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. Hi,My wife as a have a skin conditions (Vitiligo) , there are white patches on her face(near my eyes), elbows,legs,chest. Will the tumeric powder , help in improving this type of skin conditions,she as tried alot of skin creams, but nothing seemed to of helped.

    Thank you.

  2. I’M African American female brown skin last year i was diagnosed with head and neck cancer so i had to under go radiation therapy to the head and neck. it made my skin very dark on one side of my face and i wanted to know is Turmeric, good for my skin to even it out and get my color back if so how much daily use i need. ALSO…. i have some UNWANTED bug bite scars on my foot i wanted to clear them up would Turmeric work for that as well pleeeeeeaZZZZZZZEEEE LET ME KNOW THANKS.

    1. Hi Nacy

      Sorry to hear about your illness, I hope you’re better now.

      I’m not familiar with the type of hyperpigmentation caused by radiation. But turmeric might be worth a try on both your face and feet — at the very least, it would not be harmful.

      Also, are they radiation burns? If so, you might want to consider castor oil. It removed a deep third-degree burn I had on my leg in just 9 months.

      Hope that helps.

      1. no it’s not a burn my skin actually smooth it just never got the color back its just dark on one side i’ve been mixing the Turmeric with lemon juice… i also mixed cocoa nut oil with rose water,lemon juice and glycerin would these work any i also bought red sandalwood powder???????

  3. I am pakistani, and got a tan from couple of years ago when I went abroad on my face, hands and feet. It hasn’t seemed to have gone, would turmeric powder help me to get my natural skin tone back

  4. I surely can’t wait to try this remedies. Its been two long years suffering from acne and trying all sorts of expensive products from the pharmacy but there’s no help. Actually my condition is worstning. I hope to come up with good results from these remedies. Can you pls help me with the measurements, how much castor oil and how much turmeric. I thank you so much. God bless.

    1. Hi Thokozile, it’s not an exact science to these things. Best thing is to do what you’re comfortable with and you can adjust from there as you see fit. Some people prefer the feel of a thicker paste (with more turmeric), and some may prefer a thinner mixture (more castor oil).

      Also, since you’re treating acne, it’s best to only use cold-pressed castor oil so it won’t clog your pores.

      Hope that helps.

  5. Thank you so much. I just cant wait to try this and I hope I wont have any problems finding the cold pressed one.Wish me luck. God bless you.

  6. @Malik from Nigeria, go to your local indian spice store and you will find all the indian spices you need, including tumeric.
    We have the same in Zambia and I go to the indian run shops.

  7. Oh, forgot to say great article! Very insightful especially about the pillow and sheets thing. Its that extra info that makes this article very water and air tight!

  8. You’re right in that turmeric stains fingernails. You’re wrong in saying it doesn’t come off. Like any stain, it does eventually come off. I know because I got a lot on my finger nails when I was applying it on my skin. I had made a paste (very little water and some turmeric) and applied it. I tried using a spoon to apply it to avoid it getting on my nails but it was so much easier just using my finger to apply it. It took a few days or so for it to wash off, but the point is it DOES come off. My nails are all currently yellow-free from the turmeric.

    1. I believe what I wrote was that it does not “wash off”…

      For some people (myself included), a few days of yellow nails isn’t quite ideal. And if it can be avoided by simply wearing gloves, why not?

      But thanks for sharing your experience.

  9. Very informative..another useful tip is makin a paste out of tumeric powder,curd,and gram flour..apply to face and rinc off once mask has hardened to reveal a bright glowin skin:)

    1. drink 10 glasses of water each day and avoid eating oily, junk, unhealthy food. Use lots and lots of green veggies and non green veggies too…I dont think turmeric would be that useful in curing pimples but you can google that. u can also google “how to cure pimples at home”

  10. Hey m usng turmeric nd lemon paste. It helps .bt i wanted to knw tht is turmeric+lemon or lemon+honey more effective? Plz guide me?

  11. Love your blog…I have been using turmeric for cooking and in face masks…you should avoid using soap afterwards and not go in sun….skin turns orange if you do so.

  12. Hi ppl. Any one who can help me, where can I get cold pressed castor oil? I bought castor oil & it was just castor oil not cold or warm pressed & I mixed it with tumeric, believe me my acne was from bad to worse. I think my mistake was that I used the wrong castor oil. Any help pls.

  13. Turmeric is a very good spice used in mostly Indian sub-continent dishes. It is a natural antibiotic and anti cancer. Recent study at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston
    has shown that Turmeric does shrink cancerous tumors. Turmeric also a blood thinner.
    Any one taking blood thinning medicine must consult their doctors before using turmeric.

  14. I have had tremendous success by treating skin ailements with lugols iodine. The most difficult problem with skin ailements is determinig what the actual problem is. It can be anything, such as cancer, a boil, a wart etc. Why? Because most skin problems that flare up to the top of the dermal layer are caused by a fungal – unballanced pH condition. By applying a little bit of iodine on the suspected area, it usually neautralizes the unballanced pH condition, and the problem goes away by itself without the need for diagnosis. The most common skin care problems can be solved by using this inexpensibe simple approach.

  15. Hi!

    I wanna try this! How much turmeric powder and cucumber juice do you mix? And is it safe to drink milk with turmeric powder when you’re nursing? Thanks!!!

  16. Hi Samantha. Good article. Very Informative. Also, if turmeric stains any surface or linens, just wash them and put the stuff under the sun to dry. Sun-rays have a wonderful effect on turmerics. The stains or spots will simply disappear after a few hours of sun-bath…

  17. Very interesting. I use an anti-aging cream that has turmeric in it but somehow they have taken the yellow out of it! It works really well.

  18. You are absolutly right Pronojit, I’ve experienced that & I was so suprised.Sunrays works wonders on turmeric stains. Jane can u pls tell me, what is the name of the anti aging cream u used. Can it remove dark mark on my face? I want to try it pls.

  19. @ Jane. The colour in turmeric comes from curcumin which is the actual potent stuff. The cream which u are using must be having THC (tetrahydrocurcuminoids) which is a result of a new experiment to take the yellow out of turmeric while still retaining the benefits. The verdict? The jury is still out on that. If u are happy with what you see in the mirror – Good!. But I would still go for the traditional stuff, the way Samantha has described.

  20. Have been trying tumeric as a face mask once a week for over a month now..

    I do think it has made some improvement but i still have quite a few red marks but use rose water on a cotton pad and wipe over the face before moisturising. Its supposed to tighten your pores


  22. hi i am a 25 year old indian woman and ever since i fell sick for my twins which was one year ago i have a problem with my skin i have pimples that leave dark marks on my face will this help me

    1. You can use Vicco Turmeric Skin Cream. Previously it was marketed as Ayurvedic cream. Apply it twice daily. (don’t go out in the sun after application). You will see a difference in about 2-3 weeks. Try it. It worked wonders for me. I had some stubborn spots on my face. (Half my face). I applied the cream and also Lacto Calamine Lotion. Most spots are gone and one or two are fading away too…..

  23. 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…

    @ Pronojit Gupta

    Thanks for sharing how to remove turmeric stains from clothes…. I have a couple shirts that need to go out and dry in the sun…hehe…

      1. 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, I wash 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.

  24. Thanks Samantha,

    I’m happy to share with everyone what has worked for me so far and I’m sure other ladies can benefit from this too…. 🙂

    1. Thank u so much Maria. We’ll let u know how it worked. My problem is that, I’ve been having pimples on my face for two years, now I’m left with bad dark marks. I even used tumeric and castor oil for treating the pimples but it was just castor oil, not cold pressed or warm pressed, because of this, the results were not good. I hope this will help, thank u once more.

    2. @ Maria. Why just ‘ladies’, Maria? Didnt know turmeric was gender-biased. @Samantha Care to throw some light on the new revelation??? 🙂

      1. Lol… I’ve been guilty of making that false assumption too.

        Also just updated the article with your sunning tip, I just realised that I didn’t do so before.

  25. @ Pronojit- Hello! I’ve been searching for a natural remedy to lighten my underarms and I find this very helpful. But, I have a question. Is it okay to apply deodorant after putting the mixture and washing your underarms? I have read some articles saying that applying deodorant darkens the underarm and tells to avoid it. I’m just confused. Because Maria said that she applies deodorant after taking a shower..

    Also, I’ve watched a video on youtube wherein she mixed turmeric powder, olive oil, lemon juice and coconut oil. Does it have the same effects or results as the mixtures above? And lastly, they say that there are two kinds of turmeric powder and the other one doesn’t leave any stains when applied which is the one used in cosmetics. But can I use the turmeric powder in the local groceries? Cause I can’t find the other one which is used in the cosmetics. Is it the same with the turmeric powder used in cooking?

    I know, I have a lot of questions and I would be very happy if you can help me with this. Thank you very much! I’ll wait for an immediate reply. Thanks again! 🙂

    1. @ Rose. Yes some deodorants may cause the underarm skin to darken as does some hair removal creams and shaving products. Some people find herbal deos good for skin but it really depends on the ingredients of the deodorant u use.

      I would rather apply lemon juice and leave it for about 30 mins, then wash it off. And then apply the mixture of coconut oil and turmeric and leave it on, for the night. Lemon juice needs to be washed off after sometime but turmeric and coconut oil need not. In fact its better if its left for the night as both are natural skin lighteners.

      Yes, normally the turmeric powder sold at the local grocers is alright. And if it stains ur linens, u know what to do… 🙂

  26. I have a question… can I use this formula on my face? My face is darker than my body and I need it to be light like my body very important I don’t like to see it

  27. hmmmm sounds good Maria.. Actually im using baking soda on my underarm and it really works, but still wanted to try Lemon Juice + Cucumber Juice + turmeric powder…

  28. i love the turmeric i am using daily i have moles under my neck and i am willing to start drinking it is very healing thanks u so very much

  29. @ Pronojit- Thank you so much. I tried turmeric and lemon juice but after I rinsed, there’s a part in my underarm that hurts. I applied it for 2 days but then my underarms got darker unlike before when I haven’t applied the mixture of lemon and turmeric powder yet. So I stopped using it. Maybe I’ll try what you said. I hope turmeric and coconut oil won’t irritate my underarms again. 🙂 Thanks again!

  30. Anxious to try the tumeric powder/lemon juice/cucumber mixture! Your recommendation is daily use, and my question is: If it takes several washings for the yellow stain to fade, wouldn’t daily use of this treatment only make the stain more difficult to remove?

  31. Hi every one! I have withe skin, and in the last time I started having problems with acnee and blackheads, if I will apply turmeric with milk it’s gonna help? and if in the same time I will drink turmeric, it that be any good? after applying on the face I will have yellow skin, if I will wash after few hours is ok? thank you!

  32. i have darkcircles.. And they are DARK!
    Will drinking turmeric in milk twice a day help me in lightening them and making my skin tone even?
    pleasee reply.

    1. Hi fruity I have to say dark circles run in my family out of boredom for a week I put this skin cream on called Ambi(can be found at walgreens, cvs, target, walmart etc). After about 2 weeks or so I noticed the dark circles lightening now I don’t have to use a concealer anymore. As maintenance I now put Ambi on 2-3 times a week. Sometimes when I am super tired I put it on about 45 min before bed and wipe it off so that it would get into my eyes while sleeping. It’s about $7.00.

  33. I have really bad pityriasis versicular. It has left my skin pigmented all over my body. It looks really horrible, and dermatologists said it will take a while for the skin tone to even out. If I use this method, will it help get back to normal any faster?

  34. hii my name is amrita 20 yrs of age.. i have dark inner thighs , dark knees and dark vargina.. using tumeric and coconut oil. wil this help and if so how long would i have to constantly using it to see results?? help please

  35. Hi Samantha, Thanks for writing a detailed and comprehensive article. As I told you in my last message that I also have pigmentation on my both cheeks and little on my nose. I have already started to use lemon juice separately and turmeric mix with Castor oil for it. I also ingest turmeric by adding into water or milk as Vienna said in comment.

    Could you please tell me What should be the maximum quantity of turmeric for one diet and how many time I can ingest in one day?

    1. Hi Sumaila – you’re very welcome 🙂

      You can try 1 rounded teaspoon – 1 level tablespoon per day. You can take this once a day or spread it out throughout the day if you choose. Turmeric is generally safe and non-toxic, but it’s also a good blood thinner and lowers blood pressure, so if you’re on other medication/herbs that do those things, you may want to lower the amount to avoid any issues (…and definitely stop taking it before any scheduled surgery. I learnt this the hard way when I took it right before my wisdom teeth surgery!).

      p.s: Also, taking too much turmeric can cause temporary constipation for some, but if that happens, you can just take note of it and adjust your dosage as needed.

      Best of luck!


  36. does it have to be whole regular milk? Can I drink almond milk, and how much termeric and milk should I use? do you think it would help dermal melasma?

    thank you

  37. Hi! Im a south asian, female, and Im getting married in 4 months by Gods Will! Thank you so much for this informative article, it’s really impressive the benefits u mention. I was just wondering if drinking turmeric and milk everyday for 2 months would help pigmentation i have in parts of my body like around the back of my neck, inner thighs, groin area and underarms? Or do you recommend a direct application of turmeric paste on the affected areas? Please help, thanks 🙂

  38. im 60years old n have use castor oil for years my grandma told me about it n also turmeric belive u me its works homemade is better

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