Can Carrots Really Turn Your Skin Orange?

There are all kinds of crazy rumors floating around when it comes to food. Many widely held beliefs, such as the rumor that coffee stunts your growth, eating chocolate makes acne worse, or that it takes seven years for your body to digest a piece of gum, have all been proven to be scientifically untrue, per Business Insider. But there is one commonclaim that is not just a myth: Carrots really can turn your skin a distinctive shade of orange. 

Carrots get their bright color – and many of their nutritional benefits – from an antioxidant called beta carotene. Your body converts beta carotene into vitamin A, and the nutrient has many proven health benefits. Beta carotene is a carotenoid that has been shown to help improve eye health, boost cognitive function and memory, and even reduce the risk of certain cancers, including lung and pancreatic cancer, per Healthline. However, eating too much beta carotene can lead to a condition called carotenemia, which is when your skin takes on a noticeable yellow-orange-ish hue. 

High doses of beta carotene can turn skin orange

"Your skin actually turns yellow due to large amounts of vitamin A. There are many steps in the breakdown of carotenoids to vitamin A to further breakdown and excretion. Each step in the pathway is tightly regulated. Any misstep in the process can result in the buildup of carotenoids, and yellow skin," Deborah Krivitsky, the nutrition director at the Massachusetts General Hospital Cardiovascular Disease Prevention Center, explained to U.S. News & World Report. The orange tint is usually concentrated in specific parts of the body, mainly on the palms of the hands, the soles of the feet, and the nose.

The condition most commonly affects children, although adults can be afflicted as well if they consume large enough doses of the nutrient beta carotene, which is also found in other vegetables like sweet potatoes, squash, and even kale. But rest assured, carotenemia is not harmful, nor is it permanent. Simply cutting back on the amount of beta carotene in your diet should be enough to turn your skin back to its regular shade in just a few weeks, with no lasting health effects.