The skin care industry is currently worth $2 billion worldwide, and that amount is only expected to increase with the rapid industrialization of China and India through the next decade. With that said, countless new skin care ingredients, formulations, and technologies are introduced each year – making it difficult to analyze them all, much less distinguish the next retinoid (gold standard in anti-aging) from the next laureth sulfate (known irritant).
Recently at the 22nd World Congress of Dermatology in Seoul, Procter & Gamble presented promising research on extracts from turmeric, a known anti-inflammatory agent used in India and Ayurvedic Medicine for 4,000 years. I personally became interested in turmeric in 2009 when my mother was diagnosed with bladder cancer. In my efforts to help improve her health, I read Dr. David Servan-Schrieber, M.D.Ph.D.’s much-acclaimed Anticancer: A New Way of Life, about treating cancer with improved nutrition and exercise. In the studies cited within the book, turmeric was consistently at the top of the nutrient list in alleviating inflammation and eradicating cancer tumor formation of numerous types. I immediately purchased turmeric supplements for my mother. And while I am sure her recovery has had much to do with the world-class care she has received, including surgery and subsequent BCG treatments, I like to think that her use of turmeric aided somewhat as well.
Turmeric has not previously been included in skin care formulations because of its intense color, strong odor, and limited stability. However, Procter & Gamble scientists announced that they have been able to use purification and enrichment methods to extract tetrahydrocurcumin, a solvent-extracted turmeric derivative, for use in their future skin care products. The products, which will be released at the end of this year, are under the label of “-omics,” referring to the fact that the scientists have also studied how select genes affect specific skin proteins (see below for more information).
In research presented at the conference, two double-blind, well-controlled studies using turmeric were introduced. In the first, 89 patients aged 40-60 were treated on one side of their face with a cream with 4% niacinamide (similar to Olay Regenerist) for 4 weeks, while the other half of their face was treated with a cream with 4% niacinamide and 0.5% tetrahydrocurcumin. After 8 weeks, experts found a 50% decrease in the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles in patients who used 0.5% tetrahydrocurcumin plus niacinamide, compared to 20% with niacinamide alone.
In the second study, 186 women aged 40-65 were split into three groups. The first group used a regimen consisting of a basic cleanser and one daytime moisturizer containing 0.5% turmeric and 6% niacinamide; the second used 0.5% turmeric, 6% niacinamide, and SPF 15; and the third were subjected to a control. Over the course of 4 weeks, 72% of the women using the turmeric and niacinamide noticed a measurable improvement in the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, compared to negligible amounts of the controls.
Turmeric also has been proven to have potent antioxidant activity, as has been shown in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology, amongst numerous other sources. It has also been suggested by Dr. Nicholas Perricone, M.D., amongst others, that turmeric may boost the skin’s sun protection when applied under sunscreen, but this suggestion has not (to the best of my knowledge) yet been substantiated in any published, peer-reviewed research as of yet. Still, given that other potent antioxidants have been shown to have this effect, like vitamins C & E and pomegranate, it is certainly possible turmeric can join this elite group.
What You Can Do Now
Before Procter and Gamble releases its “-omics” products, there are several other products on the market today that contain turmeric. These include:
- Super by Nicholas Perricone SPF 15 Sun-Kissed Tinted Moisturizer ($42.00). Does it contain turmeric? Yes. Is it likely to be in a 0.5% or more concentration? Given its very low placement on the ingredients list, no. But if you’re the impatient type who doesn’t want to wait for the Procter & Gamble line to premiere, this is one source.
- Source Naturals Turmeric Supplement ($25.77 for 100 softgels). Given that research has found eating an antioxidant ingredient is more effective than topically applying one, this is probably the best way to get turmeric right now. Turmeric has been found to have numerous other effects when ingested, including the reversal of aflatoxin-induced liver damage in research published in Cancer Letters; anti-cancer activity, also through Cancer Letters; and to protect against DNA damage from free radical peroxidation, as shown in Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry. It has also been suggested that turmeric may help patients lose weight, due to its stabilization of blood-sugar levels, keeping you feeling fuller somewhat longer. I’ve taken the supplement in the past, and I would say it might decrease appetite 10-20%; nothing significant for me, but a definite effect. If you take the supplement with a full glass of water before you eat (or, even better, with a glass of water and a piece of fruit!), and you’ll eat far less and really feel full for hours. With that said, be sure to check with your physician before beginning this or any other supplement or diet regimen!
Turmeric is a can’t-miss new ingredient. Of those I have read about coming out this year, only turmeric is a potent antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, wrinkle-fighting, wrinkle-preventing agent that may boost sun protection to boot. (!) Take it in supplement form and apply it topically, and it’s likely you’ll look and feel better – just be sure to check with your physician first!
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