March 9, 2010 (Miami Beach, Fla.) -- A moisturizing cream whose active ingredient is the extract that gives Indian curry its distinctive flavor, scent, and deep orange color may help fade fine facial lines, wrinkles, and aging spots, studies suggest.
The ingredient is turmeric, which has a long history of use in Indian Ayurvedic medicine to treat conditions ranging from indigestion to cancer because of its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, says Cheri Swanson, PhD. She's a senior scientist at Procter and Gamble Beauty and Grooming, which makes the cream and funded the research.
Those same properties may help to fight some of the signs of aging, she tells WebMD.
Aging is accompanied by the formation of particles known as free radicals, which can damage cell membranes, tamper with DNA, and cause cells to die off.
As for its anti-inflammatory properties, turmeric may calm down swelling in the skin, such as from pimples, says Joshua Zeichner, MD, director of cosmetic and clinical research at Mt. Sinai Medical Center in New York City. He was not involved with the research.
Turmeric Cream Reduces Fine Lines, Wrinkles
Until recently, turmeric's intense color and strong odor prohibited its use in skin creams and ointments, Swanson says.
"We were able to purify it into a nearly colorless, odorless product," she says.
One new study involved 89 white women, aged 40 to 60. They applied either moisturizing cream containing turmeric and niacinamide or cream containing niacinamide alone twice a day for eight weeks.
Niacinamide, a form of vitamin B, is used in many skin creams. "It's effective at clearing facial spots although it doesn't do much for fine lines and wrinkles," Swanson says.
Before-and-after facial pictures, as judged by expert readers, showed that the turmeric plus niacinamide cream was 15% better at reducing fine lines and wrinkles.
The findings were presented at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Dermatology.
A second study involved 105 Asian women aged 25 to 55. It showed a moisturizing cream containing turmeric alone reduced the appearance of hyperpigmented dark aging spots by an average of 15% after eight weeks of twice-daily use.
"A 10% change is really noticeable," Swanson says.
In this study, before-and-after images were fed into a computer, where software highlighted and circled pigmented, or darkened, spots. Then the images were compared for changes in size and appearance.
"These early studies suggest creams containing turmeric may be a promising addition to antiaging products on the market," Zeichner tells WebMD.
The cream is part of the Doctor's Dermatologic Formula line.