Fitness + Well-being

'Eating too many vegetables turned my skin orange'

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“You’re orange.” Dr. Wexler said matter-of-factly, flipping over my hand and comparing its tangerine tinge to her own soft, rosey-hued palms. I had stopped by her airy Manhattan dermatology office that morning to have a questionable mark on my forehead (which had settled in for too long of a stay) evicted, and the news of my skin tone came as a bonus round to our scheduled appointment. Having kicked my self-tanning habit years ago, her chromatic diagnosis came as an understandable shock.

“I thought that was just the color of my skin!” I exclaimed, immediately recalling a moment that week when I’d compared hands with my boyfriend's and noted a stark contrast in his blue-blooded veins versus my apricot glow.

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“It’s not... Do you eat a lot of colorful vegetables?” she inquired softly.

“Well, I snack on about a bag of carrots a day?” I admitted, in addition to regular orders from Juice Press.

“I see this all the time,” Wexler said. “You need to cut your intake by at least half, it could take months for your complexion to return to its natural coloring.”

Stunned by my accidental overdose (who knew that swapping my beloved wheat crackers for carrots could result in such backlash?), I reach out to New York-based clinical nutritionist Jessica Katz for her take on the problem. She confirmed that the issue, better known as Carotenodermia, results from an excessive intake of beta-carotene, a precursor for Vitamin A, which can turn skin and nails an unsightly orange hue. Most commonly seen in babies who are more susceptible at their young age, those with particularly fair complexions (a category that I, a surely fall into) can experience the same problem in adulthood. So how much really constitutes too much?

“Approximately 12 baby carrots provide slightly more than 100 percent of the Recommended Dietary Allowance for Vitamin A,” explains Katz. “You can see how easy it may be to surpass your daily needs by dipping bright vegetables in hummus at a cocktail party or while on a juice cleanse!” As a Cheeto-esque complexion is especially undesirable at the moment, I was eager to remedy it–quickly. Katz suggested trading pressed juices for whole fruits or leafy salads, and to always diversify my vegetable consumption. “A healthy diet, by definition, is balanced and varied,” Katz emphasizes. “Therefore, I wouldn’t recommend anything in excess—eat the rainbow, as they say!”

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A call to Christine Dionese, an integrative health and food therapy specialist, confirmed this advice. “If your skin is turning orange after guzzling juices and you're not a fan of the look, cut back!” she said. Dionese also added that other popular sources of carotenoids include sweet potatoes, winter squash, cantaloupe, and even greens like spinach, kale, and collards. She explained that cutting them out entirely wouldn’t be worth losing their many health benefits, which have been shown in studies to offer anti-cancer activity and immune system support. “This is more of a cosmetic concern,” she says to my relief, explaining that reducing consumption reverses the effect with no serious, long-term health risks.

Confident in the wisdom imparted by The Three Graces, I adopted simple solutions to the tune of swapping my carotene-rich crudité routine for watery veggies like celery and cucumber, limiting my juice intake to a bi-weekly affair, and paying more attention to supplement servings—which means no longer carelessly consuming gummy vitamins as an acceptable afternoon pick-me-up. Three months after Wexler’s diagnosis, I have noticed the return of pink to my palms as that semi-permanent shade of “HazMat” slowly, and thankfully, subsides in time for a summer.