The Keto Diet Could Have Some Benefits For Your Skin

A keto diet, when followed properly, has many positive benefits, and among those is clearer skin. Emphasis on "when done properly," though, as the high-fat diet needs to be composed of "good fats," in order to have a clearing effect on one's complexion. (Binging on cheeses and buttery pastries won't do the trick.)

At its root, a keto diet involves eating more healthy fats and fewer carbohydrates, which, if you're careful to cut back on the right carbs, is bound to improve your skin. In particular, avoiding simple carbohydrates, like processed and refined sugars such as candy, table sugar, syrups, and soft drinks, will help decrease the body's excess inflammation — a culprit behind breakouts. Basically, the old saying, "sugar causes zits," is true. The reason is that empty carbs trigger inflammation and signal the release of hormones that increase production of pore-clogging oils, according to a review published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

As Jennifer Gordon, M.D. and dermatologist, told Everyday Health, "It's usually simple carbohydrates that create inflammation," she says. "When you lower inflammation in the body, you can see this in your skin as feeling more radiant, less red, and less congested."

What is the "keto rash"?

The ketogenic diet drastically reduces carbohydrates and replaces them with fats, including dairy, to trigger a metabolic state called ketosis, in which the body burns fat for energy instead of glucose. In ketosis, the body produces an increased amount of an acid called ketones. "For some people, the presence of high levels of ketones triggers a skin condition called prurigo pigmentosa," registered dietitian Suzanne Dixon told Insider.

The itchy rash of red bumps starts on the back, chest, and stomach. These eventually crust over and heal, but they can leave dark marks on the skin, which are sometimes permanent. The rash itself is a rare form of inflammatory dermatosis, according to Everyday Health, but it often appears on people in the early stages of ketosis. 

A 2018 study found that introducing carbs back into the diet improved rash symptoms. Correcting nutrient deficiencies, which can accompany restrictive diets, can also clear up the associated rash.  

Is the keto diet good or bad for your skin?

As with many diets, the answer to whether the keto diet will be good or bad for your skin depends on various factors. Simply put, everyone's skin is different, so there's no diet that will work for everyone. The keto diet gives near total freedom to consume dairy, including butter, cheese, and cream. This could cause problems for some people's complexion, but not be a problem for others. Yet, keto also emphasizes foods high in omega-3 fatty acids — fish, nuts and seeds, and plant oils — which can contribute to clear skin, with that glow that so many people seek.

The fact remains, though, that the keto diet isn't necessarily one to do for a main outcome of improving your skin. If that's your primarily goal, instead focus on overall lifestyle changes, like drinking enough water, avoiding "bad" fats and simple carbs, and exercising.