But some people testing out the keto diet may notice one surprising side effect: breakouts.
So what’s going on? First, you have to understand what the keto diet actually does to your body.
How does the ketogenic diet work?
“The ketogenic diet usually results in the body entering a different metabolic state after the third to seventh day, when the body starts producing ketones en masse in place of regular sugars,” says Ross C. Radusky, MD, dermatologist at SoHo Skin & Laser Dermatology, P.C. This is a process known as ketosis.
Ketosis “is stressful on the body, at least in the beginning,” he says. It can throw many of your bodily functions out of whack, causing everything from bad breath to constipation. But it also wreaks havoc on your skin.
“The skin is a temperamental beast,” says Radusky. “Any change in your diet, but particularly one that turns our usual percentages of fats, carbohydrates, and proteins upside down, can be inflaming.”
This is in part because keto is a high-fat diet: a 2015 study found that high-fat diets increased the production of sebum on your skin, which can increase your risk for acne. Additionally, a 2007 study looked at levels of a specific marker for inflammation, known as the C-reactive protein. It found that higher fat diets were associated with higher levels of the protein. Translation: high-fat diets may increase inflammation in the body, which has been linked to skin conditions like acne, psoriasis, and eczema.
“Systemic inflammation can lead to skin inflammation and skin dysfunction,” says Joshua Zeichner, MD, director of Cosmetic & Clinical Research in Dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City.
You also may notice your skin becoming more dehydrated, says Radusky. “The ketogenic diet helps you shed water weight, and this can shrink your skin cells, leaving you with dry, irritated skin,” he adds.
How to avoid a skin freakout
OK, so it’s clear the diet can mess up your skin. But here are some tips to follow to keep your skin healthy on the keto diet.
1.) Stay hydrated.
Since the keto diet can suck moisture out of your skin, up your water intake.
“I recommend patients increase their water intake to make sure their skin cells are adequately hydrated,” says Dr. Radusky.
2) Limit lactose.
“Try to avoid food that are high in lactose,” says Dr. Radusky. Studies have linked milk and whey-based proteins to an increase in acne.