Is Turmeric Good for Skin Conditions?

Turmeric, the golden spice native to South Asia, has been praised for its medicinal properties for centuries. It’s gained more popularity in the Western World in recent years because of the growing body of research on its impact on health conditions. In particular, curcumin, the active compound in turmeric, has been linked to a range of health benefits, including its potential to reduce inflammation. Because of its anti-inflammatory benefits, turmeric may help with skin conditions – so let’s get into how it helps and how to get it into your diet.

Understanding Curcumin

Turmeric has many different polyphenols within it, but curcumin is the key bioactive compound found in turmeric. Curcumin has been found to have powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects, making it a sought-after remedy for various health issues, including skin conditions.

The difference between turmeric and curcumin

While turmeric and curcumin are often used interchangeably, they are actually different things, and we should be aware of the differences between them. Turmeric is the spice derived from the rhizomes of the Curcuma longa plant, commonly used in cooking. Whereas curcumin is the specific compound found within turmeric that is responsible for many of its health benefits.

Turmeric contains only about 3% curcumin by weight, so while having the whole spice in food is great for antioxidant benefits. It may not provide sufficient curcumin to exert its full therapeutic, anti-inflammatory effects. Therefore, when exploring the benefits of turmeric for skin conditions, researchers often focus on the curcumin content.

The Role of Inflammation in Skin Conditions

Inflammation is one of the main factors in the development and worsening of various skin conditions. Understanding how inflammation impacts the skin is essential for appreciating how curcumin may offer relief. Here’s a brief overview of the role of inflammation in three common skin conditions:

Psoriasis (an autoimmune condition) involves the immune system mistakenly attacking healthy skin cells, causing the skin to create skin cells much quicker than normal, and the rapid turnover of the cells can cause the formation of scaly, red patches. 

The inflammatory response of eczema tends to be triggered by an impaired skin barrier and reactions to pathogens, allergens and toxins – both internal and external. 

In acne, excess oil production can increase the growth of acne-causing bacteria, which then triggers inflammation within the pore. Acne can be graded depending on the severity of inflammation within the skin. 

How Curcumin Reduces Inflammation

Curcumin has been extensively studied for its anti-inflammatory properties and ability to modulate various signalling pathways involved in inflammation. One key target is NF-κB (nuclear factor-kappa B), a protein complex that regulates the immune response and inflammation. When NF-kB is activated, it creates a domino effect, triggering the increase of other inflammatory processes. Curcumin helps to inhibit the activation of NF-kB, which prevents the activation of other forms of the inflammatory process.

Incorporating Turmeric into Your Diet

To achieve the potential benefits of turmeric for skin conditions, start by adding it into your diet. Turmeric is most commonly seen in curries, which gives them their yellow tone (and also what stains your skin and clothes!). Additionally, you can experiment with turmeric-infused beverages, my favourite is a turmeric latte, or you can try turmeric herbal teas; here is one of my favourites: Pukka Turmeric Tea

Curcumin supplements: Are they worth it?

While incorporating turmeric into your diet is beneficial, as mentioned earlier, curcumin is not easily absorbed by the body. To enhance absorption, it is recommended to consume turmeric with black pepper or adding a fat component to the curcumin to enhance it further.

The benefit of supplements is that they can be created in a way that gives you a much higher dose than you’d be able to get through food alone. 

When looking into skin health, curcumin supplementation has been found to reduce the amount of psoriatic lesions, improve skin barrier function, reduce allergic responses (which is important in eczema), reduce the severity of acne, and aid in wound healing. So yes, I would say they are worth it, but it depends on the quality and dose of the curcumin used.

Understanding the Root Causes of Inflammation

While curcumin can significantly alleviate inflammation, it’s essential to recognise that addressing the root causes of inflammation is crucial for long-term skin health. Various factors can trigger inflammation (and the switching on of Nf-kB), and identifying these triggers is key to developing a comprehensive and effective strategy for managing skin conditions.

Chronic Infections

Persistent bacterial, viral, or fungal infections can contribute to chronic inflammation. In cases of psoriasis, it has been found that candida can trigger the release of inflammatory cytokines that worsen the skin condition, so while curcumin would help to reduce inflammation, getting to the source would mean reducing the growth of candida.

Low Levels of Beneficial Bacteria

The gut microbiome is crucial in regulating the immune system and inflammation. Certain strains of beneficial bacteria, such as Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, can help regulate the immune response and reduce inflammation. We can increase levels of beneficial bacteria by increasing fibre in our diets through various fruits and vegetables. However, similar to curcumin supplements, probiotics supplements can give you a higher, targeted dose. 

Blood Glucose Issues

High blood sugar levels and insulin resistance can promote inflammation within the body. Also, a high intake of sugar can damage proteins within the skin and increase the growth of not-so-beneficial bacteria. This causes inflammation in multiple ways. Managing blood glucose levels through a balanced diet is key for overall health and skin well-being.

Food Intolerances

Sensitivities to certain foods can trigger inflammatory responses in the body, potentially manifesting as skin conditions. Identifying and eliminating specific food triggers through an elimination diet or food sensitivity testing can be beneficial for managing inflammation. However, a damaged gut will react to many more foods, and sometimes working on repairing the gut lining can help reduce sensitivity to certain foods.

Toxins and Environmental Factors

Exposure to environmental toxins, pollutants, and harsh chemicals can contribute to skin inflammation, both internally and externally.

Addressing the Source of Inflammation

As you can see, while curcumin and turmeric can help with skin conditions, it’s important to find the source of the inflammation. When we find the source of the inflammation, we prevent the knocking over of the dominos. Taking curcumin but not working on underlying factors simply alleviates symptoms without understanding and tackling the root causes. Unfortunately, all this does is provide temporary relief but not lead to sustained improvements.

Book Your Appointment Today

If you’re ready to take control of your skin health and address the root causes of inflammation, you can book a call to see how we can help you. We’ll work together to uncover the potential causes of inflammation within your skin, and create a protocol to target the cause directly, which will help you to achieve the healthy skin you dream of.

Helping you to live a healthy, happy, confident life

– with clear skin.

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By Emilia Papadopoullos
DipCNM, Nutritional Therapist

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