Unfortunately, skin issues don’t stop when puberty passes. In fact, many people (especially women) find that skin problems arise in their twenties and thirties. It can be extremely stressful and disheartening when our skin plays up, becoming sore, inflamed and unpredictable.
There are many factors which contribute to the state of our skin, including hormones, stress, sleep, medication, lifestyle and diet. But you’re reading this to find out how the keto diet affects your skin, specifically. Perhaps you’re about to start keto and you’re nervous about the outcome. Or maybe you’ve been deep in keto for a while and you’re curious about your skin’s changes. Whatever it is, keep reading to find out how keto can affect the skin…
What does the added fat do?
Let’s say you’re following the ketogenic diet properly by filling your plate with healthy fat sources such as avocado, healthy oils (olive, flaxseed etc.), oily fish, nuts and seeds. Through these foods, your body will be receiving an abundant dose of omega 3 and 6 fatty acids. And yes, this is a very good thing. These are polyunsaturated fats (the good kind).
Fatty acids such as omegas 3 and 6 do multiple wonders for the skin. They reduce inflammation, increase hydration and even help the body to absorb and utilize crucial vitamins. Avocados have been studied extensively in this respect, and the results are fantastic. The high fatty acid content of avocado means that other skin-loving vitamins such as A and E can be better absorbed into the skin. Omega fatty acids 3 and 6 can even help to protect your skin from sun damage, keeping your skin younger for longer.
For the sake of comparison, it’s generally thought that the bad fats are saturated fats and trans fats. However, saturated fat found in keto-friendly foods such as butter, ghee, cream and coconut oil shouldn’t be feared. They’re not necessarily going to affect your skin, but they’re great sources of natural fat for getting those keto macro ratios where they should be. Eat them in moderation, aiming to keep polyunsaturated fats on the top tier of your keto diet.
It’s really the trans fats which you should be wary of, as they are heavily processed for cheap and accessible consumption by big companies. The good news is that trans fats are found mostly in foods which are out-of-bounds on keto, such as high-processed baked goods, pizzas and fast food. Just be wary of margarines or non-butter spreads and stick to the “real stuff”. A diet high in trans fats often has a negative effect on the skin, resulting in too much oil production, blocked pores, acne and an overall unbalanced feel and appearance.
- Stick to polyunsaturated fat sources such as oily fish, seeds, nuts, olive oil and avocados for omega 3 and 6
- Omegas 3 and 6 keep the skin hydrated, plump, glowing and balanced
- You could choose a keto supplement with added fatty acids to boost your intake even further
- Eat natural saturated fats such as full-fat dairy, butter and coconut oil
- Avoid trans fats which are found in heavily processed and fast foods
- Eat fats which come in their natural source (i.e. none or very little processing)
- Think of healthy fats as a skin moisturizer from the inside out
What does the sugar and carb ban do?
It won’t be a shock to you to read that refined sugars and carbohydrates can cause our skin to go a little off the wall. A diet full of sugary foods and refined carbs can cause our skin to be dull, slack and often blemished.
Inflammation is the real issue here. Refined sugars and carbs increase the level of inflammation in our bodies, which over time, can lead to heart disease and diabetes. But it also shows up in our skin by way of redness, acne, dryness, scaliness and even soreness. Long-term inflammation can even stop our skin from effectively producing enough collagen, and you know that that means…lines and wrinkles. In saying that, make sure your fat choices on the keto diet are the right ones, as too much “bad” fat can also increase inflammation. It’s a very fine line isn’t it?!
- Refined carbs and sugars increase inflammation
- Inflammation can affect the skin with symptoms such as acne, redness, lines, dullness, dryness and overall discomfort
- Refined carbs and sugars can affect gut health which affects skin condition
Other skin-friendly nutrients found in keto foods
Biotin: avocado, egg yolks, salmon, nuts and seeds are all great sources of biotin. You may recognize the name from skin and hair supplements, as it’s one of the best vitamins to nourish your skin and hair. The keto diet favors biotin-rich foods, another reason why the keto diet might give you the best skin of your life.
Water: lots of leafy greens and low-carb veggies such as cucumber and lettuce means lots of hydration. Proper hydration, through food as well as water is great for the skin as it keeps it supple, hydrated and “bouncing back”.
Antioxidants: veggies with bold green (spinach), yellow (yellow bell peppers) and purple (blueberries and red cabbage) colors are filled with various antioxidants. Antioxidants protect the skin and fight the visible signs of aging.
Vitamin C: vitamin C can help the body to produce more hyaluronic acid and collagen, both of which are crucial for impeccable skin. More specifically…young skin, with less fine lines and a plumper look and feel. Not that aging is anything to be worried about, but we must admit it’s nice to enjoy full, radiant skin while we can.
- The best keto-friendly foods are naturally filled with skin-loving nutrients
- Avocadoes, eggs and salmon provide biotin which gives skin and hair lustre
- Low-carb veggies are hydrating which is crucial for healthy skin
- Bright veggies are full of antioxidants which help prevent premature aging
- Leafy and low-carb veggies provide lots of vitamin C which encourages the production of skin-plumping collagen
What are the negative skin side effects?
Keto rash: During ketosis, some people experience what’s called the “keto rash”. You’ll know you have it if you develop an itchy, red rash which grows into worrisome pustules (horrible word!). This is quite rare, but it’s important to be aware of. It’s mostly due to the ketones themselves, which can fire up the blood vessels with inflammation. If you do experience an intense keto rash, see your doctor immediately and seriously consider if the ketogenic diet is for you.
Breakouts: some people do find that the change in their diet and the increase in fats does cause their skin to breakout for a period of time, often before clearing up. If you’re focusing on healthy fats you should avoid this to some extent.
So...will keto fix my skin?
To be annoyingly on-the-fence, I can’t give a definitive answer, because everyone is different. Skin is very susceptible to hormonal changes, and some people struggle with this more than others. This is most relevant to us girls, as our birth control pills, time of the month and general hormonal fluctuation can take us on a skin rollercoaster. I can attest to the fact that the healthiest diet in the world can’t always stand up to the skin-ruining wrath of hormonal changes.
In saying that…the ketogenic diet may really help your body to reduce inflammation, balance out healthy oil production, and increase hydration.
- The keto diet can cause some people to have initial skin upsets such as redness and potentially a breakout
- The added healthy fats, nutrient-dense veggies and hydration can balance out oil production and plump the skin with ample hydration
- The increase in vitamins and antioxidants thanks to abundant fresh veggies supports the skin at cell level
- The elimination of inflammation-causing sugars, processed carbs and trans fats can calm the skin and reduce redness and out-of-whack oil production
- Everyone is different!
My advice is this: if you are really worried about your skin, see your doctor and tell them you’re considering the keto diet. They’ll likely tell you that it’s a great idea as long as you’re choosing the right fats with lots of Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids.
If your skin is generally pretty good with the odd breakout or redness, go ahead with keto and see if it makes a difference. There’s not a lot of risk to worry about, but there’s a high chance of some great side effects to look forward to. But as always, do remember that everyone is different, every skin is different, and sometimes it takes a little while for the body to balance out.
Approach your keto diet with this mindset: eat fresh, close-to-the-source foods with lots of healthy fats. Eat piles of low-carb veggies, avocados, a few nuts and seeds, lots of healthy oils, oily fish and full-fat dairy. By sticking to these foods, you will ease into ketosis (provided you track those macs!) and you should find that your skin responds beautifully after any initial shock to the system.
And lastly…stay strong when your skin plays up. It doesn’t diminish your true beauty, nor is it your fault. Do the best you can and keep your head held high!