A woman looks in the mirror to see a blemish on her face.

What Your Skin Is Saying About Your Health

Clear, glowing skin tends to be on everyone’s wishlist, but if you regularly experience breakouts or unexplained rashes from time to time, it’s easy to become frustrated. Did you know that pimples and other blemishes aren’t always a sign of a lacking skin-care routine, though? Instead, they might be a visual representation of your internal health. 

Adult Acne  

Pimples are common during puberty, but if they become an issue in adulthood, it may be due to an underlying condition. Pay attention to where you notice them popping up. 

  • Jawline and chin acne can be a sign of a hormonal imbalance or even polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). Male hormones that occur in both men and women (such as androgens) can cause the glands around your chin to produce more oil, which can clog pores and lead to pimples.  
  • Forehead acne can be a sign of stress. When you’re feeling tense, your body releases more cortisol, which causes your sebaceous glands to produce more oil.

Paleness

While most people associate consistent paleness with spending too much time indoors, it can be a sign of reduced blood and oxygen flow throughout the body. Iron-deficiency anemia, sickle cell disease, chronic kidney disease, hypothyroidism, and a variety of other conditions can inhibit your production of red blood cells, causing your skin to appear lighter.

Rashes That Appear After Sun Exposure

Rashes that show up after you’ve been in the sun can be a sign of lupus, an autoimmune condition. Ultraviolet (UV) radiation can aggravate lupus, which is why these rashes tend to show up on parts of the body that get a lot of sun exposure. The shape and coloration of your rash can hint at what type of lupus might be the culprit.

  • A butterfly-shaped rash can be a sign of systemic lupus. These often look like sunburns and mostly occur on the cheeks, but they can appear on other parts of the body. 
  • A disc-shaped rash can be a sign of chronic cutaneous lupus erythematosus (CCLE). These rashes are often red and scaly and tend to show up on the face or ears. 
  • A ring-shaped rash can be a sign of subacute cutaneous lupus erythematosus (SCLE). These rashes are typically red and scaly. 

Yellow Bumps 

Raised patches of yellow skin, or xanthomas, can be a sign of many different underlying conditions. As fat builds up in the bloodstream, it can end up in the skin and form these waxy bumps. Xanthomas can indicate severe diabetes, high blood cholesterol, hypothyroidism, and issues with bile production or flow in the liver. If you notice these patches, schedule an appointment with your doctor for testing to determine the cause.

Brown Patches That Resemble Age Spots

If you’ve noticed scaly, reddish-brown circles appearing on your skin and thought, “I’m too young to have age spots,” you might be right. These small patches might not be the signs of sun exposure you initially thought they were and are instead diabetic dermopathy. This condition is a common side effect of diabetes, and the patches often appear on the shins. While the exact cause is unknown, doctors suspect that these spots arise due to poor blood flow to the legs and a reduced ability to heal

In other cases, what you think are just age spots might indicate skin cancer. Melanomas tend to be dark or multi-colored and have an irregular or asymmetrical border. If you notice any new spots or see ones growing or changing, speak with your doctor. Early detection of melanoma is important, as it makes treatment much more effective. 

If you notice unusual changes or experience persistent skin issues, schedule an appointment with your Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Group primary care physician. They can review your symptoms and refer you to a specialist for testing if necessary. 

Sources: 
Healthline | A Closer Look at Lupus
American Diabetes Association | Skin Complications
Lupus Foundation of America | Research on photosensitivity among people with lupus
Healthline | Paleness
Everyday Health | Melanoma or Age Spots? How to Tell the Difference
Healthline | What Is Xanthoma?
Healthline | Diabetic Dermopathy: What to Know