Dark spots may form on your skin for a variety of reasons (see below). There are many proposed treatment options to help with this, some of which are outlined later in this article. The focus, however, will be on the potential benefits of turmeric for reducing dark spots on the skin. Indeed, there is much evidence of natural ingredients having beneficial properties in this regard1, so why not turmeric?
How do dark spots on the skin form?
As previously mentioned, there are numerous reasons why dark spots or patches may develop on the skin. Most dark spots are classified as medical conditions such as melasma and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH)2. Melasma is a reasonably common skin disorder that can have multiple route causes, primarily linked to receiving excess solar radiation (overexposure to the sun), which causes higher melanin production in areas of the skin3.
PIH can also be quite common, particularly if you have darker skin4. It is triggered by the skin has been injured, irritated, or inflamed4. It has also been linked to even more common dermatological conditions, including acne and eczema4.
Furthermore, some products (such as chemicals used to treat your skin or hair) may irritate the skin, which can cause dark patches around where the product was applied5. As a pimple clear - or as a cut or bite heals - excess pigment can sometimes be produced in the skin, again leading to dark spots5. In addition, it may be a side effect of some types of medication or could be caused by the hormonal changes associated with pregnancy5.
As you can see, there are many possible causes of dark spots on the skin. It is really important to try to work out how your dark spots have been caused in the first place so that you can treat them properly. For instance, if they’re a side effect of prescribed medication, it is vital that you do not simply stop taking the drug. If you find yourself in that situation, seek professional medical advice as soon as possible. However, if it’s because you’re started applying a new make-up product, perhaps try not using it for a while and see if the dark spots clear up by themselves.
However if they have formed, it is crucial that the reason for the dark spots is treated. This will allow the dark spots to fade over time instead of just covering them up with make-up. If you only cover them up and never treat the root cause, they will never disappear completely.
What are the options for treating dark spots on the skin?
There are lots of different skin whitening procedures; which is best for you will depend on how large an area you wish to lighten and how deep the darkness in the skin penetrates. As well as natural alternatives - such as turmeric (to be discussed later), the main options are6:
Serums and creams
For this, a cosmologist scrubs the upper layers of skin in affected areas to soften the edges of skin irregularities and treat acne scars or dark spots. On the other hand, microdermabrasion can be completed by your dermatologist or even by a therapist in a spa. In this case, you will receive light scraping of the affected skin to remove dead and damaged skin cells in dark spots.
Many different types of face masks are available, each containing different chemical products. It’s important to read the information about such products so that you know what you are applying. Arbutin, for example, is a natural extract that has minimal risk and helps to suppress darker pigmentation, especially if it was generated by sunburn. Another chemical that may be included is retinol, which causes natural regeneration of the skin, thereby reducing unwanted dark patches. The final example here is vitamin C, which enhances the skin’s elasticity and assists it in repairing itself.
This involves acids being applied to pigmented skin. It is vital that this be performed by a professional as it can be dangerous if not done correctly. Chemical peels are very effective in terms of rejuvenating the skin and removing dark spots. They are available in three different levels, depending on how deep the products need to penetrate.
Serums and creams
Over-the-counter products will have a lot of active ingredients included in them. Whitening serums are packed with up to 70% active ingredients, whereas creams have only approximately 10% of such. Nonetheless, both can brighten your skin, improve hydration, and help to prevent acne.
This is becoming increasingly popular, but of course, it is more expensive and definitely needs professional help. Nevertheless, it is proven to be very effective in removing dark patches.
What exactly is turmeric?
Turmeric is perhaps most commonly known as being a spice typically used in curries. In its raw state, it essentially looks like a knobbly root, like stem ginger7. It is dark yellow and was traditionally used to make dyes7.
Nowadays, it is primarily used in cooking. If you want to get more turmeric into your diet, try one of the following:
Add to scrambled eggs
Mix into hummus
Sprinkle over vegetables before you roast them
Toss into tuna salad
Other than the obvious (curry), there are many more ways to include more turmeric in your diet. It has proven health benefits, such as tackling mental ill-health and working as an anti-inflammatory8. But what about helping the skin? Read on!
What are turmeric masks used for?
Buying (or creating your own) turmeric mask can be a great alternative to chemical options. Because turmeric has anti-inflammatory properties, as previously mentioned, within one of its constituent elements - curcumin - it can help to reduce swelling on the skin9. Furthermore, curcumin is a natural antioxidant, which can assist in rejuvenating and lightening the skin, bringing out a natural glow9.
Studies have also shown that turmeric masks can help to reduce fine lines and wrinkles10. Moreover, it helps to even out your skin tone, reducing the appearance of dark spots11. This proves that it is beneficial regarding unwanted patches of darker skin.
Are turmeric masks safe?
Generally speaking, turmeric face masks are considered to be safe. However, there are some possible risks to look out for. It has low bioavailability, which means that your body doesn’t absorb much of it9. Nonetheless, even if you don’t see rapid effects, you still need to take it slow if you start using it so that you can see how your skin reacts.
It can stain the skin yellow when you start using it9, which is another reason only to apply a small amount at a time. Some people are also allergic to turmeric; if that’s you, you will likely experience redness and irritation if you apply it to your skin9. Other possible side effects include nausea, diarrhea, constipation, and stomach ache12. However, these symptoms are almost always only seen in people eating it rather than applying it as a mask. Finally, if you are taking anticancer or immunosuppressant medication, you should speak to your doctor before coming into lots of contact with turmeric12.
With a wide range of possible causes of dark patches on the skin, it is essential to try to establish what has led to yours before you begin treatment. Having said that, natural remedies are much less likely to have any adverse effects. Therefore, using treatments such as turmeric masks may well benefit you if you want to reduce dark spots on your skin.
Curcumin, found within turmeric, has proven benefits in lightening areas of the skin. Using a turmeric mask is generally considered to be a safe and effective means of evening skin tone and reducing the appearance of both dark spots and aging. However, be cautious if you are taking certain medications or have allergies to spices.