30 Health Secrets Your Skin Is Trying to Tell You
It's your most essential organ, so listen to it.
When skin issues pop up, they can be extremely annoying. The last thing you want is to have to deal with a rash, a cluster of unidentified red bumps, or acne. Your body isn’t just ruining your day for the thrill of it, though—there’s usually an important reason why it’s alerting you, and you should always listen to what it has to say. Whether you’re suddenly dry and flaky or are noticing weird-colored patches pop up, here are 30 health secrets your skin is trying to tell you.
Yellow Deposits Around the Eyes: High Cholesterol
If you notice yellow deposits showing up around your eyes or near your nose, you might be dealing with a condition called xanthelasma. The soft bumps under your skin are actually cholesterol-filled plaques, says Harvard Medical School. Although they’re not cancerous, they are trying to alert you that you might have high cholesterol—something that can lead to heart issues down the line.
Dry, Flaky Skin: Hyperthyroidism
If you’re experiencing super-dry, flaky skin and can’t figure out why, it might be a symptoms of hypothyroidism—a condition that occurs when your thyroid isn’t producing enough hormones, says the Mayo Clinic. Because your body doesn’t produce as much sweat, it leads to a change in the texture of your skin due to the lack of moisture.
Yellow Bumps on the Skin: Diabetes
While there are many symptoms that come about from diabetes, skin issues are one of the first tell-tale signs of the disease, says the American Diabetes Association. One thing you might notice is firm yellow bumps on the backs of your arms, legs, feet, hands, and butt called eruptive xanthomatosis.
Chin Acne: You’re Eating Too Much Dairy
Your cheese addition might be real, but if you’re constantly breaking out on your chin and along your jawline, it might be time to cut it out of your diet. According to celebrity esthetician Renée Rouleau, those painful blemishes are typically due to hormonal imbalances in your body, which can be fueled by dairy.
“Most dairy cows are given growth hormones. Therefore, the consumption of milk, cheese, and yogurt influences endogenous hormones. These mimic the hormones that trigger the skin’s oil production, thus starting the acne process,” she writes. “That’s why when you ingest more dairy than your body can digest, it can be excreted through hard, painful bumps under the skin on the chin and jawline.”
Dark Circles Around Your Eyes: A Lack of Sleep
People joke about getting dark circles from a lack of sleep, but it really is a thing. While chronic sleep deprivation won’t show right away, over time you’ll not only see that darker shade appear under your eyes, but you might also experience premature wrinkles, says the Cleveland Clinic.
Pimples on the Side of Your Face: A Dirty Phone
If you’re more a talker than a texter and always have a phone up to your ear, there’s a good chance your phone might be responsible for your breakouts—especially if you never clean your screen. “Unfortunately, there’s plenty of bacteria on your mobile device. Wipe it down daily to avoid unnecessary bacteria from transferring to the skin,” writes celebrity esthetician Renée Rouleau.
Lots of Wrinkles: Sugar-Heavy Diet
If you’re seeing more and more wrinkles appear on your face long before they’re supposed to, it might be due to your love of all things sugary. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, diets that contain an overload of sugar commonly contribute to premature aging. So nix the habit ASAP before it’s too late and grab some sweet fruit for a treat instead.
A Flaky Scalp: Low Zinc and B Vitamins
An uncomfortable flaky scalp is no fun to deal with. One reason you might be experiencing seborrheic dermatitis is actually due to a nutritional deficiency. According to a study published in the Journal of Clinical and Investigative Dermatology, being low in zinc, vitamin B6, vitamin B3, and vitamin B2 could induce the itchy skin problem. And if you’re looking to mitigate the problem, Here’s How to Get Rid of Dandruff for Good.
Easy Bruising: Low Vitamin C or K
Whether you remember where you got them or not, bruising easily could just be your body’s way of alerting you that there’s an issue with your health, and one of the most common reasons behind the issue is a vitamin C or vitamin K deficiency. “You’re most likely to run low on vitamin K if you’ve been taking antibiotics that destroy vitamin K-synthesizing microorganisms in the digestive tract,” according to Dr. Andrew Weil, MD. “A vitamin C deficiency could also be to blame. Vitamin C is essential for synthesis of collagen and other compounds that affect the skin’s and blood vessel’s ability to withstand the impacts that lead to bruises.”
Bulging Veins: Poor Blood Circulation
Varicose or spider veins—which often show up as purple or blue bulging veins on your legs—are often the result of circulatory problems, typically due to a change in your blood flow due to your age or pregnancy. And the only way to get rid of them? Improve your circulation and muscle tone, says the Mayo Clinic.
Brown Patches On Your Face: Hormonal Changes
Once you have melasma, it can be pretty tricky to get rid of. The skin problem—which occurs more often with women than men—causes brown patches to show up on your face, and it’s commonly triggered by a change in your hormones, whether that’s from pregnancy, birth control pills, or a hormone replacement medicine, says the American Academy of Dermatology.
Cracked Lip Corners: Iron Deficiency
Angular cheilitis occurs when you have small cracks in the corners of your mouth. At first, it might just seem like they’re there because your skin is dry, but they typically form because of nutritional deficiencies—particularly from not having enough iron or B vitamins, says a 2007 study published in the journal Canadian Family Physician.
Bumps On Your Thighs: Vitamin A Deficiency
If you’ve noticed bumps on the top of your thighs or the backs of your arms, you might just need a little more vitamin A in your life, writes celebrity esthetician Renée Rouleau. You’ll find vitamin A in carrots, sweet potatoes, squash, cantaloupe, spinach, and kale.
Premature Aging: Eating Too Many Refined Carbs
Sugar isn’t the only food that commonly affects the aging process. Refined carbohydrates like white bread, white rice, and pastries made with white flour cause your blood sugar to spike due to how rapidly your body digests them, and according to the American Academy of Dermatology, that can show up on your face in the form of premature wrinkles.
Raised Red Patches: Problems with Your Immune System
Experiencing red scaly patches on your skin could be a sign of psoriasis, a chronic immune-mediated disease that’s often triggered by stress or colds. That’s not all, though: “Psoriasis can be associated with other health conditions too, such as diabetes, heart disease, abdominal obesity, and depression,” says dermatologist Dr. Kellie Reed.
Dull, Dehydrated Skin: Too Much Alcohol
An occasional happy hour with friends is a must, but try not to sip on wine every night. Alcohol is a very dehydrating beverage, and unfortunately one of its primary targets is your skin, says the American Academy of Dermatology. Over time, that can lead to damage that doesn’t just make you look dry and dull, but also much older than you actually are.
Frequent New Pimples: Stress
Stress doesn’t just affect you mentally—it takes a toll on you physically, too. Aside from causing muscle tension, fatigue, and sleep problems, it can also make more pimples pop up on your face: “Stress triggers our adrenal gland to go into overdrive, stimulating hormones that can lead to more acne,” says dermatologist Dr. Kellie Reed.
Violet-Colored Eyelids: Muscle Disease
If your eyelids start turning a reddish or purple shade, don’t just chalk it up to allergies. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, the problem might be due to dermatomyositis—an inflammatory muscle disease that can sometimes lead to different cancers, including ovarian.
Hardening of Your Skin: Connective Tissue Disease
Even though scleroderma is rare, the autoimmune condition still affects thousands of people every year. And one of the most noticeable symptoms? Experiencing your skin hardening or tightening due to the swelling that’s occurring in your body, says the American College of Rheumatology.
Cheek Acne: Too Much Pollution in the Air
Living in a big city is fun, but it has its drawbacks—especially when it comes to your skin: all that pollution in the air can lead to acne on your cheeks. Plus, a 2010 study published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology found those who lived in areas with increased air pollution had more signs of skin aging, including pigment spots.
Under-Eye Bags: Water Retention
There are a handful of reasons you might be experiencing swelling or puffiness under your eyes, but one of the primary culprits has an easy fix: stop eating so much salt. By cutting down on sodium, you’ll usually get rid of the fluid retention causing the problem, says the Mayo Clinic.
Weird Patches: Skin Cancer
Everyone gets weird marks on their skin once in a while. If you’ve happened to notice one in particular is changing in color, size, or shape, researchers from the University of Utah recommend seeing a doc stat: it could be a sign of skin cancer, and the earlier you get it checked out, the better. To see if you have any signs of skin cancer, check out 20 Skin Cancer Symptoms Everyone Needs to Know.
Bumps on Your Knuckles: Autoimmune Disease
If you start noticing scaly red bumps appear on your knuckles, there’s a chance you’re dealing with dermatomyositis, an inflammatory disease that usually causes muscle weakness and skin rashes. Whether you think that’s the case or not, get it checked out by your doctor—especially because “in some rare cases, these bumps can also be an indicator of cancer,” says dermatologist Dr. Kellie Reed.
Bumps on Ankles: Digestive Issues
Seeing red bumps pop up around your ankles, shins, and sometimes arms could be due to ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease, and they typically come about during an inflammatory bowel disease flare-up or right before the flare-up occurs, says the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation.
Red Rash: Skin Allergy
Don’t just write an itchy red rash off as being nothing. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, it’s best to investigate its cause—especially because it’s probably due to some sort of contact dermatitis from something irritating your skin, whether it’s due to a perfume, body wash, laundry detergent scent—you name it.
Yellowing Skin: Liver Disease
One of the most well-known signs of liver disease is the yellowing of the skin and the eyes due to the blood containing too much bilirubin, a compound that’s found in liver bile. See a doc immediately if you notice it since it can either be very serious or fixed with lifestyle changes, says the Mayo Clinic.
Dark Skin Creases: Adrenal Problems
When you have darkening of the skin—particularly in skin creases or on pressure points, like your elbows and knees—it could be a sign of Addison’s disease, which occurs when your adrenal glands don’t produce enough hormones due to being damaged, says the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.
Foot Rash: Hepatitis C
Foot rashes are common—especially if you’re always walking around out in your yard barefoot or showering in gym showers without flip-flops. If that rash doesn’t go away, though, and you’re also experiencing joint pain and a fever, it could be a sign of hepatitis C—a liver infection caused by a virus, says the American Academy of Dermatology.
Slow Wound Healing: Diabetes
Any wound that’s healing at snail-speed might be signaling a more serious issue. According to Wound Care Centers, that slowness could be due to the poor circulation and elevated blood sugar levels that come with diabetes.
Blushing All the Time: Rosacea
If it always looks like you’re blushing, rosacea might be the issue. According to the Cleveland Clinic, the skin condition typically makes it look like there’s a pink tint over your nose, chin, cheeks, and forehead. Just don’t wait to get it treated: If you do, it could get worse and make parts of your face appear to be swollen.