Sallow Skin: Do You Have It And How To Fix Sallow Looking Skin

Sallow skin refers to the skintone of skin that has lost its natural glow. Sallow skin looks yellowish or pale brown, but not golden or healthy: is that color that makes people ask you if you are feeling sick. Unlike wrinkles or dry skin, sallow skin causes are not age related but often due to your lifestyle. Which is great, because it means you can fix sallow skin and go back to looking (and feeling) your healthiest best self.

What does sallow skin look like?

The symptoms of sallow skin are easy to recognize:

  • Sick, worn down or ageing appeareance
  • Pale yellow or brownish grey skintone that doesn’t look healthy
  • Pale skin
  • Tired looking skin

You’ll know you have sallow skin because people will show concern about your health. This happens a lot for people who hide their sallow skintone using makeup and then dare to go natural one day. While it’s very frustrating it means that you should fix the underlying causes of sallow skin rather than just trying to hide it.

Maybe You Just Have Olive Skin

Some people’s skintone have a natural green tinge to them: we call them olive and pale olive skin is often confuse with sallow skin. However, a neutral or cool pale olive won’t look unhealthy. Unless you are using makeup with the wrong undertones, which can give you a definite grey beige complexion and the appearance of sallow skin. What sets olive skin apart is the natural green pigment in the skin, which is very visible if you compare your skin with non-olive people. If you’re an olive and you suffer from sallow skin, your skin may take a more brownish hinge.

Causes Of Sallow Skin: Health Concerns

Sallow skin can happen due to medical reasons, or environment related stress. Usually skin losing its brightness and glow is a symptom of other things unbalancing your body, and in some cases it’s a good idea to check with a doctor to ensure nothing is wrong.


Lack of iron, or anemia, is very common in women and people who choose a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle without supplementing their iron levels. Getting more iron and vitamin B12 in your diet or through supplements can help with this, but chronic anemia needs to be treated by medical professionals. However, sallow skin is not the only symptom of anemia: you will most likely feel tired, lethargic and under the weather as your blood cells can’t transport enough oxygen around the body.

Vitamin Deficiency

Another common cause of sallow skin is vitamin deficiency. Busy modern lifestyles and less access to fresh vegetables and healthy food can result in lack of one or several vitamins. This can lead to a pale complexion, blemishes and generally a feeling of being unwell. The solution for this is eating a varied diet with plenty of fresh products, which will give your body the vitamin A, C and D needed for glowing skin. If your diet is already good and balanced, check with a doctor. Vitamin D deficiency is common nowadays due to long winters and indoor lifestyles. A vitamin supplement can easily fix this.


Headaches, tiredness and sallow skin are all symptoms of a body that doesn’t get enough water. Drinking a lot of alcohol can also cause dehydration and puffiness, leading to the dreaded hangover face. Try to drink at least 7 glasses of water a day to avoid dehydration and keep your skin glowing.

More Causes Of Sallow Skin: Lifestyle Factors


If you are a smoker you are probably more than aware of the damage cigarettes do your skin, but did you know that smoking can cause sallow skin? The toxins in inhaled smoke reduce the blood flow to your skin and makes achieving a healthy glow much more difficult. Smoke also causes skin ageing and wrinkles, so if you are concerned about your complexion take this as just another reason to give up.


Drinking alcohol causes dehydration and makes your live work extra, which means your skin suffers and looks puffy and sallow. While the occasional hangover can be disguised with good makeup skills, regular over consumption of alcohol will cause long-term damage to your skin and body.


It’s easy to recommend a less stressful lifestyle to get rid of sallow skin, and much less easy to actually manage it. But stress is a major enemy of glowing skin, and learning how to manage it will help you achieve a healthy looking complexion. Lifestyle stress is different for every person, but some things such as five minutes of meditation/gratefulness a day or even doing a bit of yoga in your chair can help you and are totally free.

Lack of Sleep

People don’t call it beauty sleep for nothing! 8 hours of shut eye are the best cure for sallow skin and will help you feel a thousand times better overall. Your body uses the time you are asleep to rebuild and regenerate and that includes your skin. Lack of sleep causes sallow skin, but also slows down skin regeneration, leading to dull and dry looking skin.

Skincare Tips To Correct Sallow Skin

A good skincare routine will help your skin looks it best and minimise sallow skin appearance. It doesn’t need to be full of expensive products or a korean beauty routine, but you will need to be constant. Since the top layer of your epidermis takes several months to full renew itself, you’ll need to wait to see results and achieve bright and healthy glowing skin.

Wash your face morning and evening with a good face wash. If you wear makeup, double cleansing with an oil based cleanser ensures a clean surface to apply your skincare products.

The apply a vitamin C serum in the morning, and a retinol based product in the evenings. Remember to adapt to what your skin will tolerate, you don’t want to irritate sensitive skins just because the product is recommended for sallow skin.

Exfoliating twice or three times a week and ensuring your skin is well hydrated and moisturised will help the top layers of the skin to shed and reveal glowing skin underneath.

Makeup For Sallow Skin

If you don’t want to wait then makeup products can offer a quick visual fix for sallow skin, though they won’t deal with textural issues and won’t actually fix it. But hey, they do help looking better and sometimes that’s a good start!

Start with choosing a foundation that matches your skintone and undertones perfectly. Choosing a foundation that is too warm or too cool just to try and mask sallow skin is not effective and will look very obvious, and clash with your neck and chest. So unless you are a fan of the full coverage, foundation down to your shoulders look it’s easier to go with a good color match.

If your skin looks sallow and tired a color corrector underneath your foundation will cancel those unwanted undertones and make you look radiant. Depending on your skin tone, purple, lavender and even blue (for deeper undertones) will cancel out the unwanted sallow yellow undertones and give you a glowing skin even before makeup. Many color correcting products come with additional skincare benefits so they’ll help fix sallow skin in the long term.

If you suffer from discoloration or eye bags (which is very common with sallow skin) invest in a good quality concealer and use a small brush to pin point conceal the worst offenders. A shade that is just a bit lighter than your skin but with the same undertone can help brighten the undereye and give you a more awake look without looking too obvious.

Blush will also go a long way towards making you look healthy and bright, even if you don’t feel that way. Choose a bluish that matches your natural undertone if you want it to look natural. Cool toned skins look great in pinks and peach or warm colored complexions could use a coral or orange-ish blush.

While sallow skin is usually just a cosmetic issue, the health of your skin reflects your overall health. If you have tried the above solutions for sallow skin and nothing changes you should see a doctor and investigate if there is anything more serious going on.

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