Yikes. This is a massive contradiction. Keto can help clear your skin. Keto can also give you keto acne.
Wowser. What the heck is going on here?
My friend, imagine you’ve just been invited to a post-COVID wedding.
YAY – people!
You suddenly realise all you own is activewear.
Working from home has transformed your wardrobe 😉
You know activewear is not appropriate for a wedding. Even if it is Lululemon.
You know what’s most appropriate is a dress which is not black or white. Is about knee length or longer and does not outshine the bride.
You also know what’s going to make you feel like ‘you’re worth it’ – is ridiculously different to your mum or auntie or uncle.
Disclaimer – if your uncle’s David Beckham, this may not be true. He loves rocking a tartan skirt/sarong/man dress 😉
Fact is, everybody is different and what makes you feel like a billion dollars will likely make your mum run and hide.
The exact same is true for the keto diet.
A keto diet done in a very specific way is like a perfect wedding outfit.
Yes, it’s true, keto can help clear your skin.
However, keto done the common way is like turning up at your best friend’s wedding in a white mini skirt and crop top.
Yes, it’s also true, keto acne is real and the ketogenic diet can also be a sole cause of acne.
I’m about to share 3 of the most common reasons why you might right now be experiencing keto acne or a keto caused acne flare. Ready to find them out? Let’s get to this…
Can Keto Help Acne? Does Keto Make Acne Worse?
First stop. The number one reason why keto can be helpful for acne is because a keto diet is automatically low carb.
The result – your blood sugar levels are becoming steady as a rock.
Protein and fat keep your body’s blood sugar looking like a lazy river.
Simple carbs get your blood sugar looking like the world’s tallest rollercoaster (456 feet btw, and you’ll get up to 128mph, wowser).
Diets high in simple carbs are linked to causing acne because they provoke insulin and insulin-like-growth-factor-1 (IGF-1) release.
These two hormones are linked to;
- Oily skin
- Large pores
Which means keto can help clear acne. Because on a keto diet you’re not eating so many carbs. Your blood sugar is steady as a rock and therefore your body isn’t releasing as much insulin and IGF-1.
But this is not the end of our story.
Because for most people, a keto diet causes acne or makes existing acne worse.
It’s not what you do, it’s how you do it 🙂
3 Highly Probable Reasons Why You Have Keto Acne
Are you ready for these? Please, please keep in mind this is the tip of the iceberg. These 3 reasons for keto acne are not the only reasons why you could be getting breakouts on keto. They are 3 of the most common. I’m so looking forward to helping you identify your acne triggers, if these don’t ring the bell for you, come work with me in the Acne Clinic.
1) Keto Acne Caused By High-Calorie Diet
Here’s a crazy fact for you. Reducing the number of calories you’re eating in a day – can make acne better.
Please, please don’t do this if you don’t need to lose weight. I’m explaining the science of why this works and there are super healthy ways you can hack it if your BMI is optimal.
Reducing the number of calories works because as you feed your body fewer calories, your skin makes less sebum.
And because unbalanced sebum is a key cause of acne, as your skin starts making less sebum, your skin gets clear.
Thing is on the keto diet it’s super normal to start eating way more calories than you did before (and to lose weight by doing it).
High-calorie diets done the common way can cause acne, breakouts and pimples.
That’s because high-calorie diets open new doors in your body’s biology. Specifically, a door called mTORC-1.
This door senses how much energy you’re giving your body.
If you’re not giving your body a lot, it’s closed and your body won’t grow and thrive.
If you give your body a truckload, mTORC-1 opens and your body goes into hyper mode. It’s super excited. It makes things grow, makes things repair, makes, makes, makes and keeps on making.
This is troublesome for acne-prone skin because, in addition to unbalanced sebum, acne is also caused by something called hyperkeratosis.
An overgrowing of skin cells inside your pores.
This is pore-clogging central.
This is keto acne.
How do you get rid of keto acne? Don’t go crazy on the high-calorie foods and make sure you have a really great amount of nutrient-packed, low carb veggies. For inspiration get a free copy of my acne diet cheatsheet – click here to get it now.
2) Keto Acne Caused By High Leucine Content
Aka you’re going meat crazy. There’s meat for breakfast, dinner and lunch. Meat is the biggest part of every plate you have. There’s turkey bacon for breakfast, mincemeat for lunch and a steak for dinner.
If you switched to a keto diet for acne and you’ve gone hardcore on protein, your acne is super likely to start getting worse. And this isn’t one of those situations where acne gets worse before it gets better.
Recent studies show high protein diets, specifically diets which are high in an amino acid called leucine – psst – protein is just a bunch of amino acids strung together – also activate and open your body’s mTORC-1 doorway.
Leucine gets its foot in the door and kicks mTORC-1 wide open. Think of it like a bailiff.
As mTORC-1 gets hooked up to a Leucine drip your body;
- Starts making more unbalanced sebum
- Starts making more skin cells – aka your pores get clogged by hyperkeratosis
- Your skin becomes super prone to acne or your acne gets worse, way worse
How do you get rid of keto acne? Did you know vegan keto is a thing? You don’t need to go vegan but the fact you can be vegan and get your body into ketosis proves you don’t need a truckload of meat to go keto. In fact, if you’re experiencing keto acne, you should be having meat in moderation. Don’t worry if this is all feeling a bit overwhelming, I’ll be talking you through your best diet for acne inside the Acne Clinic.
3) Keto Acne Caused By Acidic Pee
Here’s the dealiO my friend. Ketones are an acid.
Which is why ketogenic diets can increase the acidity of your pee.
And the quality of your pee matters when it comes to acne.
Low-carbohydrate, ketogenic diets cause mild, subclinical systemic acidosis.The Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness, 04 Apr 2018, 59(4):600-607
Here’s a fact not many people know about.
When your pee gets more acidic, your body reabsorbs more of its urine. Or specifically, certain compounds your body planned to get rid of now end up reabsorbing.
Your urine’s pH on a common keto diet starts to drop quickly after starting keto. That study I quoted from above shows urine pH going from an average of 6.3 down to 5.9 after just 4 days of a low carb diet.
Psst – If you’re on a high meat keto diet, your pee might be getting even more acidic, that’s because us scientists know;
Acidic urine is also associated with the ingestion of large amounts of meat.W.B. Saunders, 2011, Pages 21-41, ISBN 9781416066408
So what does acidic pee have to do with keto acne?
Imagine if you wanted to get rid of something. Say you’re cooking dinner, you open a pack of chicken and you throw the packaging into your bin. With the turkey now cooking you go wash your hands to get that gross raw meat juice off. It’s bad for you and you definitely don’t want food poisoning.
You’re adding in a delicious homemade satay sauce, you can smell the peanutty goodness and it’s making your mouth water. When BOOM. Your rubbish bin burps and out flies the chicken packet with raw meat juice. It lands in your pan.
The plastic melts. The raw meat juice contaminates your just finished Satay and you’re completely confused how and why your bin just burped.
This is like having acidic pee, or a pee pH that’s different from your normal.
See, urine is like your body’s bin. Urine gets rid of stuff your body doesn’t want.
Urine can also get rid of bad stuff aka toxins – yikes I hate that word, gets such a woo-woo reputation.
Here’s the deal. If your body starts reabsorbing something it’s sensitive to i.e. salicylates which low pH urine causes your body to reabsorb – your body’s inflammation burden increases and because acne is an inflammatory skin condition – boom – acne gets worse.
Acidic pee makes your body reabsorb waste it wants to get rid of.
It’s also a sign your body is in acidosis and acidosis increases inflammation.
Essentially you’ve just entered an inflammation storm. You’re seeing this inflammation storm as keto acne.
How do you get rid of keto acne? Meat is a number one cause of acidic pee. Which is likely the reason why being vegetarian is associated with less acidic pee. Cut down your meat consumption and you could find your keto acne cure. Psst – download my free acne diet cheatsheet for inspiration on what to eat instead – click here to get it now.
There you have it my friend. 3 reasons why a ketogenic diet can give you keto acne. Remember it’s not what you do it’s how you do it 🙂 Now tell me in the comments below did you go keto to help your acne? Or did you get acne after starting keto?
And as always If you have a friend in need of acne help. Please, please use that green sharing button below to send this blog to them with love. It could be the aHA! to make all the difference. You are the best.
Cheryl Woodman is a scientist & award winning skincare formulator who’s more friend next door than bow tie wearing professor. As creator of Honesty For Your Skin her aim is to help you care for your skin in the best ways possible. She’s founder of the natural & fragrance free skincare brand Honesty while also hosting 1 to 1 skincare coaching to help you get your best skin yet. Find out more here.