Everything You Need to Know About Sallow Skin
When you’re sick it doesn’t always take hearing you cough or sneeze for someone to tell you’re feeling under the weather. Sometimes just a quick look at your skin can give it all away. That’s because your skin looks different when you’re healthy. On your good days, your cheeks are marked by a pretty pink flush, and your face looks like it has life in it. Of course, it isn’t just a nasty cold that can make your skin look less than ideal. Skin can turn sallow and lose its natural healthy hue due to a myriad of external causes. We’re sharing everything you need to know about sallow skin, including what it is, how to prevent it, and how to address yours!
What Is Sallow Skin?
We spoke with Dr. Amanda Turbeville, Medical Director at Touch MedSpa, SkinCeuticals ambassador and Skincare.com consultant, to get the lowdown on sallow skin, and we started with the most important question—what is sallow skin? According to Dr. Turbeville, sallow skin is a term used to describe skin that has lost its natural healthy complexion. Sallow skin can usually be recognized based on its yellow tone and is particularly noticeable in the face. Dr. Turbeville shares that as skin ages, dryness or fine lines and wrinkles are likely to be more noticeable, but sallow skin can be a sign of an underlying health problem.
How Can You Prevent Sallow Skin?
Sallow skin isn’t something anyone is striving for, which means if you can, you should do your best to prevent it. Thankfully, many of the steps to prevent sallow skin are ones you should already be taking to live a healthier lifestyle, like having a healthy diet, avoiding cigarettes, and regularly getting a good night’s sleep. Beyond healthy lifestyle habits, your skin care routine can play a role too. Dr. Turbeville offered this 5-step regimen as a jumping off point for helping to prevent sallow skin:
1. Cleanse with a quality facial cleanser. Your face wash is the start of it all, so it makes sense to pick one that’s up to snuff. Make sure the formula you choose will effectively cleanse your skin of pore-clogging impurities without stripping your skin of natural oils.
2. Use topical vitamin C. Dr. Turbeville recommends applying an antixodiant vitamin C product to help “protect [your] surface skin cells”. As a reminder, vitamin C can help neutralize free radical damage and ward off signs of environmentally-induced aging.
3. Apply UV protection in the morning. You could probably see this step coming from a mile away. Every routine requires sun protection—and sallow skin is no exception. Every morning, be sure to apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF value of 15 or higher. And don’t forget to reapply at least every 2 hours.
Editor’s note: Since there’s currently no sunscreen out there that can fully protect your skin against harmful UV rays, pair your sunscreen applications with additional protection measures such as wearing protective clothing, seeking shade, and avoiding peak sun hours—10 a.m. to 4 p.m.—when rays are strongest.
4. Use retinol in the evening. If you haven’t started using retinol yet, now’s the time to do so. Retinol is a multi-tasking ingredient lauded for its ability to help address a wide range of skin concerns from improving an uneven skin tone to reducing the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines. Start with a lower concentration of retinol—like SkinCeuticals Retinol 0.5—to build up your tolerance, especially if it’s your first time using retinol or it’s been a while since you last incorporated it into your routine. Since retinol can induce skin sensitivity to sunlight, it’s important to always apply broad spectrum sunscreen during daytime hours.
5. Always moisturize. Moisturizing is one of the most important steps in a skin care routine, which means you’ll want to carefully pick the right product. Check out Dr. Turbeville’s personal favorite, the SkinCeuticals Triple Lipid Restore 2:4:2.
How Can You Treat Sallow Skin?
If you notice your skin is looking sallow, know that it likely isn’t stuck that way. You can take steps to avoid sallow skin and regain your healthy skin look by first determining the underlying cause. Dr. Turbeville lists the most common causes as: “anemia, vitamin deficiency, smoking, and stress or lack of sleep”.
If you have anemia…Dr. Turbeville recommends getting more iron and vitamin B-12 in your diet.
If you have a vitamin deficiency…eat a wide variety of foods, including fruits and vegetables. Following up on this recommendation, Dr. Turbeville says that if the look of your skin hasn’t improved after a few weeks, it’s important to check in with your doctor. He or she may suggest vitamin supplements.
If you’re a smoker…the best thing you can do for your complexion is to stop smoking completely. According to the Mayo Clinic, the nicotine in cigarettes causes narrowing of the blood vessels in the skin, which impairs blood flow. The result is skin that doesn’t get as much oxygen and nutrients it needs to look and feel its best. For a full list of how smoking negatively impacts your skin, read this.
If you’re stressed or slacking on sleep…implement a bedtime routine and strive for the recommended number of hours of sleep every night. Dr. Turbeville specifies that the occasional night without much sleep won’t cause sallow-looking skin, but if you’re often sleep deprived it will catch up with you.
In addition to addressing the underlying causes of sallow skin, Dr. Turbeville also suggests addressing the surface of your skin. She says, “I would recommend a surface cellular turnover product, something with glycolic or retinol paired with a vitamin C serum.” Her pick? None other than perennial favorite SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic.