Can eating certain foods change the color of your skin?
Myth or Fact: Eating too many carrots can turn your skin orange.
The surprising truth is that, yes, eating too many carrots can change the color of your skin.
“Carrots can, in fact, cause an orangish yellow skin pigmentation,” says Dr. Lady Dy, a dermatologist with Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, Ill. “It’s called carotenemia and is often most noticeable on thick skin like palms of your hands or the soles of your feet.”
The orangish yellow discoloration is a result of excess beta-carotene in the blood from consuming foods like carrots, says Dr. Dy.
Other foods that can cause the orangish yellow pigmentation include squash, sweet potatoes, cantaloupe and even dried apricots. All these foods are also high in beta-carotene.
The good news – it’s not toxic and doesn’t cause any other health issues aside from the slight discoloration.
“The skin discoloration is temporary and completely reverses once you change your dietary habits,” says Dr. Dy. “No treatment is necessary, as the condition will slowly reverse itself and the coloring will gradually improve over the course of a few weeks or months when the beta concentration in your blood normalizes.”
The skin discoloration typically occurs when blood carotene levels are three to four times normal. It is most often seen in children who have a high intake of certain baby food, people with liver disease, diabetes mellitus or hypothyroidism.
It can sometimes be confused with jaundice but doesn’t cause a yellowing of the whites of the eyes.
The best treatment option – change of diet.
Skin turning red?
“It could be another condition related to food consumption called lycopenemia,” says Dr. Dy. “This skin condition is caused by excessive amounts of lycopene in the blood. Foods rich in lycopene include tomatoes, papayas, guava and even carrots.”
As with carotenemia, the condition is harmless aside from the discoloration of the skin.
About the Author
Jacqueline Hughes is a former manager, media relations at Advocate Aurora Health. Previously, she was the public affairs and marketing manager at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, IL. She earned her BA in psychology at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California. Jackie has 10 plus years experience working in television and media and most recently worked at NBC 5 in Chicago. In her free time, she enjoys swimming, going to the movies and spending time with her family.