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!

250 Replies to “Turmeric – a traditional skin remedy to lighten skin and pigmentation”

  1. can you use the turmeric and vinegar during the same course of treatment?
    i mean can one do the vinegar application at night, and the turmeric mask in the morning?
    will this be more effective?

  2. Hi Nisha, it should not do any harm to use both at opposite ends of the day. Just monitor your skin for added sensitivity from the vinegar before applying the turmeric.

  3. is tumeric the same as saffran?

    i mixed safran with olive oil and soaked it for a while.

    will i get the same results as using lemon juice?

  4. Hi,
    Turmeric does work, I’ve used it with yougurt and chick pea flour on 3 occasions and it has helped under my chin I have very dark pigmentation and now it is appearing somewhat more subtle – I can’t say its a massive impact but it does work, I hope with continued use it will diminish. I’ve used loads of products dermatologist recommended and lightening cream and in the last two years I’ve not noticed a slight difference but now I can say there is a slight difference now.
    Hope you will try this, and hope it works for you!


  6. Hi
    I have hyperpigmentation over left part of my neck after I caught in fire. The wounds are healed well but the neck is still having hyperpigmentation. Can I use turmeric with cucumber juice? If yes, then how many times a day?

  7. Replying to Aseem – your dermal melasma (aka hyperpigmentation) could be due to your body’s over-production of estrogen. I had a similar problem that has finally cleared up. I had “chloasma” for several years. I was given Triluma by a derm doc referred by a useless ob-gyn. A couple years later I got a SMART ob-gyn who knew my problem instantly though she waited to tell me until tests were conclusive. It turns out I had fibroids! I had to have surgery to remove them, but that’s when my chloasma finally started disappearing. If you’re on the pill, that could be the primary cause of it (don’t let anyone tell you differently!). Also, I started using ProActiv 2 years ago. Proactiv is a miracle for blotchy skin!! I live in the AZ desert and the sun did a lot of damage before I realized what was happening (along with the hyperpigmentation from a disord in my uterous). I now faithfully wear sunsreen and carry an umbrella. The darkness on my skin still shows up if I don’t cover up. Hope you get to see this message.

  8. this is a form of racism!

    darker skinned people are perfect just the way they are

    you should all get out more and focus on enjoying life not worrying about having a stereotypical image.

    we are all wondefuly made in gods image, therefore we are ALL beautiful.

    these websites are a load of shit.
    if people discriminate because of coulour than too bad for them.

    you dont need all this skin whitenening shit…

    be hapoy witth who you are.

    please, it is only than that you will truly enjoy your lives with extreme content.

    1. Dont be stupid. Im indian and my skin is not naturally dark. Its caused by pigmentation. I just want my skin to heal and for my complexion to come back. If you have no idea of what you are talking about, Then just dont say anything.

    2. Don’t be so ignorant, do some research b4 making senseless statements!!! Do you even know what is hyperpigmentation? No one here is trying to get white but rather wants to get rid of unsightly SPOTS.

    3. As Mr/Mrs pig says, darker skinned people are wonderful just like the opposite cloured people.Here people are trying to become more fairer.This can be understood if he/she had any such type of cosmetic problem. I believe if we have a wheat colour complexion, you have more choices while dressing up, I mean we can wear all most all colours. At times, “looks” are very important in any field especially in the marketting field.It is a part of personality. Even this guy won’t prefer a partner with dark complexion for himself/herself. It is easy to say these great things, but when we meet the situation, we never compromise.

      1. Wow what an ignorant prick! Yea you “Cobra.” Lemme get this straight, you encourage an “in between” complexion? A complexion some people try to attain, risking their health by lightening skin with potentially harsh things or by tanning? More importantly it unconsiously lowers their self esteem during the process, and the only benefits you can state are being able to wear any color you want (as if we weren’t inna free country) and get a great gig in the marketing world? It’s official, you’re a fucking dummy. It’s 2009, if you cant see past race and complexion you must be gay. Beauty comes in EVERY complexion. Now I for one DO NOT think this site is racist at all, I know it was created with intentions of educating the public about getting rid of blemishes/dark spots/hyperpig./etc. however, the comment made by the fuck up above me was. And we can not ignore the fact that some people get on this site for reasons much deeper. You don’t know what kind of partner anyone would want so you can’t say shit about the next person. But I can bet everyone wants somebody that is compatible, someone they can love regardless of color. That’s what makes the world so beautiful–different peoples. It would be a lil boring if everyone was the same color dont you think? Don’t try to act like saying “darker people are beautiful” is like charity. Its not, its the truth. Look at Vashtie Kola, Stacy Dash, Rosario Dawson, Eva Mendes, Eva Longoria, Beyonce, Salma Hayek etc…I could go on and on. When you are 50 years old, popping Viagra, and taking it up the ass, don’t be mad at anyone but yourself. It shows youd rather be alone than be with a potentially good person of a darker complexion than you. You’re too shallow to see it, but good job showing the world what a shallow ASS you are!

        1. Hi dougla,
          You are great and appreciate your comments, but the language you used is third rate. I just said the colour I prefer but you critisized me in a poor way. I do not call you fucking ASS because that is not my culture.What you know about me to show the world that I am a shallow ASS?Mind your words.

  9. Thanks for providing guidance about how to use turmeric. I have read about it that it is not only suitable choice for the sun tanned skin, gives brightness to skin but a very useful item to stop further increase of pigmentation loss problems of skin.

  10. its good for brigthening the skin before amajor event like a wedding… mix the paste with coconut oil, apply to face and neck area, then uwash it off with yoghurt.

  11. This stains your skin a yellowish shade – freaks me out. I read that the stains are not permanent but still … something to consider if u want to try this idea. I tried the Lemon Juice/Turmeric idea but will probably not do it again, the yellow stains which I PRAY are just temporary scare me, my finger nails are yellow, as are my fingers, the lines in my palm etc… Good Luck

    1. to prevent the stain from occuring,drop a tiny bit of extra virgin olive oil to your mix of turmeric, and even as it dries on your skin, when washed off, no stain occurs.

  12. I have been using Turmeric powder for a few days because an Indian friend recommended the skin toning and hair inhibitor properties. So far it looks good, but I can’t tell much about the hair inhibitors yet, she said it takes awhile of regular use. Several times a week for maybe two months. One problem is that I have an opposite complexion of her, with light hair and fair skin and I fell victim of the yellow stain. It looked like a highlighter marker all over my face and arms where I had applied the paste. Soap and a loofah didn’t make much of a difference, but for all of you who have had this problem I wanted to let you know that my facewash took it right off. I use Mary Kay their Timewise cleanser. Then it helps me know I’m ok to use the product without fear of long lasting stains.

  13. I know for a fact that turmeric has healed my staph infection, though it’s left me looking like a splotchy pumpkin. That’s ok with me. Does anyone know if it lightens hair on the face? I thought I read something about turmeric stopping hair growth, has anyone had any results in this department?

  14. I have been reading about turmeric a lot lately due to its anti inflammatory properties. It seems counter-intuitive that something that could stain my kitchen counter so badly could actually lighten skin color. From the people who have tried it though, it does sound as though it works. Something to keep in mind. Thanks for the info.

  15. I have been using tumeric with honey twice a week. It does not stain my skin, but my skin is already looking brighter after only 3 weeks of use. Will continue using it.

  16. I have brown patches spreading on my forehead & blotches on both cheeks. Had the fairest & beauty of skins before my 4. I now look horrible with severe pigmentation!! Does the tumeric & honey really work cos I’m at the stage where I’ll try anything as long as it is natural & not bleaching creams containing hydroquinne which UK have now banned due to apparantly causing severe side-effect ie cancer!!!! Anyone here can honestly say that tumeric makes a difference, then I’m seriously gonna give it a try…… Watch this space…..

    1. Hi, have you considered the possibility that the hyperpigmentation might be melasma? In which case, any topical methods might be helped by going the internal route as well (eg dietary/lifestyle changes, supplements etc.)

  17. I i have dark neck,inner thighs,knees,and armpits. what is the best combination of turmeric to help lighten these areas. i would really appreciate your help.

  18. @ Roxana; google Acanthosis Nigricans. Sounds like you have similar symptoms. I don’t know if Tumeric would get rid of the darkness, when it’s from within. Good luck.

      1. Yes, it works wonders on the skin. I am of Indian heritage, and this is the best cure to lighten and give a glow….especially when a bride to be…..she slather tumeric all over her body to make it clean. be careful, it stains…..you can use oil to take the yellow residue off……good luck…..I am now reverting back to herbal remedies……………

  19. i knew that lemon juice was a skin lightener, but would have never considered turmeric! thanks for sharing, I will give this a go 🙂

  20. I am of Indian heritage, and I have always been fascinated by the Japanese or korean skin tone. They have pure ivory white (not the pinkish skin of western people), and always wanted that complexion.

    I have done some research and here is what I found:

    1) Tea seed oil (oil from the tea plant, Japanese skin care secret)

    2) Wakame seaweed/wakame phytssence, has 15-times more calcium than milk and calcium is a mineral that helps to lighten skin another – another Japanese secret.

    3) Citric acid – Lemon juice is an effective natural bleach when it comes to skin tone.

    4) Turmeric + Gram flour (Indian skin care secret, a natural bleach that works wonders, not only it does prevent acne break outs, but it even lightens skin!)

    1. Hi dude, thanks for sharing. It’s interesting that you mention wakame seaweed. From what I know, the japanese diet is very high in iodine, which comes from seaweed (seaweed is also used to fertilise some crops, which leads to land vegetables that are higher in iodine). It’s possible this high-iodine diet could have also led to their finer skin texture and younger-looking skin.

      p.s: Seaweed soup/rice is also a traditional food in Korea, although this is lesser-known throughout the rest of the world.

      1. You are welcome.

        1) I also have heard that Milk bath (mixed with lemon juice is even better) lightens skin tone, and is done in Asian countries.

        2) Potatoes (Yes I said Potatoes!) lightens skin! I can’t believe this myself, they say rubbing your skin again cut potatoes will lighten skin!


        Hydroquinone (too bad this is not natural) inhibits body’s melanin production, a high SPF sunscreen, carrying an umbrella when you go outside also helps.

  21. Well you need to understand the difference here. These remedies help if some parts of your skin are more tanned than the other. The best way to find this out is to place your hand next to your stomach or thighs if they are darker then this remedy will help bring your hands back to that original color.
    However if you are thinking that this will change your natural body color then sorry that is not possible as new melanin will always change your skin color back to your birth skin.

  22. hi i use turmeric every day it works well ..but i have a doubt..after using turmeric with coconut oil how to wash off it…is there anything to apply after doing tat…pls reply

    1. Just use a good soap with fat/oils in it (eg. Chandrika). You’ll need to rinse/wash a few times to get rid of the turmeric.

  23. Hi Samantha, it sounds like tumeric is great for the skin, I have been taking it in capsules to protect my heart. I didn’t realize you could easily get tumeric at a local grocery store. I believe it’s always better to use natural remedies first!

    Thanks again!

    Jared Blake

  24. I heard that turmeric powder used for cooking is not good for the skin, it has to be fresh turmeric! is that true?

    1. I’ve used turmeric powder many times and have had no problems. Just make sure that the powder only contains turmeric and no other spices. This is only an issue if you buy the pre-bagged turmeric powder though, if you buy it from Asian stores where they scoop it out of the bins, that should be pure turmeric.

      Of course, if you can grind your own turmeric fresh, it might be more potent than using turmeric powder.

    1. If you were born with darker skin, nothing will make your skin lighter. These natural remedies are good for cleaning your skin and removing dead cells (so that your skin can renew easily). They will also only lighten your skin if you were born with lighter skin which became darker over the years (due to excessive sun or chemical exposure).

      There are lightening (skin bleaching) products available on the market, but again..if you were born with darker skin, these products wont really help you. They’ll take the natural dark color off your skin and make your skin look dull and “grey” (the natural healthy glow that your skin has will be removed).

      Naturally dark skin is beautiful! People need to stop worrying about superficial things like skin color, and focus more on being healthy overall.

  25. PLZ HELP ME M NT UGLY BT BECAUSE OF MY dusky skin ,i look ugly .i hav applied every

    thing but its nt working.now a days m applying turmeric and saffron from last one month ,but

    my skin is not becoming light. now am using skinlighten cream but no use.


      1. Hey Samantha, do Gluthatione Soaps – Dian Stalder or Swiss Gluthatione Bar Soaps work?

        Also I heard people talking about the skin lightening properties of baking soda and mixing it in your bath tub works.

        are these TRUE?

        1. Hi South Asian Dude

          1) To be honest, I don’t know if they work or not. What I do know is that the skin bleaching community (sellers, forums and websites alike) is notorious for making unsubstantiated and wild claims.

          For instance, it has been proven that glutathione taken orally has negligible effects on the body, but they still sell this lie when pushing their “gluta pills”. We can’t do anything about these people, so it’s a case of buyer beware and educating ourselves.

          Scroll down to the bottom of this page for a summary of the studies done on glutathione.

          2) As for baking soda, it is a good exfoliator so it can help reveal fresher skin when used as a scrub, but I doubt soaking in it will do anything to lighten pigmentation. Baking soda is just sodium bicarbonate. As far as i know, the only effect is that it’s quite drying on the skin. You’d be better off soaking in a tub with epsom salt (magnesium sulphate). Most people are deficient in magnesium, which is critical in cell activity, so soaking in an epsom salt bath is likely to be very beneficial for the skin’s health and cell turnover.

          Hope that helps.

    1. Hey Anita, try Kasturi Manjal (Wild Turmeric or Organic Turmeric) instead of regular cooking Turmeric, because it is much more effective than regular processed turmeric.

      Kojic Acid, or Gluthathione skin lightening soaps are also very effective.

    1. Just to clarify, kasturimanjal is a different species of turmeric, also called wild turmeric. But both types have benefits. Kasturimanjal is usually harder to find and more expensive.

  26. HI! Your articles are great. As I’m reading your articles I’m applying oil x’D you said”good for face skin” so I immediately put it on face, you said”good for feet” so I put it on feet and so on..haha..thank you very much! :))

  27. Friends always follow the traditional natural methods for improve your skin tone. While you are using the artificial cosmetics which contains high amount of chemicals will degenerate the skin. It always give a permanent fairness. If you stop them for about 5 days there may be lot of fairness problems. The manufacturers using some alcoholic contents to make this phenomenon for the regular use of their product. As a beautician In the basis of my experience 99% of cosmetics showing on advertisements is fake. Usually they use large amount of chemicals. I’m suggesting all of them to follow traditional ways. An another tip is “use a paste of lime juice and neem to get glowing skin”

  28. Your articles are great,I’m starting to put on oils all over head to feet.lol. But for real I thank you for sharing all these, bless you more…hugs all the way from the philippines,xoxo

  29. hi anita,try turmeric sticks this is a natural sticks which comes directly from tree. it is easily avaliable in super markets. you can do only that. grade the turmeric stick little bit and mix with milk. and apply it on your face for 30 min. it do wonders to your skin.

  30. Hello friends!!

    I would like to share my secrets. I had a 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 workplace started commenting. I was amazed, I couldnt realise what had happened to me. Than I realised its the Milk & turmeric brought changes in me. It took just 15 to 30 days for my skin to improve.

    It really works. And if you want to have a softer skin apply Dove soap, which is the best I will recommend.


  31. Hi!
    I find the articles amazn.
    i need some advice on my skin. This is the situation: I followed as usual my hair removal laser treatments but unfortunetly during one of my treatments i was on antibiotics and i forgot to advise the esthetician before me treatment. So i ended up having spots on my arms after having my laser session on my arms. The spots are like little round white here n there. At the begining it was red & it burned a lot, then it peeled off, and now its been 2 months its white little spots. I went to see 2 diffrent dermotologist, they bothe said you have to wait its a question of time. All though one of them said use the asian remedy : TURMERIC. Now, she said mixe it with water and leave it on your skin. I just want to know whats the best way to mixe it? with water? oil?…and what to do, to not leave any yellow stain?
    Thank you

    1. Hi Sara, it sounds like you have hypo-pigmentation in those areas? It’s interesting that turmeric is said to help with this.

      About your question, you can mix turmeric with water, but after it dries and you wash it off, it’ll leave a yellow stain on your skin for several hours and may require a few washings to fade it. Although this is inconvenient for most people, I’ve also heard that this staining (where turmeric remains within the skin itself and not just sitting on top of it), can actually be more beneficial. I don’t know how true this is, but it makes sense.

      Mixing turmeric with oil instead of water will prevent this temporary staining. It’ll take a few latherings and washing your face thoroughly with a good soap, but it’ll wash off.

      Good luck!

  32. thanks for the article, I live in Nigeria i do not know where to get turmeric in my country or rather it local name. can anyone help?

  33. If I want to put the powder in warm milk and drink it, can I use the Turmetic powder from the supermarket? Or do I need some special Turmetic for effects?

    And does it only make the skin lighter or will the skin look better too?

    1. Hi Alice

      Vienna’s comment in the article should help you get a better idea of its effects.

      Also turmeric is turmeric, there’s no special kind. Just check the label as mentioned above and it should be fine.

      Hope that helps.

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