Skin Pallor: What Causes Pale Skin and How to Treat It

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pale skinSkin color is the result of various genetic traits that are pretty unique to the individual. Different shades, pigments, or complexions can be seen even among groups of people sharing the same racial background. A brother and sister with the same set of parents may have completely different skin types. Heck, even twins may have different skin tones. That being said, from time to time, all of us may get a little pale. Sometimes, we may not even notice it. But, what causes pale skin? What causes skin pallor?

In this article, we’ll take a look at pale skin and, hopefully, give you some tips on how to safely get a little more color in there. We’ll also examine pale skin causes, pale skin symptoms, and even some pale skin remedies. With any luck, after reading this article, you’ll be able to not only recognize when you’re a little pale, but also be able to do something about it.

What Causes Skin Pallor?

If you’ve noticed unusually pale skin lately, you may wonder, “Why is my skin pale?” As it turns out, there are multiple pallor causes. Some of the causes are everyday causes and other causes of pale skin can be due to medical, environmental, and other factors. A number of these causes can be temporary, but there are other causes of paleness that can be long lasting.

1. Everyday Causes

Low Temperatures

Going out into extreme, low-temperature weather can cause the skin to become pale. This is due to the cold’s constricting effect on the small skin arteries. This is part of the body’s defense mechanism—an effort to try and save your body heat so you can survive the temperatures.

Low Blood Sugar

Low blood sugar can also constrict the arteries, which often leads to paleness. This constriction is caused by an adrenaline spike triggered by low blood sugar.


Much like low blood sugar, dehydration can cause a spike in adrenalin that can cause the arteries to constrict and, in turn, cause paleness.

2. Sudden Paleness

There are a number of reasons why your skin color can suddenly become pale, most of which have a medical component to them. The medical reasons tend to be worrisome, and should probably be investigated further with a doctor. If drastic enough, emergency medical attention may be in order. These causes can include:

  • Rapid stomach emptying (dumping syndrome)
  • Orthostatic hypotension (temporary fall of blood pressure after standing up after prolonged sitting or lying down)
  • Stomach upset from wrong food combination, alcohol or food poisoning
  • Dehydration from insufficient drinking, excessive sweating, vomiting, diarrhea
  • Acute infection
  • Fainting
  • Motion sickness
  • Allergy to drugs
  • Hypothermia
  • Migraine
  • Heat stroke
  • Heart failure due to heart attack, arrhythmia, infective endocarditis or other heart disorder (when the heart cannot efficiently pump the blood into circulation)
  • Shock (a sudden, deep fall of blood pressure is called shock; this can occur due to severe injury, poisoning, burns, severe infection, and severe blood loss)
  • Blood loss due to external or internal bleeding (car accidents, shooting, or stitch injuries), heavy menstrual bleeding, surgery

A number of drugs can also carry the side effect of skin pallor. Corticosteroids,  aspirin, and anti-rheumatic drugs can cause paleness. Drug overdoses from drugs like speed (amphetamine) and cocaine can also cause paleness.

3. Long-Lasting Paleness

There are some causes of pale skin that can result in long-lasting paleness. Sufferers of anemia, low blood pressure, leukemia, hypertension, hypopituitarism, and chronic heart issues may all have paleness that can last a long time. The paleness may go away when the root cause is taken care of, but some of these causes are reoccurring. As such, the paleness may come and go with them.

Symptoms That Co-Exist with Paleness

As you can see from above, a number of the causes of paleness are medical in nature; in fact, the paleness is often a side effect of those medical causes. Anemia, for example, can cause paleness, but it can also cause a number of other health issues like rapid heartbeat, chest pains, and shortness of breath— all of which can co-exist with paleness. Paleness can also be the result of lack of blood circulation to a limb. So, if you have pale skin along with a few other symptoms, you should take it as a warning sign and seek a doctor’s diagnosis.

Diagnosing the Cause of Paleness

If you are worried by your paleness or its onset, the best precautionary step you can take is going to see your doctor for a diagnosis. The first thing the doctor will do is ask you about your recent medical history. This can help the doctor determine whether there is a medical cause for your paleness or if it’s just genetics. If the doctor isn’t sure what is causing your paleness from your medical history, some medical tests may be in order. Blood work, for example, can allow the doctor to diagnose certain conditions like anemia. Other tests may be used to look for causes like pregnancy, cancer, vitamin deficiencies, etc. X-rays may also be used to look for issues causing your paleness. After the doctor is done, hopefully, your diagnosis will tell you what is causing your paleness and how you may be able to fix it.

How to Get Rid of Paleness

So, paleness can affect you due to various issues, but you may still wonder how to get rid of pale skin naturally. If there is a medical issue, the paleness should dissipate when it is resolved. If genetics is causing your paleness, you may find it hard to change—if you can even change it at all. But for certain causes, you may be able to reverse your paleness and get a little color on your cheeks.

1. Increase Your B12

Vitamin B12 is very important to your skin and its color. Increasing your B12 intake can help you get out of the pale state. This can be done in a several way. You can add more B12 to your diet with foods like seafood and red meat. You can also take B12 supplements, and if you are horribly low on B12, you may even be able to get a booster shot of B12 from your doctor.

2. Change Your Diet

Your paleness may be due to a lack of other vitamins and minerals. The deficiency, and your paleness, can be remedied with simple changes to your diet. Add to your diet more vegetables, proteins, and whole grains rich in your particular deficiencies.

3. Wash Your Skin and Face

Keeping the dirt, oil, and bacteria off of your skin and your pores clean will allow the natural color to shine through. But, be warned: If your paleness is due to genetics or something other than debris buildup, clean skin can make the paleness more pronounced. Be careful with exfoliating your skin as well, as rough exfoliation can cause skin damage and may make the paleness stand out later.

4. Watch the Sun

Sunlight exposure can naturally darken your skin, which will take away your paleness temporarily. That being said, you must be mindful of how much ultraviolet (UV) radiation you take in. The sun’s rays can damage your skin, which may later keep you pale.

Depending on what is causing your paleness, there may be a few additional options. Certain medical issues that are causing the paleness may be resolved through surgery. Once the medical issue is cleared up, the color will more than likely return to your skin. Again, a doctor can help direct the treatment for your paleness, and surgery will probably be a last-ditch effort.

Pale Skin: May Be Treatable or You May Be Stuck with It

If you have pale skin, you may want to “brighten” things up by getting some more color into your skin. When your skin is mildly pale, you may be able to darken it pretty easily by changing your diet, boosting your vitamin and mineral intake, or improving your general skin care regimen. If it’s a medical issue, then treatments that clear up the condition may also return your skin to a healthy-looking color. But, some of us just have pale skin naturally, and you may just be stuck with it. But you’ll never know unless you find out why you are pale. Hopefully, we’ve given you enough skin pallor definition to know what road of treatment, if any, you should start upon.

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