It’s common to hear stories or reports of people having their skin change color after ingesting large quantities of certain foods or chemicals. One of the most popular food item in these stories is the carrot.
Is there any truth to these wild claims? And if so, are there any other chemicals that have a similar effect on our skin? Let’s find out.
Can Your Skin Change Color By Eating Certain Foods?
The answer is yes, but it depends on the foods you eat. One popular example is a person’s skin turning orange or yellow by consuming large amounts of carrots. Carrots have a biochemical (or pigment) called carotene. Pure carotene is a deep orange color. It will dissolve in oil but not in water. Because it is stored in body fat, it can turn a person’s skin orange or yellow. The skin of someone who intentionally consumes pure carotene can indeed change color, but not significantly. It will resemble jaundice. The scientific term for this condition is ‘Carotenosis’. Carotenosis can be fatal, but it’s extremely rare – the last fatality from the condition was in 1972.
What About Other Colors?
The man pictured to the right is Paul Karason. His skin has taken on a blue hue thanks to ingesting powdered colloidal silver mixed with water every day, over the course of years. Colloidal silver is often marketed to be a magical ‘cure-all’ and Karason swears by it. However, the medical effectiveness of colloidal silver has never been scientifically proven. In some jurisdictions, it is illegal to advertise it in such a way. Medical authorities and publications advise against the use of colloidal silver preparations because of their lack of proven effectiveness and because of the risk of argyria — argyria is the medical term when silver accumulates in your body and turns it blue.
The Man Who Turned Red
In another documented case, a man turned red due to drinking eight liters of Ruby-Red Squirt a day. Because he was extremely sensitive to the bromine in the vegetable oil used in the soft drink, it caused his skin to turn bright red and produced open lesions on his hands called bromoderma.
In a similar, though more severe case, one man experienced tremors, extreme fatigue, a loss of memory, headache, decreased muscle coordination and a drooping of the right eyelid because he consumed two to four liters of a cola containing brominated vegetable oil on a daily basis. It took doctors two months to correctly diagnose the problem, and the patient eventually lost the ability to walk. After it was correctly diagnosed, hemodialysis was prescribed which resulted in a complete reversal of the disorder.
Bonus Fact: At one time, a common prank among college students in biomedical fields was to spike someone’s drink with methylene blue. The chemical is relatively harmless but will cause the victim’s urine to turn bright blue. (We do not recommend attempting this as methylene blue is not intended for human consumption.)
Maharshak N, Shapiro J, Trau H (2003). “Carotenoderma–a review of the current literature“. Int. J. Dermatol. 42 (3): 178–81.
Wadhera A, Fung M (2005). “Systemic argyria associated with ingestion of colloidal silver“. Dermatology Online Journal 11 (1): 12
Jih DM, Khanna V, Somach SC (2003). “Bromoderma after excessive ingestion of Ruby Red Squirt“. New England Journal of Medicine 348 (19): 1932–1934