While the keto diet can help you lose weight, it can also cause some uncomfortable side effects like keto rash.
Before we dive into what the keto rash is, how it’s caused, and how to remedy it, it should be noted that this is one of the rarer side effects of the keto diet and doesn’t happen very often at all.
Many scientifically refer to keto rash as “prurigo pigmentosa,” though whether or not keto rash is the exact same exact thing as prurigo pigmentosa is not fundamentally known for certain.
That said, the literature that’s out there seems to refer to them as the same skin condition.
Symptoms of Rash on Keto Diet
Keto rash usually presents itself as redness on the skin, as well a sensation of itchiness.
It is the inflammation of the skin whereby a red, itchy rash can appear, more commonly around the neck, chest, back, shoulders, and armpits.
Usually, the rash appears – or gets worse – around the areas of the body where we usually sweat the most.
A keto rash looks somewhat like eczema and dermatitis and typically develops in a symmetrical pattern and a net-like fashion.
Other symptoms of keto rash include “papsules” (or red spots) that leave behind a brown pattern after the initial red spots go away.
As far as how long a keto rash lasts, there is no hard-fast rule. It can last as little as a couple of weeks to as long as a few months.
That said, the length of time that the rash can last will depend on what measures were taken – if any – to address to the issue.
What Causes Keto Rash?
Although concrete evidence as to what exactly causes keto rash is still lacking, researchers believe that there is a strong relationship between this type of rash and the state of ketosis.
According to reviews of relevant studies on ketosis and prurigo pigmentosa, several individuals were found to develop the keto rash following a certain amount of time following a strict low-carb diet.
Certain instances of prurigo pigmentosa have been commonly associated with certain types of diets that stimulate the production of ketones.
The rash can also worsen when other conditions are present, such as perspiration, sunlight, heat, allergens, and friction, much like other types of skin rashes.
There is some promise regarding the cause; more specifically, how the rash is associated with a type of ketone known as acetone.
According to some findings, people who follow the keto diet and get this rash usually experience the redness and itching shortly after the state of ketosis is reached.
Further, the rash seems to stop soon after introducing more carbs into the diet and falling out of ketosis.
When the body first enters ketosis, it produces more acetone than it usually does. The acetone is then eliminated from the body through the sweat and breath because it’s useless to the body.
If acetone is excreted through perspiration in an unusually high amount, it may cause some irritation to the skin, therefore causing symptoms that resemble dermatitis.
The excess acetone that is excreted through sweat can cause an inflammatory reaction, as well as itchiness and redness that is common with the keto rash.
In addition to the theory behind acetone acting as a skin irritant, it could also be inflammation around the blood vessels that can stimulate a rash.
Such inflammation can occur when the body is in a state of ketosis and can trigger the rash.
Further, a deficiency in certain nutrients can cause a skin rash.
With the keto diet, there are several types of foods that are eliminated from the diet to achieve a state of ketosis, and such eliminations can lead to a lack of adequate vitamin A, niacin, and omega-3s.
Studies have shown that a deficiency in these nutrients can trigger a rash. Supplementing the diet with these nutrients may help to reverse the symptoms of a skin rash.
It can be assumed that keto rashes are prurigo pigmentosa. But that said, not all situations of prurigo pigmentosa are linked to ketosis.
Further, a keto rash – while uncomfortable – is not a serious condition.
How to Get Rid of Keto Rash?
As uncomfortable and annoying a keto rash can be, there are a few things you can do to alleviate your symptoms.
1. Supplement With the Appropriate Nutrients
A potential cause for the keto rash is a deficiency of certain nutrients.
As such, it would make sense to supplement the diet with these nutrients in order to help resolve any redness and itchiness on the skin that could be caused by the keto diet.
Low levels of vitamin A, vitamin B-12, and vitamin C have been associated with skin conditions.
Since the keto diet is rather restrictive, it can be easy to lack the proper amounts of certain nutrients in the diet.
If getting such nutrients strictly from the diet isn’t enough, then supplementing may be warranted.
2. Avoid Food Allergens
It’s quite possible that some people who experience rash-like symptoms while maintaining a ketogenic lifestyle could actually be experiencing a food sensitivity to certain foods they might be eating on this diet.
The keto diet tends to be high in foods that are known allergens, including fatty fish, eggs, nuts, and dairy.
Food allergens are known to cause inflammation, which can have an impact on the same inflammation that may cause skin flare-ups.
Consider having a test done to detect any foods that you may be sensitive to.
If any of foods come up on the list of items that you may be sensitive to, consider swapping them for other keto-friendly foods.
3. Take Fish Oil Supplements
Fish oil has been shown to reduce inflammation, so taking fish oil supplements – as well as other anti-inflammatory supplements like probiotics and prebiotics – may help to alleviate the symptoms of dermatitis.
4. Protect and Moisturize Your Skin
Dryness and itchiness are common symptoms of the keto rash, so anything you can do to counter these symptoms should be done.
In this case, it may be helpful to use gentle skin cleansers, use creams and lotions to keep the skin moisturized, take lukewarm baths, and apply sunblock when spending any time outdoors.
5. Consider Taking Prescribed Skin Medications
If your efforts to reduce your symptoms of keto rash aren’t effective enough, you may want to consider asking your doctor to prescribe medication to alleviate your discomfort.
Common medications to treat prurigo pigmentosa often include minocycline and doxycycline, which have shown to be effective in treating this skin condition.
It can be frustrating to experience rashes on keto, but don’t fret, it’s a part of the process.
That said, there are precautions and measures you can take to alleviate your symptoms while still enjoying the benefits that the keto diet can bring for your body, your energy levels, and your overall health and well-being.