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I live in fear of turmeric.
The thing is, I'm a cleaning expert but I'm also an Indian woman, so I speak to you on the matter of turmeric from a place of deep understanding. And try as I might — and oh man, have I ever tried — I have yet to come up with a foolproof way for removing turmeric stains. I have harrassed my aunties countless times, believe you me.
My solution to the problem is simple: I don't allow turmeric in my home. I've discussed this personal choice, along with all of the various methods one might use to try to treat turmeric stains, on an episode of my podcast in which I encouraged folks to join me in eschewing the stuff altogether. But I've also begrudgingly accepted that as much as I may want to scare people off the turmeric entirely, it's here to stay. So I've put together a guide for using it without destroying your belongings, including your own skin.
Opt for Commercial Products Over DIY
Turmeric is fairly inexpensive, which makes it a tempting thing to play with when it comes to DIY beauty treatments. Do not do this! Please? I'm begging here! So very, very, very much can go wrong — so, if I may, I'd really like to ask you to stick with commercial products when it comes to your use of turmeric in your beautifying routine.
Please? I'm begging here!
This Kiehl's Turmeric & Cranberry Seed Energizing Radiance Masque — the one that Kate Hudson Snapchatted a review of and about which, it should be noted, she said, "I recommend. Just be naked while applying" — is a favorite of Racked's own Nicola Fumo as well as my own beloved editor Meredith Haggerty. Quoth Mer, "I don't know how to tell you this but... I love that face mask. It doesn't get turmeric anywhere!"
Now, I believe Meredith, I really do. I still feel incredibly nervous about the idea of a turmeric mask, but her endorsement reminded me that, in the case of mass-marketed beauty products, attention to limiting the potential for staining would definitely be a consideration during development. That means that if you're curious about experimenting with turmeric in your beauty routine, the safe bet is to buy packaged products rather than making your own. It's also not a bad idea to check the composition of those products — opt for ones that are lighter hued, and stay away from products that are a very deep orange or yellow color.
Regardless of whether you're working with a commercial or DIY product, be prepared for the eventuality that staining may occur.
Be patient, because it may take several passes at cleaning a turmeric stain to get it out entirely.
If you stain fabric, two ways to treat that mess are to use lemon juice — turmeric is alkaline, which means an acid will help to break it down — or a laundry bar like Fels Naptha. If you stain a surface like a countertop, bathtub, floor, etc. using a product with some bleach in it, like Soft Scrub, or hydrogen peroxide, will remove the stain over time.
Two notes to make about this process: 1. Let the product do the work for you. Apply it to the stain and let it sit for, oh let's say 15-30 minutes before getting down to the important business of scrubbing. You are likely still going to have to scrub, and quite a bit! But if you give the products a chance to work on their own, you can cut down on the amount of elbow grease required. 2. Be patient, because it may take several passes at cleaning a turmeric stain to get it out entirely.
If You Must DIY, Here's What You Need to Know
That's a photo sent to me by a reader who decided to bathe in turmeric. Do not let that happen to you.
2. Buy turmeric-colored things
In that podcast episode I mentioned, my guest, Jaya Saxena, and I both noted that our moms dealt with the introduction of turmeric into their homes by buying turmeric-colored dish towels and table linens for use on curry night. Go ahead and apply that same logic to your beauty treatments! You needn't (and shouldn't) spend a lot of money, but if you're going to use turmeric-based face or hair masks, or body scrubs, or whatever it is that you crazy kids are putting turmeric in, investing a few bucks in a towel that won't show stains is a great idea. Here's one from Target for $6.99.
3. Wear gloves
If you've ever colored your hair at home, you know how imperative it is to wear the plastic gloves provided in the dye kit. Same general idea applies to working with turmeric; it will stain your hands and your fingernails, so wearing a pair of plastic or rubber gloves is a good idea.
4. Do your research
Guys, I made this DIY face mask out of turmeric and coconut oil and it dyed my face for 24 hours but once you scrub off the top three layers of skin to get it the fuck off you look like a MILLION BUCKS!!!!!! If you want your husband to look at you and shake his head in resigned disappointment that he is legally wed to your weird yellow face, try it today. #funemployment
If you're going to make your own turmeric-based beauty treatments, make sure that you do your research. Don't just go about mixing turmeric with assorted ingredients that you think might make for a swell face mask or hair treatment, because turmeric will have a different chemical reaction to, for example, dairy, than it will to oil, as one woman learned the hard way. It's also really important, as evidenced by that same woman's terrible experience, not to leave the treatment on for any longer than instructed. And actually, that advice also stands for commercial products that contain turmeric — be sure to follow the packaging instructions to the letter.
Or! Just skip the stuff entirely and stick with, like, green tea-infused beauty products.