Turmeric – a traditional skin remedy to lighten skin and pigmentation

What it does: Turmeric has been found to cut the skin’s melanin production. It also helps suntanned skin return to its normal shade faster.

How to do it

You can apply turmeric topically on your skin or ingest it (or do both!). There are many ways to use turmeric on your skin — below are a few simple methods.

Do note that turmeric will stain your skin and some surfaces yellow, scroll to the bottom for some helpful tips.

1) 15-minute mask (with lemon juice). Mix turmeric powder with cucumber juice or lemon juice to make a paste. Apply to the affected area. Leave on for fifteen minutes. Rinse off. With daily use, skin pigmentation will even out.

Maria had good results in fading dark underarms in 3 weeks with turmeric, lemon and cucumber juice. She wrote, “I’ve been trying turmeric powder, lemon juice, and cucumber juice to treat underarm hyperpigmentation and its realy working! I’m amazed that in 3 weeks using it 4x a wk it has already made a significant difference…… Yay… .”

She also kindly shared her method:

“I only use it on my underarms so I don’t need a lot of the mixture.

1. 2 tablespoons of Lemon Juice
2. 2 tablespoons of Cucumber Juice
3. Less than half a teaspoon of turmeric powder.

I recommend you add turmeric powder in pinches so that you can see it becomes a very orange color. With the half a teaspoon I use, it becomes a little sandy too. I don’t mind the roughness and I do notice a tan color after I wash off, but I suppose that means it continues to work even after I wash off. But if you are light-skinned, you might want to try adding 1/4 teaspoon and then just take it from there. I leave mine on for 15 minutes at night, then I wash it off and apply coconut oil. Then I just shower in the morning and wear my deodorant. Hope this brings you great results, let me know how it works for you.”

2) Mask or cream (with natural oils). For a more penetrating and longer-lasting treatment, mix turmeric with a natural oil to form a paste and apply this paste as a mask. You can leave the mask on for as long as you are comfortable as unlike lemon juice, it will not sting. Some good natural oils you can try are  extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil and castor oil (castor oil is probably the best as it can penetrate more deeply into the skin). Depending on your preferences, you can either make a thick paste (more turmeric, less oil) or a very thin, diluted mixture (less turmeric, more oil).

3) Turmeric-infused oil mask. This is very easy to prepare, and as it is “pre-mixed”, it’s also more convenient to do.

Just add some turmeric powder to a natural oil of your choice in a small bottle (use a clear or see-through bottle so you can see when the mixture separates in the next step). Shake well. The oil will immediately turn an orange or a deep yellow and will look ‘cloudy’.

Leave this bottle to stand overnight. The next day, the turmeric powder would have settled at the bottom and you’ll get a beautiful, clear orange oil at the top for your use.

Take a small amount of this turmeric-infused oil and rub it into your skin or face thoroughly. Leave on for at least 30 minutes (longer if you feel comfortable) and wash off.

You can continue to use this pre-mixed oil for some time, but as natural oils will eventually go rancid, you should make a fresh batch when you need to. It will keep fresh longer if you live in a cold climate or if you keep the mixture in the fridge. Nonetheless, it’s a good idea to make a fresh batch every few weeks as the older the oil, the less potent it becomes.

Remember that using natural methods such as these require patience. Give these methods consistent use for at least 1-2 months before deciding if there is any improvement or not. Keep in mind that the skin only renews itself every 30 days or so.

4) Ingest turmeric (eat it or drink it). Apart from putting it on your skin, turmeric taken internally also benefits skin. Some of the ways you can take turmeric are: 1) in food (many Asian dishes such as curries contain turmeric); 2) mixed in hot water or a drink; 3) or in supplement form. To boost turmeric’s absorption in your body, add some black pepper and fat. This can be easily done if you take turmeric at mealtimes.

Vienna Mendes kindly shared her success at fading a tan by drinking turmeric with milk. She wrote, “I had suntanned skin, one fine day I started drinking warm milk with turmeric powder in it. Guess what … my suntanned went off, my skin started glowing… everybody at my workplace started commenting. I was amazed, I couldn’t realise what had happened to me. Then I realised the milk & turmeric brought changes in me. It took just 15 to 30 days for my skin to improve. It really works.”

Why turmeric works to lighten pigmentation

A powerful component of turmeric (curcumin) inhibits the production of melanin (pigment) in human skin cells (click here to read about a study, opens a .gif). Experiments have shown that melanin content and tyrosinase activity were “significantly inhibited” by curcumin.

Turmeric also has powerful antioxidant properties, protects against environmental toxins, and has antibacterial properties.

Where to buy turmeric powder

You can find turmeric powder easily in most supermarkets nowadays. As it is used mainly in Indian dishes, you can also easily find turmeric in grocery stores that cater to this market. If you live in a large city, the local ‘Little India’ is a good place to buy turmeric cheaply.

Check the labels to make sure you’re getting only turmeric powder — this is because some pre-packaged turmeric products also contain other spices for cooking.

Yellow stains from turmeric: simple precautions and tips

When turmeric is mixed with oils like in methods 2) & 3) above, the yellow stains on the skin become much easier to wash off with soap and water afterwards. You will have to lather up a few times and be thorough, but the yellow stains will come off your skin with washing.

When turmeric is mixed with water (or water-based liquids like lemon juice) instead, it’ll leave a yellow stain on your skin for several hours and may require a few washings to fade it. As I told Sara in this comment, although this is inconvenient for most people, this yellow staining—where turmeric remains within the skin itself and not just sitting on top of it—may actually be more beneficial.

However, turmeric stains on fingernails do not wash off completely (for both oil- and water-based mixes). You’ll be able to wash most of the turmeric off, but there would usually be a yellowish tinge left on the fingernails exposed to turmeric. If this bothers you, use plastic gloves. You can also use an applicator like a facial sponge or a soft brush instead of your fingers.

Turmeric will also stain some porous surfaces such as plastic (you can remove turmeric stains on plastic by soaking them in bleachthanks to King C for this tip!). However, turmeric washes off non-porous surfaces such as steel, glass or ceramic (e.g. most regular sinks). If you’re not sure what turmeric will do to your surfaces, lay down some old newspapers to protect them.

If you use turmeric on your skin overnight while you sleep, it will also stain your pillowcase and bed linen, so line them with towels first or use old linens that you don’t mind getting stained. For turmeric stains on cloth and linens, Pronojit recommends washing them and putting them out under the sun to dry, where the stains will fade after a few hours of sunlight. I’ve tried this myself and it really works!

188 thoughts on “Turmeric – a traditional skin remedy to lighten skin and pigmentation”

  1. ok i started the turmeric drink with milk today n will keep you up to date with the results im 26 n live i calif where i use to tan as much as i can now im not happy with my skin wish me luck

  2. I want to use thus mask for my face ,so can I just use lemon juice to make paste or do I need cucumber juice also and how much turmeric powder should I use ?please help and reply plz plz plz
    A very desperate woman:(

    1. Hi Noni

      You can use lemon juice or cucumber juice or water, it shouldn’t make too much of a difference. The best treatments are the ones we actually do, so I always think that the easier it is, the better (for example, squeezing juice from a cucumber may be too much work to do often).

      My suggestion is to keep it simple — just use plain water or a good oil (e.g. coconut oil, castor oil, oilve oil) and add enough turmeric so that it becomes a thick or thin paste depending on your preference.

      A water-based turmeric paste will dry and crack (your skin will feel tight as it dries) and may leave a temporary yellow stain on your skin after washing, but the stain may actually be beneficial. Meanwhile, an oil-based turmeric paste can sit on your skin longer (it won’t dry out or feel tight), and there should be no stain on the skin after washing.

      Hope that helps.


      1. Thanks Sam,one more thing ,because I have pigmentation on my cheeks and nose can I do turmeric powder with lime juice (as it helps with fading more ) and add a little honey so it doesn’t dry my skin too much .In your reply you are not suggesting me lime or lemon juice?

        1. Hi Noni, you can use lime or lemon juice — they’re both acidic and so will help with exfoliation.

          Yes, you can add honey. There’s not many downsides when it comes to using natural ingredients, so you can experiment quite safely and see what works best for your skin.

          Vitamin E oil will work well also.

      2. Doctor did this for me, all I new was it was a yellow past cost me £170 for her to put few blobs on my face were pigmentation was, told to leave on for 10 hours. Then just wash it off, 15 min is all it tuck at the most
        have I been coned by a doctor

        1. £170 is an exorbitant price for a turmeric mask (if that was what you got). A pound of organic turmeric powder (which is a lot) costs around $10.

          I can’t say you were conned, but you should probably ask more questions before forking over your cash next time. It’s not good that you don’t even know what it was that they put on your skin.

    2. I tried turmeric and lemon juice last night and sucks it stained my fingers. I panicked so the turmeric on my armpits didn’t stay for 10 minutes as said in the instruction but just for a minute. I took a bath immediately. The stain went off with soap and after that with skin cleanser.
      How can turmeric whiten the skin when it stains?

  3. Ok day 1 mixed 1 teaspoon of turmeric with 2 t spoon of lime and half t spoon of honey . No irritation ,no yellow stain just came out with water. Am I doing it right???

    1. Yes, that sounds fine. I think being consistent with daily applications should eventually yield some results. Good luck!

  4. I am getting small pimples when apply my mask they went away the next day . Uhhhhhhhhhhhh I want to see some improvement real bad . Day 2 only

    1. The yellow stain is only temporary, it is the compounds in turmeric that reduces pigmentation over time.

  5. I have needed to use Turmeric on my skin lately. I find that if you mix the powder into an oil it comes out of fabric easier. I thought some clothes were ruined but the stains came out. Just wanted to give that tip to someone else in case they need it.

  6. Hi, please can i add turmeric to my cream n soap? And Hw do i get rid of green veins from cream. Plsssssssss i need help

  7. Hi I really want to whiten my skin fast what can be mixed with turmeric fast that can give me this result and how fast can it be plsss kindly reply asap thanks

    1. Hi Abby

      If you use turmeric to lighten dark marks such as those from pimples (i.e. hyperpigmentation), the marks won’t redarken after they have faded. So this would be more or less permanent. But of course, if you get new pimples, you might have new marks.

      If you use turmeric to fade a tan or lighten skin (i.e. natural pigmentation), your skin would redarken as you spend more time under the sun again (as per what is normal for you). So this is more or less temporary. The effect would last longer if you’re able to avoid the sun after using turmeric though.

      Hope that helps.

  8. Please help me
    in childhood i was suffered from chickenpox
    and its left 5 to 10 dark holes in my face please tell me some tips,
    i tried turmeric poweder to but dont know wat to do please help

  9. Great article! I was wondering if I could use lemon juice from the bottle with turmeric or do I have to squeeze the juice from an actual lemon. Does it make a difference? Also, can the mixture be stored or does it have to be freshly made for each use?

    Thanks in advance! :)

    1. Hi Timah, fresh lemon juice is always better. Anytime something is manufactured and bottled, there’ll be added preservatives. What you buy will also be old, it’s not unusual for packaged food/drinks to be many months old and having sat in boxes in warehouses or store shelves for a long time before it’s actually bought, opened and used.

      I would also doubt the usefulness of any fruit juice that’s months old. So use it fresh or squeeze extra, keep in the fridge and try to use it within a few days :) That would still be *loads* better than any bottled lemon juice.

      1. Ok great.. Also, how much lemon juice and turmeric should I use. I read someone’s comment above who used 2 tablespoons of lemon, 2 tablespoons of cucumber juice and 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric but I won’t be using cucumber juice. Could I do 4 tablespoons of lemon juice and 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric? What do you recommend? And is it necessary to use cucumber juice?? Does that help with faster results? Sorry for all of the questions! :) I just want to get it right because I tried other topical treatments before that made my pigmentation worst :/

  10. Ok great.. Also, how much lemon juice and turmeric should I use. I read someone’s comment above who used 2 tablespoons of lemon, 2 tablespoons of cucumber juice and 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric but I won’t be using cucumber juice. Could I do 4 tablespoons of lemon juice and 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric? What do you recommend? And is it necessary to use cucumber juice?? Does that help with faster results? Sorry for all of the questions! :) I just want to get it right because I tried other topical treatments before that made my pigmentation worst :/

    1. Just start with low amounts and test to see what works for your skin best.

      Everyone’s skin is different so it’s best to find what works for you instead of relying solely on what others have done. Some people have thinner skin while others thicker/more damaged skin, so acidic topicals like lemon juice will have a different effect on each person. Turmeric also feels hot on the skin so start low (maybe a pinch) and see what you can take comfortably.

      If something stings or burns more than you like, you can just wash it off and try again with less lemon juice/turmeric next time, or by diluting your current mixture by adding more water or oil. Not a big deal :)

      Don’t worry too much, natural products typically have temporary or no adverse effects compared to man-made chemicals. You can forgo cucumber if you’d like.

      Hope that helps.

  11. I want to know if tumeric +castor oil+lime juice will lightens my sun damage which left side of cheek brown.

    I used lime juice and sugar for few days ,is lightening slowly.

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