Glowing skin is often hailed as a sign of good health. While radiant, rosy cheeks are one thing, skin that resembles the color of a carrot is another.
Needless to say, if your skin is turning orange, you might be a tad concerned about your complexion.
Video of the Day
From benign, temporary conditions to more serious underlying health issues, there are a range of reasons you might develop pumpkin-pigmented skin.
Here, William Li, MD, author of "Eat to Beat Disease: The New Science of How Your Body Can Heal Itself," shares why your skin color may have suddenly shifted to a shade of orange and when you should see a doctor.
1. You Have Carotenemia
Crazy about carrots? Your daily diet of orange-hued veggies could be the reason your skin is turning orange.
"Carotenemia is a harmless condition in which the skin appears orange due to the high consumption of foods that contain high levels of carotene, a natural pigment," Dr. Li says.
This happens when the surplus of beta-carotene in your blood clings onto body parts with thicker skin (think: your palms, soles of your feet, knees, elbows and folds around the nose), according to the Cleveland Clinic.
While your skin looks orange, the whites of your eyes don't change and "the mucous membranes of the mouth remain pink and healthy," Dr. Li says.
In addition to carrots (one medium carrot contains approximately 4 milligrams of beta-carotene), the following foods are high in beta-carotene as well, per the Cleveland Clinic:
- Sweet potatoes
Even foods like apples, cabbage, leafy greens, kiwi, asparagus, eggs and cheese can cause carotenemia when consumed in large enough quantities, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
On top of food, supplements or vitamins containing beta-carotene can also turn your skin orange, Dr. Li adds.
If your skin is turning orange from food, the solution is simple: “Cut down on eating foods containing beta-carotene, and the orange color will disappear,” Dr. Li says.
It may take a bit, though. Once you adjust your diet, orange skin from carotenemia can last a few months, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
If the whites of your eyes and/or your tongue also appear orange or yellow, see a doctor right away, as you could have jaundice, which can be a sign of serious conditions like liver failure or certain cancers. Jaundice usually shows up as a yellow hue, but it can sometimes look yellow-orange.
2. You’re Taking Certain Medications
Your medicine cabinet may hold the answer to your sudden shift in skin color.
"Some people react to certain medications such that their skin pigment changes and sometimes appears orange," Dr. Li says.
Some medicines can create a chemical reaction that results in skin discoloration while other drugs can directly affect your skin's natural pigments.
On top of that, many types of drugs — from those ingested to those applied topically — can have this orange-y effect. Some examples include the following, per DermNet:
- Quinacrine: Used to treat a parasite called Giardia, and some forms of lupus
- Saffron: A yellow spice used as a natural remedy for a number of ailments
- Tetryl and picric acids: Used in the past as an antiseptic in surgeries
- Canthaxanthin: A phytochemical found in edible mushrooms
- Acroflavine: A topical antiseptic
If you think your daily pill is turning your skin orange, speak with your doctor, who may alter your dose or prescribe you a different drug.
"Stopping the medication (under medical guidance) will usually solve the skin color change," Dr. Li says.
3. You've Been Using Self-Tanner
Anyone who's ever had a bad spray tan can tell you that some self-tanning products can turn you into a tangerine (hello, orange hands).
Here's why: "Indoor self-tanning lotions contain a chemical called dihydroxyacetone (DHA) that is orange-colored and stains your skin to resemble a suntan," Dr. Li says. "Using these tanning lotions in excess can make your skin look orange."
With self-tanners, less is more. If you were a little heavy-handed when applying and now resemble a carrot, here’s the best way to get rid of the excess DHA: “Rub baby oil over your skin, let is saturate for a few minutes, then rinse it off in the shower, rubbing with a washcloth,” Dr. Li says.
4. You’ve Just Had Surgery
If you've just had a surgical procedure and your skin in that area appears apricot in color, it's not your imagination.
While this sudden skin discoloration may be alarming at first glance, there's usually a simple, harmless explanation.
"Most likely the orange-brown color on your skin after surgery is due to betadine, an antiseptic liquid that's used to clean and prep the skin area the surgeon will be cutting through," Dr. Li says.
In this case, it's easy to remove the orange color from the surface of your skin. "Washing with soap and water will remove leftover betadine," Dr. Li says.
Of course, follow your doctor's instructions about when and how to clean near your incision site.
5. You Have Hypothyroidism
Thyroid issues can also trigger a tawny tint in your skin. For instance, hypothyroidism (when the thyroid doesn't produce enough thyroid hormone) can create an accumulation of carotene in your blood, Dr. Li says.
And, as we know, an excess of beta-carotene can turn your skin orange.
Other symptoms of hypothyroidism can include things like fatigue, numbness and tingling in the hands, constipation, weight gain, muscle soreness and weakness, depression and physical changes to your face, per the Cleveland Clinic.
If you're having any of the above symptoms, make an appointment with your doctor to get checked out.
Hypothyroidism is usually managed with medication.
“Proper treatment of the thyroid should reverse the orange skin tone,” Dr. Li says.
When to See a Doctor About Orange Skin
If you notice any sudden, unexplained skin discoloration, make an appointment with your physician.
While your skin can turn orange for many reasons (and most aren't serious), some causes may require urgent medical attention, Dr. Li says.
Simply put, if your skin becomes a bit orange-y, go get checked out as it's better to be safe than sorry.
- Cleveland Clinic: “Can Eating Too Many Carrots Turn Your Skin Orange?”
- Cleveland Clinic: “Adult Jaundice”
- Cleveland Clinic: “Liver Disease”
- Cleveland Clinic: “Hypothyroidism”
- DermNet: “Carotenoderma”
- Skin Cancer Foundation: “Sunburn & Your Skin”
- National Institutes of Health: “Cold agglutinin disease”
- Mayo Clinic: “Nickel allergy”
- Cleveland Clinic: "Cold Agglutinin Disease"
Is this an emergency? If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911.