Can eating certain foods change the color of your skin?

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.

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  1. Hi Jackie,

    I was reading an interesting article about an incident during the 12th century where two children appeared, seemingly out of nowhere in the town of Woolpit, Suffolk some time in the 12th century, they spoke in an unknown language and had a green colouring to their skin. Eventually they learned to speak with the native folks and claimed that their diet consisted of only broad beans. Could the green colour of their skin be attributed to a similar process?

    • To Alex. Eating copious amounts of fava or broad beans causes gallstones and one of the children died. It is possible that the gallstones caused liver problems and his bilirubin which can tinge the skin or maybe perhaps turn it slightly yellowish green from jaundice. It is what is in bile. It can affect their speech as is mentioned in the tale as well because liver problems can cause hepatic encephalopathy. It probably became a folk tale because people had little understanding of diseases back then and maybe liver or gallstones issues weren’t common in that village. The girl did ok after she went to live with someone else so it sounds like neglect or poverty hence why they ate only one kind of food. I know this post isn’t old but posting because it isn’t interesting.

    • Excess broad bean consumption causes gallstones leading to jaundice, hepatic encephalitis which explains their inability to speak intelligibly and why the boy may have died. The girl began to speak normally and get alright and learn new things after gong to live with someone else. Sounds like they were very poor or neglected if the only ate one kind of food. There is usually an element of truth to legends and myths as ancient people didn’t have scientific explanations for occurrences.

  2. Really it’s a awesome article. Thanks for informative article.

  3. HI, I noticed the orange color on my daughter’s skin when she was around 7 months old. Her favorite baby foods was carrots, sweet potatoes, and squash. It didn’t take long to go back to normal when I cut back on it.

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health enews Staff
health enews Staff

health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Aurora Health sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.