Can Keto Cause Acne


The Keto diet is well known for being a great tool to lose weight, stabilize your blood sugar and get rid of mental fog.  But what kind of side effects does this diet have?  Can Keto cause acne?  The short answer is, yes, some people experience a breakout of acne on the Keto diet.  However, the reverse is also true and there’s evidence that Keto may actually help your complexion.  

The following article will explain when you might expect Keto acne, what causes it, how Keto might be good for your skin as well as how to get rid of those pesky pimples once and for all.

What causes Keto acne?

The relationship between acne and Keto hasn’t been determined scientifically; however, anecdotal evidence shows that there might be a link for some people.  Not everyone on Keto will develop acne and some people might even find their acne clearing up.  What is certain is that anytime you make a radical change to the foods you’re eating you run the risk of skin problems.  Everything in your body is connected and overloading your gut with carbs, fat or protein can all contribute to acne.

The Keto flu

One of the largest occurrences of acne on Keto happens in the first few weeks of switching over to your new diet.  During this time, you’ll probably experience what’s known as the “Keto Flu”.  Making the switch from glucose to ketones is a major change for your body and it tends to respond as if it’s battling an invader.  This causes an inflammatory response that can lead to nausea, headaches, chills, stomach pain, sore muscles, and yes, acne.

The good news is, these symptoms usually subside on their own after a few weeks.  It takes your body some time to recognize that the change you’re making is actually good for it as opposed to a threat but once it does you’ll begin to feel a lot better.

Keto acne vs. Prurigo Pigmentosa

There’s an important thing to note about Keto acne.  Sometimes when your body begins producing ketones it can lead to a Keto rash known as prurigo pigmentosa.  This rash is usually found on the neck, chest and back.  It’s red, itchy and has little bumpy pimples; however, prurigo pigmentosa is not the same as regular acne.  

If you develop an itchy rash alongside your acne you should speak with a doctor.  It’s rare, and not dangerous at all but it can be uncomfortable so it’s best to speak with a doctor to make sure that continuing Keto is your best option. 

Other causes of Keto acne

If you’ve left the Keto flu in your review mirror and you’re feeling great but you still have acne then there might be another culprit at work.  One of the first things you should look at is how many nutrients are you getting?  People on Keto can run the risk of being deficient in nutrients since they’re cutting out some major food choices.  

Another thing you should check into is how much fibre you’re eating.  When you drastically increase the amount of fat your body is ingesting it can back up in your intestines.  Your body then seeks to get rid of it and the fastest way to do this is through your skin.  This raises the sebum levels of your skin and can lead to acne. 

Another food imbalance on Keto can cause acne and this is too much dairy.  A 2015 review published in the journal Clinical, Cosmetic and Investigational Dermatology showed that there’s a link between diets that are high in dairy and skin problems such as acne.  Switching to Keto can lead a lot of people to eat more diary than they used to since whole milk, cheese and yogurt are all high fat foods. 

What can you do to treat Keto acne? 

If you’re concerned about your acne on Keto, one of the first things you should do is keep a food journal.  The majority of people on Keto do this already in order to properly keep track of your macros, but if you’re not tracking your food yet you definitely should.  It will help you to see patterns in your diet that might be contributing to your acne and if you were to speak to a dermatologist it would be a key tool in helping them make a diagnosis.

When analysing your food journal you should be checking how many nutrients your current diet is providing you with.  Are you eating enough whole foods, or is it mainly processed and packaged foods?  Are you getting enough leafy green and cruciferous veggies in your diet?  Are you eating too much fat (yes, that can be a thing, even on Keto)?  Is your diet lacking in fibre?  Are you getting enough water, sleep and exercise?  Your body is all connected and even something such as not enough sleep or too much stress can lead to acne breakouts.

Since you need to treat your Keto acne in the meantime you should use a gentle cleanser to wash your face. The two ingredients you should focus on are salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide.  Salicylic acid will gentle cleanse away any dead skin cells while removing excess oil that causes acne.  Benzoyl peroxide combats a different cause of acne by killing the bacteria on your skin that causes acne.

Can Keto get rid of acne?

Although some people experience an increase in breakouts on Keto, the opposite can also happen.  Two of the major food groups that Keto reduces or eliminates are sugar and carbohydrates.  Both of these foods have been linked to acne so reducing your consumption of them can leave you with clearer looking skin. 

The foods that you include in your Keto can also play a role in reducing breakouts.  Eggs, fish and leafy green vegetables are all encouraged on Keto and they contain nutrients that are great for the health of your skin.  Fish and nuts contain Omega 3 fatty acids and eggs contain antioxidants.  Leafy green veggies are high in vitamins A and E.  All of these nutrients play a role in healthy skin so if you find yourself eating more of them on Keto you might help reduce the inflammation in your skin that leads to acne. 

A 2012 article suggested that the Keto diet might improve acne for a variety of reasons.  One of these is that the Keto diet decreases insulin levels.  High insulin levels have been linked to an increase in androgens and sebum in the skin which can lead to acne.  

The Italian researchers also focused on the Keto diet’s ability to lower your levels of insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1).  Since IGF-1 has also been linked to higher levels of sebum in the skin, lowering it with a ketogenic diet could help reduce your acne.   Keto also has a tendency to reduce inflammation throughout the body.  Lower levels of inflammation can lead to less acne breakouts.  

Diet tips for seeing less acne on Keto

One of the best ways to see less acne on Keto is to focus on your nutrition.  While Keto on its own doesn’t cause acne, a diet that’s low in key nutrients can lead to breakouts.  If you want to clear up Keto acne, make sure you’re following these important tips.

  • Cut back on your dairy-Cheese and whole milk may be high in fats which is great for Keto but they’re also dairy products.  Dairy can cause inflammation in some people which can lead to acne.  If you find yourself breaking out take a step back and examine your dairy intake.  Try cutting it out completely for a few weeks and keeping a record of how your body feels.  You might have an intolerance to dairy that’s causing a whole host of problems from bloating and GI discomfort to acne and breakouts.
  • Eat fresh, whole foods-just because a food is low in carbs that doesn’t mean that it’s a good choice for your Keto.  Packaged and processed foods can contain chemicals and preservatives that lead to inflammation and skin issues.  Your best bet is to choose whole foods such as nuts, seeds, fresh meat and fish, leafy green veggies and low-sugar fruits.  These contain the nutrients that your body needs to feel great without any of the added junk that processed food sneaks in.
  •  Eat more fatty fish-fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, anchovies, herrings and sardines are all high in Omega 3 fatty acids.  Fatty fish has been shown by researchers to lower the inflammation levels in your body which will help combat acne. 
  • Add in leafy greens-leafy green veggies such as spinach, kale and swiss chard are all high in important vitamins and nutrients that help your whole body including your skin. 
  • Sip on some green tea-Green tea is a fantastic source of antioxidants, specifically Epigallocatechin gallate (EECG).  The EECG that’s found in green tea was studied and the results showed it might be useful to help battle acne breakouts in women. 


The Keto diet by itself is not a cause of acne; however, any major dietary changes can cause skin problems if you’re not eating a balanced diet.  Make sure that you’re getting the right nutrients and speak with a dermatologist if you’re concerned.  With a few tweaks you might find that the Keto diet gives you healthier skin then you’ve ever had before!

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