Nutrition Edit

Is discolouration making you look older?

21st Sep 2022

In a study, 170 women were recruited and photographed. People were then asked to estimate their age based on their photos and it was found that women with discolouration compared to wrinkles were seen to look older. Highlighting that skin discolouration was the most visible factor of ageing¹. Do certain areas of your face or body look darker or lighter than others? Or have you noticed age spots or white patches on your skin? If so, you could be experiencing skin discolouration. Skin discolouration is a term that describes any changes in your skin colour that may differ from your natural skin tone and can be caused by many factors – which we will dive into later. Unfortunately, skin discolouration is a complex skin concern, but it is however more common than you think. There are, however, specific lifestyle and nutrition factors you can incorporate to support this skin concern for a smoother, even skin tone. Our skin experts are here to help by answering your questions on skin discolouration, what causes it and how to support it.

What causes discolouration to the skin?

There are many causes of skin discolouration, which vary from person to person. Some of the factors include too much sun exposure, (which causes the excess production of melanin) pigmentation, oxidative stress, general age, pregnancy, birthmarks, and certain medical conditions². If you have any concerns on your skin discolouration, please speak to your GP.

The sun, however, is one of the most common causes. Dr Gaby the Medical Director at Advanced Nutrition Programme™ explains what happens when the skin is exposed to UV “When keratinocytes, (the most dominant cell type in the epidermis layer) are exposed to UV, this results in damage to their cellular DNA and stimulates an increase in the production of melanocyte stimulating hormones. This increases the amount of melanin produced to protect the keratinocytes,” she says. Over time, this can cause brown spots to show or if the melanocytes become exhausted, your skin may have light patches which don’t have the ability to tan.

How to support skin discolouration

So, you can see why it’s paramount to protect your skin from the sun. Here are some nutrition and lifestyle tips for a youthful, even skin tone.

Apply an SPF

One of the main causes of skin discolouration is photo-ageing, caused by over exposure to the sun. It is also one of the main age-related changes to the appearance of the skin. Some of these signs are not only brown spots but loss of skin tone and fine wrinkles. Wearing an SPF and being smart when it comes to the sun is vital for protection. We recommend you stay in the shade during peak times, wear cover ups and sunglasses to shield your skin and your eyes from the sun.

Consume a diet rich in vitamin C

Vitamin C should be your best friend when it comes to supporting skin discolouration. Research shows that vitamin C helps protect your skin from oxidative stress*, which can be related to discolouration to the skin². Oxidative stress is an imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants in your body, which can be caused by lifestyle factors such as smoking, poor diet, and certain environments³. Consume a diet rich in vitamin C, found in the following foods:

  • Yellow peppers
  • Spinach
  • Kiwis
  • Oranges
  • Broccoli
  • Vitamin C plays many important roles in the health of our skin, so ensuring it plays a key part in your diet is essential for an even, radiant complexion.

    Support your skin with Omega-3

    Foods that contain Omega-3 have been shown to help support your skin against sun damage and reduce your risk of developing brown spots which occur from excessive sun exposure. Research suggests that Omega-3 fatty acids protect skin by supporting the skin’s barrier function as well as playing a role in reducing inflammation⁴. Incorporate Omega-3 in your weekly diet, found in fish, seeds and nuts including:

  • Mackerel
  • Salmon
  • Herring
  • Flaxseeds
  • Walnuts
  • Add Antioxidants to your diet

    Antioxidants can also help play a part in supporting the skin from further oxidative stress and quench free radicals triggered by UV light⁵. The human body can’t create these micronutrients itself, so they must be consumed through diet. Antioxidants can be found in an array of healthy foods including:

  • Dark chocolate
  • Pecans
  • Strawberries
  • Blueberries
  • Artichokes
  • Skin discolouration is a common skin concern and while it remains a complex one to address, research shows that adding vitamin C, Omega-3 and Antioxidants to your weekly diet, incorporating an SPF into your skincare regime and not smoking can put you a step ahead for achieving an even, youthful, complexion.

    *Vitamin C helps protect skin from oxidative stress


    Visible skin colour distribution plays a role in the perception of age, attractiveness, and health in female faces. Evolution and Human Behaviour. Bernhard Fink, Karl Grammar, Paul J Matts. August 2006. What causes skin discolouration? Healthline. July 2022. Everything you should know about oxidative stress. September 2018. The effect of Vitamin C on melanin pigmentation National Library of Medicine. Rizwan Sanadi, Revati Deshmukh. September 2020. Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids: photoprotective macronutrients. Suzanne M Pilkington 1, Rachel E B Watson, Anna Nicolaou, Lesley E Rhodes. May 2016. Free radicals, antioxidants, and functional foods: Impact on human health. National Library of Medicine. V, Lobo, A Patil, A Phatak, N Chandra. July 2010.