango-Poppy Seed Facial Buffing Biscuits: Buff, balance, and nourish skin with these gentle exfoliating masks made with turmeric. www.farmhousefreshgoods.com
7. Jan Marini Skin Research Marini Luminate Face Lotion: Target uneven texture, fine lines, and wrinkles with this highly concentrated formula containing bisabolol, green tea extract, retinol, and turmeric. www.janmarini.com
8. Juara Clove Flower & Turmeric Anti-Aging Serum: Boost skin radiance with this age-defying formula containing clove flower, goji fruit, golden bamboo, Indian gooseberry, sweet pea, and turmeric. www.juaraskincare.com
9. Jurlique Rose Moisture Plus with Antioxidant Complex Revitalising Gel-Lotion: Designed to address the signs of dehydration, this moisturizer made with rosehip oil and turmeric helps to soften skin. www.jurlique.com
10. Repêchage Hydra 4 Red-Out Facial: Nourish skin with this treatment featuring a host of anti-inflammatory ingredients, including organic turmeric. www.repechage.com
11. Rhonda Allison eZinc Protection Cream: Deliver a dose of antioxidants to the skin with this SPF 18 face and body mineral emulsion made with turmeric. www.rhondaallison.com
12. Skin Authority Beauty Infusion Turmeric & Blueberry Brightening: Fade dark spots and discoloration with this formula infused with curcumin. www.skinauthority.com