DIY Skin Care with Turmeric and Cumin

A quick note about two herbs I have fallen in love with, and now use in my daily routine: turmeric and cumin, two food-grade spices that are honored with a ubiquitous presence in kitchen cabinets across the world. Both spices create wonderful health benefits when taken internally, especially as part of an anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective diet. But have you honestly considered their topical application potential? Maybe you should!

Cumin powder courtesy Michelle@TNS on Flickr

Turmeric powder courtesy megabeth on Flickr

Every morning and evening I look forward to smelling like curry. As I attempt to jump-start my brain early in the morning, I take a quick cold shower and follow up with a liberal application of a bright-yellow paste to my face and any areas that seem like they need some attention. As the paste dries and turns from a dark egg-yolk yellow to a sunlit-beach yellow, I like to imagine that I’m glowing like the sun and lighting up all my neurons and exuding radiance that suffuses the heart and soul of the universe! Or I just brush my teeth and make some coffee.

nice color

Either way, as I rinse off the golden powder I find myself taking a moment and deeply inhaling the earthy spicy smell of curry, stimulating my morning appetite and providing some mood-lifting aromatherapy. My skin feels smooth and it looks glowy. This subconsciously surprises me every time, since my skin is terribly sensitive and will break into a rash or irritation at the slightest hint of discomfort or chemical constituent. My skin has been known to react poorly to being looked at askance. I have finally found a neutral skin care solution, and it was staring me in the face from my spice rack.

happy sunshine face!

Make sure you use organic, very finely ground versions of both spices, with a ratio of 3:1 of turmeric:cumin. If you’d like to peel off the face mask, use honey instead of water to mix! Honey is also extra soothing for inflamed tissue (it promotes wound healing), and prevents the spices from becoming too drying. If you’ve had lots of sun exposure, are prone to acne, or have blotchy skin, use yogurt to mix with the spices- organic, plain, SUGAR FREE yogurt. Personally I just use water and it’s wonderful, with a little jojoba oil applied afterwards.

Thank you to this Thai herbal product for introducing me to this mixture of spices:

herbal for face!

As I was breaking out in heat rash during my travels in Thailand, this helped to soothe my inflamed skin and it did relax me as the label says. It is composed of turmeric and cumin. Does anyone have recipes they’d like to share, using these spices?

Thanks to the plants for their healing properties:

Cumin Seeds courtesy Paul Goyette on Flickr

Turmeric root courtesy h-bomb on Flickr


7 responses to “DIY Skin Care with Turmeric and Cumin

  1. Thanks for posting this! I never thought to apply turmeric topically, but I’m looking forward to trying it. I cooked with fresh turmeric for my first time ever a few days ago and it stained my fingernails an interesting shade of yellow… not sure that counts. Anyway, I’ll hopefully have my own recipe up in the next few weeks to contribute to this pro-turmeric campaign.

  2. Hi Beth, I am an acupuncturist from CA currently spending time in Thailand. If you have time, drop me a line; would love to chat about acupuncture internationally.

    • Hello, Sorry for the delayed reply! I would love to chat about acupuncture in the international arena, and will be PMing you soon.

  3. Great! What did you cook? The powder doesn’t stain like the fresh juice can- at least I haven’t noticed it staining my skin! I’m planning a follow-up article about its traditional use in Asia and some studies regarding internal and external benefits. Fun stuff- in a way I can’t help feeling silly posting things like this when so much information is already available, but personal experience does count for something. There is definitely a turmeric campaign happening these days… I look forward to reading your personal take on it 🙂

  4. Just curious if you mean curry or cumin. You said, “Every morning and evening I look forward to smelling like curry.” and “I find myself taking a moment and deeply inhaling the earthy spicy smell of curry.” But every other mention is of cumin. Those 2 are way different . Curry powder is a blend of up to 18 spices (including cumin & turmeric) and smells more like something I’d want to put on my face. Just curious because I would like to try this, but not sure which to use. Thanks for discovering this idea. Turmeric is definitely something great for the skin.

    • Hi Le,

      Thanks for reading! This post is indeed just about turmeric and cumin. But in the passages you mentioned, I did mean curry- just the mixture of turmeric and cumin is enough to remind me of curry! 🙂 But that brings up a good point: sometimes if my skin is looking extra dull I will add a little powdered ginger. And often I will add ground coriander or just smash up some coriander in a mortar and enjoy its exfoliating effect. I generally also add bentonite clay (other topical clays may be nice too), honey, and aloe. The mixture can be as fancy or simple as you like- and different spices have varying levels of “heat,” with ginger being the hottest, followed by turmeric and then cumin. Coriander, aloe, honey, and clay are all cooling and provide a nice contrast to the heating action of the other spices. The astringent action of the spices will help close the pores and the heating action will invigorate circulation to brighten the complexion- as well as the molecular anti-inflammatory action of course!

      I would encourage you to experiment with different spice mixtures for your skin type. Less is more with skin care, but finding the correct spice “temperature” is essential in keeping your skin glowing (rather than scorching) 🙂 Some of the curry ingredients like asafoetida, nutmeg, or clove would be too strong for topical use, but others such as cardamom or cinnamon might be nice to try. I’m sure that Ayurvedic skin care theories cover this in more detail!

      Here is a good summary of the properties of some of these spices (although the chart refers to their internal actions):


      • Thanks so much taking the time to reply! You are so full of great information. Funny, just reading this post the other day made me crave curry so I added some (along with cinnamon, apple juice, & pomegranate seeds) to my oatmeal. The curry did something magical to taste! Yummy! I am definitely saving this info that you provided because it’s very rare to find ‘true’ beauty tips. Anything with spices sounds heavenly! I love ginger and also your idea of using coriander to exfoliate.

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