the culinary herbs that work in your skin care


The natural skincare trends that are clogging your diet have left you kneeling before the shrine of age-old secrets. The recent self-care trend ‘Girl Therapy’ has led to a wave of people making homemade face creams, and TikTok’s beauty gurus are obsessed with cinnamon powder and turmeric, while the popularity of Indian spices has skyrocketed.

Thanks to social media, people are starting to pay attention to its benefits for skin rejuvenation. “However, some online advice should only be taken with a pinch of salt,” says dermatologist and hair disease specialist Dr. Archa Rao. If anyone can best advise us on how to navigate the Indian spice rack, it’s Rao, with her extensive training in Mumbai and impressive work on ethnic skin types.

Dr. Rao says, “I worry about young people getting on social media very early and following these trends, because before the age of 16 to 18 you don’t really have to do all this. Your skin is very sensitive at this time. The other group of people I worry about are women in their 40s…

“I even saw a video of someone trying ginger paste on the skin, but it’s the wrong time to experiment because once you reach 40, your hormones change and your skin becomes very sensitive to harsh ingredients. It’s important for everyone to be careful, especially if they have rosacea, for example.”

“[Sharing] information on social media must be accompanied by a sense of responsibility – on both sides. From the one who gives the advice and the one who follows it. It is important to make a decision for yourself and realize that not everything you read is necessarily the holy grail.”

But what are Dr.’s thoughts? Rao about the spices themselves? And are they as safe or effective as their synthetic counterparts?


    (Pexels / Karl Solano)    (Pexels / Karl Solano)

(Pexels / Karl Solano)

What is it? Turmeric is a golden-orange powder prized for adding nutrition and flavor to food. People with osteoarthritis are known to use it to relieve joint pain.

Purported benefits for the skin: With antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, turmeric can add a natural glow to the skin and boost hydration. It also has healing benefits because it contains a chemical called curcumin.

Cons: Topical use of turmeric can lead to staining due to its strong yellow hue. There may also be some irritation if used for too long.

The expert says: “People use turmeric for Indian wedding ceremonies such as Haldi, where in variations the bride (and sometimes even the groom) is given a scrub with turmeric powder for its antiseptic properties and ability to improve and brighten the skin. But what I would say is that no one size fits all.

“The point is to use everything in moderation, although the negative side of using turmeric is not as concerning for allergic reactions as other spices like cardamom.”


    (Pexels / Ruby Sengar)    (Pexels / Ruby Sengar)

(Pexels / Ruby Sengar)

What is it? Cinnamon, rich in antioxidants, is known to help control blood sugars, protect against heart disease and reduce inflammation.

Purported benefits for the skin: Cinnamon is believed to help treat acne and reduce blackheads due to its antiseptic properties. It can also help with eczema and reduce signs of aging.

Cons: If used too often and for too long (longer than 15 to 20 minutes, according to some sources), cinnamon can cause irritation.

The expert says: “Things like cinnamon have been used topically for acne to improve circulation. But ingredients like these, nutmeg and cloves can cause a high rate of allergic dermatitis, which can cause you to develop allergies if you use these products on the skin. That’s why I always say that you shouldn’t use too many aggressive ingredients at the same time.”


    (Unsplash / marlik saffron)    (Unsplash / marlik saffron)

(Unsplash / marlik saffron)

What is it? Saffron is a plant whose dried thread-like parts are used to make saffron spice and food coloring. The benefits of the herb have been known since the Middle Ages and are often used as a medicinal treatment to relieve menstrual cramps, among other things.

Purported benefits for the skin: Saffron is known to reduce hyperpigmentation, support wound healing and fight inflammation of the skin.

Cons: Although saffron is well tolerated, excessive amounts of the spice in skin care products can cause allergic reactions to the skin.

The expert says: “Having lived and practiced in the Indian subcontinent, I am sure many creams there contain saffron to holistically nourish, hydrate and hydrate the skin. However, its efficacy still has a question mark. I don’t think anyone has really looked at it. The herb is sometimes used in retail products, but I always tell my patients, when they come to me, how they paid so much money for a cream only to realize that not everything expensive is necessarily good. Saffron is considered a fairly exotic spice and is therefore quite expensive. I think saffron as an ingredient has potential and can be used on the skin, but within safety limits. But could you take it from your spice rack and apply it to your skin? Possibly not.”

Black pepper

    (Pexels / Victoria Bowers)    (Pexels / Victoria Bowers)

(Pexels / Victoria Bowers)

What is it? Black pepper is one of the earliest spices discovered and is still known today as the “King of Spices” used in everyday cooking.

Purported benefits for the skin: Black pepper can act as a powerful exfoliator and can cleanse the skin as it is rich in antioxidants and vitamin C.

Cons: Unsurprisingly, it can also cause a burning sensation on the skin.

The expert says: “Sometimes people use black pepper for acne, but I would say the benefits of taking it far outweigh those of using it topically. If you go to the Indian subcontinent, you will see people using black pepper in herbal medicines. But I would be careful using this ingredient on this skin because you might call it a pungent spice.


    (Pexels / Pixabay)    (Pexels / Pixabay)

(Pexels / Pixabay)

What is it? Ginger is a flowering plant used as a spice and a central part of the Southeast Asian diet. Eating ginger promotes digestion and is often used as a remedy for pregnant women who suffer from morning sickness.

Purported benefits for the skin: Traditionally used for toners, scrubs and masks, ginger is said to help reduce the appearance of wrinkles and fade scars.

Cons: Ginger can cause irritation, redness and swelling, especially if used more often than it should.

The expert says: “Make sure you don’t use a lot of harsh ingredients. Ginger with lime juice is a recipe for disaster and sometimes people take the tingling as a good sign. They may feel like something is working on their skin, but sometimes it can also be a sign are that their skin actually rejects the herb.

“Sometimes people use ginger to firm the skin, but again, the benefits of ingesting it are much better.”

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