I’ve always been a pretty fair-skinned guy, so much so that I’ve probably never had a real tan in my life. I used to joke that my skin was like cellophane when it came to getting color – the sun just went right through it. Unless it burned horribly of course, which has happened once or twice in the past. However, over the past couple years, I’ve been getting comments from friends about my skin tone. I heard stuff like “Did you just get back from Hawaii or something?” or “Dude, I know that show Jersey Shore is popular, but spray tanning? Really?”
I had started to notice that my skin tone was a little more orange than it had been in the past, but that’s not saying much because I was more or less the color of chalk before. One friend of mine recently told me that he had mentioned something about my skin coloring to his father (who is a physician) and he warned me that I should be careful about Vitamin A poisoning. I knew that sounded a little ridiculous considering I don’t take Vitamin A supplements, but I got a little worried nonetheless. I obviously connected this to my switch to a nutrient-dense plant-based diet about three years ago, and I started to do some more research on it. Could it be the carrots I occasionally include in my fresh vegetable juices? Could it be that I’m actually consuming too many vegetables? Is that even possible?
While it’s possible for someone to get vitamin A poisoning from consuming isolated vitamin A or beta carotene (of which orange skin is a symptom), it turns out that my friends who don’t have an orange tint to their skin are the ones with more reason for concern. Having such a tint to your skin is usually a sign you have carotenemia, which means that you’ve been consuming high levels of carotenoids, some of the most powerful disease-fighting nutrients contained in foods like carrots, sweet potatoes, and tomatoes. I looked through Dr. Fuhrman’s book “Eat To Live” and he directly addresses carotenemia. He notes “The slight yellow-orange tinge to your skin is not a problem; it is a marker that you are on a healthy diet. “ He goes on to say that any person who does not have some degree of carotenemia is not consuming enough micronutrient-rich foods and is at a higher risk for chronic disease.
I also looked through Dr. Michael Greger’s website NutritionFacts.org and I found a video of his about skin tone. He referenced a study where researchers took photographs of various Caucasian men and women and then allowed participants to turn a dial to manipulate the hue of their skin. Turns out men and women both preferred a yellow tint!
If you’ve been eating a high amount of nutrient-rich fruits and vegetables, take a look at some pictures of yourself – one from when you were eating the standard American diet and one recent photo – and I’ll bet you’ll notice that you’ve got a beautiful golden glow. So if someone tells you that you look a bit orange and you haven’t been drinking a liter of carrot juice a day, overdosing on vitamin A pills, or spray tanning like the guidos from Jersey Shore, you should take it as a compliment!