Sallow Skin Explained | A Beginner’s Guide

sallow skin

Did you know that your skin’s appearance is a reflection of your overall health? Sallow and dry skin are often signs that something is wrong with your internal health. 

In this beginner’s guide, discover everything you need to know about sallow skin, including:

  • Causes
  • Symptoms
  • Treatments

What Is Sallow Skin and What Does It Look Like?

Did you look into a mirror recently and notice that your complexion isn’t as bright and lively as it used to be? You might be experiencing sallow skin.

Sallow skin refers to a dull and yellow complexion that does not have a healthy radiance. The skin is not as vibrant as usual and might feel lifeless. If you are experiencing this, it is nature’s way of telling you that your skin needs some extra TLC. 

Sallow skin is mostly a sign of an underlying health issue but the good news is that it isn’t a life sentence. With a few tweaks to your lifestyle and skincare routine, you can bring back your natural glow and restore your skin’s vitality.

Symptoms of Sallow Skin

Sallow skin may appear:

  • Yellowish—The skin may have a yellowish or greenish tint, making it look jaundiced.
  • Dull—It lacks the healthy glow of well-hydrated and nourished skin and may appear flat.
  • Uneven—There may be patches of discoloration or unevenness in the skin tone, with some areas appearing darker or lighter than others.

Causes of Sallow Skin

A lot of external and internal factors cause sallow skin, such as:

Nutritional Deficiencies

Most people think that they need to have a balanced diet to maintain physical fitness and weight loss. But that’s not entirely true.

Nutrition is not only essential for your body. Your skin also reflects what you eat. 

Your skin needs fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats to keep it hydrated and nourished. A diet lacking in essential nutrients will contribute to sallow skin because the skin cells are not getting enough vitamins and nutrients, such as:

  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin B12
  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin E
  • Vitamin K
  • Omega 3
  • Zinc
  • Selenium


Your skin needs water just as much as your body does. Whether you have dry or oily skin, it needs moisture to work the way it is supposed to. If you don’t drink enough water, your skin will get dry and will not be able to stretch and contract. This will lead to sunken eyes, dry skin, and yellow pigmentation. 

Eight glasses of water a day is the best thing you can do to keep your skin elastic and radiant.

Lack of proper sleep

Have you ever noticed how dull your skin looks when you have tossed and turned in your bed all night? That’s because your body (and skin) needs at least 8 hours of quality sleep at night. When you don’t get enough sleep, your skin does not get the time to repair and it becomes yellow and dull.


Stress is a normal part of life, and everyone stresses about something at some point. But stressing ALL the time about everything is bad for your skin. Stress triggers the release of cortisol, a hormone that reduces collagen production and inflames the skin. If you experience chronic stress, this can cause sallow and yellowish skin.

Sun Damage

The worst possible thing you can do to your skin is expose it to sunlight and UV rays. Sun exposure accelerates skin aging and damages the collagen and elastin in our skin. This, in turn, causes loose, sagging skin with a yellowish tinge. 

If that’s not bad enough, sun exposure also increases melanin production which causes uneven hyperpigmentation and in extreme cases, cancer.


The tobacco in cigarette smoke forms melanocyte that restricts blood flow and oxygen to the skin, dehydrating and wrinkling it over time. This can lead to a dull, sallow complexion as well as premature aging and an uneven skin tone. 

Additionally, smoking decreases collagen production and accelerates skin aging.

Medical Conditions

Some medical conditions, such as liver disease, anemia, thyroid disorders, and chronic illnesses, show up as yellow or greenish skin. These conditions can affect nutrient absorption, metabolism, or organ function, which can affect your skin’s appearance.


Your genetics define your skin’s appearance as well. Skin tone, pigmentation, and natural aging processes are all part of your DNA and affect how your skin reacts in different circumstances.

Ways To Improve Yellowness of Skin

Eat a Balanced Diet

A balanced diet is the solution to (almost) every skin-related problem.

Are you anemic? Eat more iron and vitamin B12-rich foods. 

Do you have liver problems? Add nuts, beans, and berries to your diet. 

Feeling dehydrated? Drink more water. Add lemon, cinnamon, and mint to it to make a tasty detox drink.

Protect Your Skin from the Sun

It doesn’t matter if the sun is out or not—wear sunscreen every day. A 30 SPF sunscreen protects your skin from UV rays and prevents hyperpigmentation and skin cancer. 

Dermatologists recommend reapplying sunscreen every 2 hours so that your skin stays protected throughout the day.

Quit Smoking

If you always have a pack of smokes with you, consider throwing them away. Cigarette smoke has long-lasting effects on your skin and body. Quitting this habit is always a good idea.

As soon as you quit smoking, your blood flow will improve, sending more oxygen to your skin. This will help you develop a healthier complexion and reduce age spots, redness, and discoloration. 

Manage Stress

Stress can negatively affect your life in a lot of different ways. If you experience chronic stress, book an appointment with a therapist to figure out how to deal with it. You can also manage your stress by:

  • Journalling
  • Meditating
  • Doing yoga
  • Exercising
  • Doing breathing exercises
  • Talking to a friend

Start a Skincare Routine

Poor skincare habits can cause dryness and yellowing of skin. Start with an easy skincare routine and build upon it as you go.

  • Wash your face in the morning and evening to remove dirt, oil, makeup, and bacteria.
  • Use a hyaluronic acid moisturizer every day to hydrate your skin. Creams are best for dry skin while light lotions can be used for combination and oily skin types. 
  • Exfoliate with chemical exfoliants once a week to increase skin cell turnover.
  • Use a 30 SPF sunscreen every day without any exceptions.
  • Buy oil-free and noncomedogenic makeup so that your skin stays free of clogged pores.

Fixing Yellow Skintone With Makeup

If you have sallow skin and need a quick fix, here is a step-by-step guide on correcting it with makeup:

  1. Start your makeup routine with a hydrating serum. Use serums that have hyaluronic acid or peptides that can protect your skin all day.
  2. If your skin has a yellowish tint, apply a color-corrector with a purple or lavender tint. In case your sallow skin has a brown tone, you should choose an orange, pink, or yellow color-corrector.
  3. Apply your foundation evenly. Use a foundation with SPF so you can skip the process of applying sunscreen separately.

When To See a Dermatologist

Fixing sallow skin is not an overnight job. You need to be consistent in your lifestyle habits and skincare routine for at least six to eight weeks to notice any change.

If you still don’t see any improvement, call your dermatologist to book an appointment. They will check if any underlying health issues need to be fixed with medical intervention, such as:

  • Photorejuvenation
  • Chemical peels
  • Microdermabrasion

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