Sallow Skin: What Is It And 5 Simple Ways To Treat It

Your skin can serve as a reflection of your overall health. Sallow skin is typically characterized as a complexion that appears yellow, pale, and is absent of the healthy radiance typically exuded by skin. It can be caused by lifestyle, environmental or medical reasons. However, in most cases, it can be successfully remedied.

In this blog we’ll review some common causes of sallow skin along with 5 simple ways to boost your natural glow at home.

What Is Sallow Skin?

Sallow skin is generally defined as skin that has lost its natural, healthy appearance. This is most often observed in the skin on one’s face. Skin tone can appear dull, pale and yellow — similar to what often happens to one’s complexion when they’re under the weather.


What Causes Sallow Skin?

Sallow skin is not a natural part of the aging process. It is caused by either internal and/or external factors, which can be corrected in many cases. Below we’ll review some of the most common causes of sallow skin.


Nutrient Deficiency

A nutrient deficiency can be caused by underlying medical conditions or simply due to a lack of nutrient-rich foods in your diet.

When your diet is lacking in nutrients, it can have a domino effect of negative effects, leading to sallow looking skin over time. And since your skin is the body’s largest organ, it requires nutrients for optimal function and vitality.



Chronic stress is unfortunately all too common in today’s fast-paced life. It can take a serious toll on our skin, not to mention our body and mind. Our body produces cortisol in response to stress, which can decrease blood flow to the skin, causing a sallow appearance.


Sleep Deprivation

There are a lot of benefits that come with getting adequate sleep. That’s because vital biological processes take place during this invaluable time of rest.

Essentially the body goes into repair mode. And that includes your skin, which produces collagen and repairs damage from UV exposure while you’re sleeping.

The skin benefits of getting quality sleep are unparalleled. When you are chronically sleep deprived, the body lacks the rest it needs to execute these repair processes, which can lead to premature signs of aging, along with sallow skin.


Spending Too Much Time Indoors

We may find ourselves spending more time indoors during cold winter months or during busy periods at work.

This can decrease the amount of vitamin D we receive from sunlight, which is an essential nutrient for skin health. The lack of fresh air and sunshine can also lead to skin losing its fresh, healthy appearance that comes with spending time in nature, leading to a sallow complexion.

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It’s common knowledge that a large percentage of the body (roughly 60%) is made up of water. In addition, many biological functions require adequate hydration, so when you are dehydrated, you can begin to feel and see the negative side-effects. One of those side-effects being sallow skin, not to mention a decrease in skin elasticity and plumpness.



Research shows that pollution ultimately produces the free radicals that damage skin. Free radicals trigger a response called oxidative stress, which can lead to uneven skin tone, wrinkles, an irritated skin barrier and a sallow looking complexion.


Not Properly Caring For Your Skin

Our skin is exposed to environmental stressors on a daily basis. So, when our skin care routine is non-existent or poorly formulated products are being used, overtime your skin begin to show signs of distress.

Poor skin care habits such as not washing your face at night to remove pollution and daily build-up, skipping out on a daily SPF or spending too much time in the sun can also have a detrimental effect on your skin, leading to a sallow looking complexion.


5 Simple Ways To Brighten Sallow Skin


1. Eat The Rainbow

Since our skin is our largest organ, it’s important to eat a healthy diet abundant in nutrient-rich whole foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables. This ensures there’s enough nutrition to go around for your skin cells to maintain optimal function.

It’s equally as important to cut out unhealthy foods that are highly processed, full of refined sugars and unhealthy oils.

In addition to a healthy diet, a vitamin supplement may also be helpful in the fight against sallow skin, to help fill in any nutritional gaps. However, they should never replace a healthy diet, only supplement.


2. Apply Topical Antioxidants To Your Skin

Research shows that antioxidants can help to promote a healthy-looking complexion and the more you consume, internally and externally, the better. Antioxidants are known to defend your skin from the free radical damage caused by pollution, which can contribute to premature signs of aging and sallowness.

With daily application, antioxidants not only defend skin against oxidative stress, but also promote a youthful, healthy appearance. One of the most renowned antioxidants in skincare is vitamin C. However, to fully witness the skin transformational powers of antioxidants, you need variety. You can find both stabilized vitamin C and a potent blend of antioxidants in our Arctic-C Brightening Antioxidant Serum.

Natural ingredients, i.e. botanical extracts, contain a plethora of antioxidants such as polyphenols, flavonoids, vitamin E, pro-vitamin A, carotenoids, and curcumin, making them a valuable addition to your skincare routine.

This is one of the reasons we created our proprietary Nordic Antioxidant Complex, which features four of nature’s most powerful antioxidants, including Astaxanthin.


3. Adopt Stress Releasing Activities

Making time for stress relieving activities such as yoga or meditation can have a profound effect on your overall life, not just your skin. Studies show that relaxing activities help to reduce stress hormones in our body, such as cortisol. These stress hormones disrupt your body’s processes, which can contribute to a sallow looking complexion. Simple stress relieving activities include:

– Daily exercise
– Connecting with friends and family
– Journaling
– Spending time in nature
– Making art


4. Improve Your Sleep Schedule

On average, adults need 7-9 hours of sleep. We recommend setting an alarm that reminds you to go to bed and wake up the same time every day.

Also, review your evening habits to see if there are any tweaks you need to make to promote a more restorative sleep, such as eliminating blue light at least one hour before bed.

Even the innocent seeming habit of consuming dark chocolate after dinner could be affecting your sleep as it contains roughly 12 mg of caffein per ounce. A consistent sleep schedule will outperform any skincare product when it comes to improving the look of your skin.


5. Use Vitamin-Rich Skincare Products

In addition to doing the basics, such as washing your face twice a day and wearing sunscreen, we recommend using vitamin-rich products that help to revive sallow looking skin.

Science-backed vitamins such as vitamin A, C, and E all help to visibly brighten and rejuvenate skin. Vitamin C serums are especially effective and a gentle way to even the look of skin tone and promote a natural glow.

However, be sure to avoid formulas that contain fragrance/perfume, photosensitizing essential oils such as lemon, or any formula that smells strong enough to be a perfume, as these can have a negative effect on your skin, thus negating the benefits of these vitamins.


6. Exfoliate Weekly

Weekly exfoliation helps to remove buildup of dead skin and impurities, which can contribute to a sallow appearance. When you remove surface debris from the top layer of your skin, your skin’s ability to reflect light is improved and in return it appears brighter and more even.

We recommend staying away from ingredients that cause photosensitivity or harm the planet, such as exfoliating acids and plastic microbeads. Instead, opt for gentle exfoliants supercharged with antioxidants that defend against environmental aggressors such as pollution. Our Polish Superfood Facial Exfoliant is a great choice!


The Bottom Line

As much as sallow skin can be bothersome, let us kindly remind you that when it comes to your skin, a healthy dose of acceptance is good for the mind, body and soul. We should not aim for perfection or unrealistic results, after all, skin is a living organ. However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t care for your skin the best you can. So next time you look in the mirror or apply your vitamin C serum, repeat after us “I am beautiful just as I am.” Because you really are!


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Disclaimer: This content is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide medical advice or to take the place of such advice or treatment from a personal physician. All readers/viewers of this content are advised to consult their doctors or qualified health professionals regarding specific health questions. Neither Root Science nor the publisher of this content takes responsibility for possible health consequences of any person or persons reading or following the information in this educational content. All viewers of this content, especially those taking prescription or over-the-counter medications, should consult their physicians before beginning any skincare, nutrition, supplement or lifestyle program. The views and products expressed are not intended to treat, cure or prevent any disease.

Image Sources: Woman’s Shoulder via Dainis Graveris

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