Can the Keto Diet Cause Rashes and Acne? Here’s What the Experts Say

Shot of a young woman squeezing a pimple on her face at home

The ketogenic diet, often shortened to the “keto diet,” has recently attracted a lot of buzz. Supporters point out that the diet, which emphasizes fat and protein and severely limits carbs, can help you lose weight; on the other hand, critics argue that the restrictive eating approach isn’t necessary for most people and can even promote unhealthy eating. Now, there’s another factor to add to the debate: Like many diets, the keto diet could affect your skin, possibly leading to acne or even a rash. Allure asked the experts what you should know about this trendy diet and your complexion.

What is the keto diet?

While there are different versions of the keto diet, “they all have one main thing in common,” Perri Halperin, a registered dietitian at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, tells Allure. “They are high in fat, adequate in protein, and low in carbohydrates.” Meat, dairy, eggs, low-carb veggies, and good fats such as avocado and coconut oil are all allowed. Carbs, including most fruits and whole grains, are not.

Eating this way is meant to kick your body into a state of ketosis, which is “a metabolic state of affairs that occurs when our bodies are denied enough carbohydrates to burn in order supply the body with enough energy (in the form of glucose) to meet its basic needs,” Tamara Duker Freuman, a registered dietician in New York City, tells Allure. “When this occurs, our bodies resort to plan B: burning fat to supply energy instead.” Rather than producing glucose, this process produces “ketone bodies,” which act as fuel. This backup system is what has allowed humans to survive famine and starvation. In the world of trendy diets, it’s praised as a serious fat burner.

Egg, bacon, and black coffee, view from above

What positive effects could the keto diet have on your skin?

The answer to this question depends on your skin type and exactly what you’re eating. “Foods such as nuts, eggs, seafood and leafy greens may be included in a keto diet and are beneficial for skin health,” Halperin points out. “These foods contain Vitamins A and E, antioxidants, and omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to decrease the effects of aging on skin and are skin-protective.”