Indian Journal of Dermatology
: 2006  |  Volume : 51  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 200--201

Allergic contact dermatitis to turmeric in kumkum

MB Surendranath Lal, CR Srinivas 
 Rangas Centre of Dermatology and Cosmetology, 18, Cowley Brown Road, R. S. Puram, Coimbatore - 641 002, Tamil Nadu, India

Correspondence Address:
C R Srinivas
Rangas Centre of Dermatology and Cosmetology, 18, Cowley Brown Road, R. S. Puram, Coimbatore - 641 002, Tamil Nadu


A forty-three year old house-wife developed dermatitis over the center of forehead following application of kumkum, bindi and sticker (except one brand) since six months. Patch testing with various brands of kumkum and regularly available sticker used by the patient elicited positive reaction except one brand used by the patient. Kumkum is made by mixing turmeric (Curcuma longa) powder with small amount of lime (calcium hydroxide). She was patch tested with turmeric, to which she developed positive reaction. Subsequently she was patch tested with turmeric powder boiled and air-dried and also the acetone-extract and precipitate of the powder. She tested positive to all the extracts and precipitates, but the turmeric powder which was dried by boiling did not elicit positive reaction. She was advised to use boiled and dried turmeric to make kumkum for use. However, the kumkum powder prepared following boiling had lost its adhesive property and hence was unacceptable. She was offered Castellani«SQ»s paint and eosin with starch for application. Both were acceptable for 2 months, but she subsequently developed irritant reaction to the paint with starch. She continues to use the non-allergic sticker (Kanchan sticker kumkum) while we are trying to find other alternatives to kumkum.

How to cite this article:
Surendranath Lal M B, Srinivas C R. Allergic contact dermatitis to turmeric in kumkum.Indian J Dermatol 2006;51:200-201

How to cite this URL:
Surendranath Lal M B, Srinivas C R. Allergic contact dermatitis to turmeric in kumkum. Indian J Dermatol [serial online] 2006 [cited 2022 Jul 7 ];51:200-201
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Full Text


Hindu housewives usually use kumkum (bindi). Kumkum is made by mixing turmeric powder with a small amount of lime to give a scarlet red colored powder which is applied on the forehead. Considering the number of women who use kumkum, it is a relatively safe topical application, nevertheless, allergy to it has been reported.[1] Curcumin is the active dye in turmeric.[2],[3] Various medicinal properties have been attributed to turmeric. We report a case of allergic contact dermatitis to curcumin present in kumkum powder.

 Case Report

A 43 year old married Hindu housewife reported with itching and dermatitis following the application of kumkum since six months. In addition, she also complained of minimal itching over the face following application of turmeric paste, made by grinding the raw turmeric on a rough surface with few drops of water. The yellow paste thus obtained was applied over the face. She was patch tested with various commercially available brands of kumkum, turmeric powder and sticker and the results were interpreted as recommended by ICDRG. All applications elicited positive reaction except one brand of sticker which the patient has been using without discomfort. To elicit whether the antigen could be destroyed or modified by boiling and thus not elicit reaction, two tablespoons of kumkum was mixed with 250 ml of water. The mixture was boiled and constantly stirred till all the water evaporated. The paste was subsequently air dried.

To elicit whether the active principle could be extracted by standard method,[4] the turmeric powder was macerated with sufficient volume of mixture of chloroform and methanol (3:1) to form mobile suspension and allowed to stand at room temperature overnight. The mixture was filtered and the residue extracted with further batch of chloroform and methanol (3:1). Patch test was done with this boiled and dried powder, the two supernatant filters and the precipitates separately. The boiled and air-dried turmeric did not elicit positive reaction; the yellow coloured supernatant solution elicited a strong positive reaction while the precipitate also gave positive reaction. She was advised to use boiled and air-dried turmeric for regular use as well as to prepare kumkum.

However, the kumkum made from boiled air-dried turmeric powder was unacceptable since it had lost its adhesive property. Since the patient was still keen on applying the powder form of vermillion over the forehead she was provided with Castellani's paint and Eosin powder. The powders were prepared by mixing few drops of the solution to corn powder and air dried. She preferred the Castellani's paint powder, which she used for two months. She then reported with irritation following application of the powder. She is now using the non-allergic sticker (Kanchan sticker kumkum).


Kumkum is used by Hindu females. Kumkum is made by mixing turmeric with lime and is safe and acceptable. Allergic dermatitis to kumkum has been reported. The various allergens in kumkum includes, Brilliant Lake, Red R, Sudan I and Aminoazobenzene.[1] Allergy to curcumin,[2],[3] has been reported but allergy to turmeric present in kumkum has not been reported. Turmeric has rich medicinal and culinary uses.[2] We were able to prove allergy to turmeric but were unable to provide a suitable alternative to kumkum.


1Goh CL, Kozuka T. Pigmented contact dermatitis from 'kumkum'. Clin Exp Dermatol 1986;11:603-6.
2Hata M, Sasaki E, Ota M, Fujimoto K, Yajima J, Shichida T, Honda M. Allergic contact dermatitis from curcumin (turmeric). Contact Dermatitis 1997;36:107-8.
3Goh CL, Ng SK. Allergic Contact dermatitis to Curcumin longa (Turmeric). Contact Dermatitis 1997;17:186.
4Lowell CR, Rowan MG. Dandelian dermatitis. Contact Dermatitis 1991;25:185-8.