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Keto Diet and Acne: How Does Low Carb Diet Affect Your Skin?

Keto Diet and Acne: How Does Low Carb Diet Affect Your Skin?

by Olivia Bradford -

Many may come to the keto diet to lose weight and manage hormone levels, but transitioning to a low-carb, high-fat diet is an excellent way to promote healthy and glowing acne-free skin, too!

The best quality topical skincare can only do so much in terms of dermatological health. Vibrant skin is generally the result of a perfect balance of internal wellness and external maintenance, with a supple blemish-free complexion shining through as a measure of success.

If your experiences with blemishes and skin irritation have extended beyond puberty, you are likely painfully aware of the challenges and potential embarrassment posed by irritated skin.

Similar to weight management and fitness, a multi-prong approach to maintaining glowing skin is best. Food quality and making low-glycemic choices, along with living an active lifestyle, are excellent ways to clear or keep beautiful skin.

Plus, spoiler alert: cutting carbs and eliminating overt sugars from your diet is an excellent way to promote healthy and supple skin, as well.

Dermatological health is nuanced and comprises many genetic and lifestyle components. As we look at skin health benefits associated with eating a ketogenic diet, we'll cover the following:

  • Common causes of acne
  • The significant role insulin stability plays in dermatological health
  • How eating keto benefits skin
  • The best low-carb foods to enjoy to encourage the perfect complexion

Grab a tall chilled glass of water, and let's discuss the many benefits the keto diet has on the quality of our skin.

We get that many are willing to go to great lengths to clear their complexion. From facials to skin masks and creams to cleanses and fasts—people are often ready to go the extra mile to improve their appearance.

What Causes Acne

The combination of the overproduction of sebum and inflammation acts as a dastardly duo to set you up for breakouts and blemishes.

But aside from the hormonal and free radical activity in the body causing breakouts and chronic skin conditions, other factors within our control either contribute to or prevent troubled skin.


If we look to the core root of disease, we'll find inflammation. And while once thought to play a minor role in acne formation and proliferation, inflammation is now considered a primary contributing factor in all stages of acne pathogenesis.

While some ponder the chicken-or-the-egg dilemma of whether inflammation causes acne or the presence of acne bears as evidence of the existence of inflammation—whichever the case, what's clear is that acne and inflammation often co-mingle.

The Role of Sugar and Carbs in Skin Inflammation

Sugar is a pest. It causes wild insulin and glucose fluctuations, wreaks havoc with our hormones, and creates intense food cravings that often lead to overeating and being overweight.

Plus, along with widening your waistline, sugar can do a job on skin health—causing inflammatory flares and chronic breakouts.

Excess Androgen Hormones

While androgen hormones play a valuable role when regulated, they may lead to clogged pores in excess, causing the overproduction of sebum.

Production of the oily, waxy substance produced by your sebaceous glands is excellent to lubricate and protect your skin from moisture loss, but in excess, it can lead to breakouts.

The vital role of excessive androgen hormones in the creation of acne is also quite evident during puberty—when hormones are often fluctuating and raging—and is often a side effect experienced by those suffering from PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome).

Insulin and Insulin-Like Growth Factor

Two hormones that help control blood sugar are involved in acne progression: insulin and insulin-like growth factor.

Elevated blood sugar causes insulin secreted to shuttle excess glucose from the blood and into your cells. The rub is, excess insulin also increases your levels of insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1) and androgen hormones—which agitate the skin and promotes acne.

Like the androgens, IGF-1 increases sebum production in your body, which creates a ripe environment for the development of acne. Plus, IGF-1 can also trigger inflammation—further increasing the likelihood of acne progression.

Ways A Ketogenic Diet Can Prevent Acne

Each element that contributes to the progression of acne intersect at the junction of elevated or unregulated blood sugar and insulin levels.

The revelation of this cornerstone element of healthy or plagued skin is exciting news for anyone eating a ketogenic diet because the protocol is perfect for bringing blood sugar perfectly into balance.

Plus, your body begins to operate on ketones as you eliminate carbs and sugars, which activate numerous pathways in the body that support vibrant and supple skin.

Also, here are some more ways that lowered blood sugar helps support clear skin:

  1. Lowers Glycemic Load: Preliminary studies indicate that acne diminishes when one’s glycemic load is reduced, which generally results in less inflammation and shrunken oil glands—a boost to skin health.
  2. Regulated Androgen Levels: As we mentioned, androgen hormones directly impact skin clarity and overall health. Lowering sugar and carbohydrate intake naturally balances androgen levels in the body, further supporting stable glucose and insulin levels throughout the day.
  3. Decreases in Insulin and Insulin-like Growth Factor: Insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) is a hormone that operates as the primary regulator of growth hormone (GH)-stimulated somatic growth and is a mediator of GH-independent anabolic activity in several cells and tissues—a vital key to dermatological health.
  4. Lowered Inflammation: Reducing sugar and high-glycemic foods is a fantastic way to eliminate inflammation. Couple curbing carbs with further incorporating antioxidant-rich, alkaline foods in your diet, and you've got a multi-prong approach to keto that's perfect for promoting a clear and radiant complexion.

Keto Foods And Supplements That Help With Acne

  • Omega-3 Fatty Acids: In addition to the essential fatty acids in Omega-3 fish oil benefiting skin by soothing your body's inflammatory response to excess sebum and bacteria production, they help directly regulate hormones affecting skin health, as well.

    You'll look your youthful, fresh-faced best—even without makeup—if consumed daily.

  • Green Tea: Several studies indicate that applying green tea directly to the skin may help with acne thanks to its epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG) content, which hinders sebum production, fights inflammation, and inhibits new instances of acne in individuals with acne-prone skin.
  • Turmeric: Ever cherished for its reparative and soothing properties: turmeric is an excellent ingredient to add to your low-carb arsenal as its calming effect benefits skin health along with helping to reduce scarring.

    Plus, mix a face mask including turmeric and honey—you're not eating it, so it's keto—and notice your complexion clear up and become free of pesky breakouts in no time.

  • Bitter Melon: Also known as bitter gourd, this medicinal fruit treats skin disorders like psoriasis, itching, ringworm, and other fungal infections. Plus, bitter melon is perfectly poised to prevent acne, thanks to its abundant antioxidative properties.

Keto Recipes That Support Healthy Skin

Nutrition plays such a significant role in the quality and health of our skin, and a diet rich in the minerals and vitamins mentioned helps us look our very best.

Plus, adding supplements to your lifestyle provides extra insurance, especially during seasons when your diet is less than on-point. Still, we can also support a brilliant appearance one meal at a time.

Here are some keto-friendly favorites to try that contain all the antioxidant-rich foods your skin loves and much less of the carbs and sugars that may stand in the way of progress:

  • Keto Cajun Parmesan Salmon is a perfect dish for nights when you want something simple, filling, and brimming with skin-nourishing omega-3 fatty acids to satiate your palate and hearty appetite.
  • Enjoy a Keto Cobb Salad Bowl and delight in a rainbow of colors, tastes, and health benefits. This dish will keep you satisfied and feeling fine, from the fatty and fabulous avocado to the protein-packed chicken and eggs and the lycopene-rich tomatoes; it's the complete culinary package!
  • Keto Pumpkin and Walnut Bread is a delicious treat to enjoy any time of day. Plus, pumpkins are an excellent source of vitamin C, a potent antioxidant that provides beta-carotene, which helps reverse UV damage and improves skin texture!
  • Our So Kimchi Salad is the perfect side but can stand alone as a gut-healthy entrée, as well. Plus, it’s benefits to digestive help keep the body regularly processing and eliminating waste to aid in skin health.
  • Avocado Keto Chocolate Pudding is a decadent dessert (or breakfast option, it's that healthy!). Plus, the premium quality fat and antioxidants in both chocolate and avocado are your skin's best friends.
  • Consuming large amounts of dark leafy greens is always advisable to improve health and wellness, and doing so also provides another perk: flawless skin!

    Try our delicious and highly nutritious Konscious Keto Strawberry Green Goddess Smoothie for a hearty dose of antioxidants to support the optimal health of your skin.

  • Chia seeds are tiny yet incredibly powerful. These potent seeds provide significant amounts of fiber and omega-3 fatty acids, plus plenty of high-quality protein, and various essential minerals and antioxidants—all excellent skin-boosting elements.
  • Talk of returning to school may be swirling in social circles, but we can capture the last days of summer with a flavorful barbeque. Hold the traditional bun for your burger and swap in an Amazingly Avocado Keto Bun, instead.

    The healthy fats will keep your skin glowing into fall and beyond.

Also, some foods are notorious for keeping blemishes and acne at bay. Here are a few of our beloved low-carb selections to keep in stock in your fridge and pantry:

  • Leafy greens like spinach, kale and collard greens are abundant in phytonutrients that are wonderful for the healthy progression of hair, skin, and nails. Keep them around fresh, frozen, or canned to add an extra boost of skin-nourishing ingredients to any meal.
  • Hydrating veggies like cucumber and cruciferous, fibrous, selections like cauliflower help to keep skin plump and our digestive system running optimally.

    Plus the incredibly versatile cauliflower is a keto-dieter’s ally when recreating high-carb fare like pizza crusts and creamy mash—it helps create the ideal texture and likeness of traditional iterations.

  • Animal-derived foods like meat and dairy can prove particularly inflammatory for some. Consider swapping in more plant-based fats like avocado, coconut oil, and olive oil to boost fat intake without promoting a damaging oxidative effect.
  • Fatty fish like salmon, sardines, and mackerel are brimming with healthy omega-3 fatty acids to balance the omega-6 acids in your diets and act as a lubricant to maintain moisture in the skin.

The many factors we’ve shared can all contribute to problematic skin, and having tools to mitigate that possibility are incredibly helpful and encouraging. However, we would be remiss if we didn’t mention that the period of transitioning to ketosis (a.k.a., fat adaptation) can present hormonal fluctuations that may cause breakouts.

Along with fatigue, brain fog, and a slew of other less-than-optimal but temporary side effects of the body converting to running on ketones and fat instead of sugars for fuel can trigger what’s known as the ‘keto flu’.

Again, although some may experience a few bumps—literally—along the road to fat-adaptation, the transitionary period is often brief and we can lessen its effects with the aid of optimal nutrition, hydration, and rest.

If you’re about to embark on the ketogenic diet or are primed for a reboot, consider the tips we provide dedicated to lessening or avoiding the effects of this sometimes bumpy phase, here.

Plus, if you’re finding your current roster of low-carb recipes a little lackluster or in need of spicing up, consider taking our 30-second quiz to instantly access a personalized keto meal plan for weight loss to get you refocused and on-track toward your wellness goals.


Our skin is such an important part of our identity since our face is the first—and in the day of endless Zoom meetings—maybe the majority of what others see when interacting. With our faces and eye area on full display in this day and age, the upkeep of our skin to help us look and feel our best is at an all-time premium.

Topical remedies are a fantastic element to any healthy skincare regimen, but creating a healthy environment to foster and support radiant skin from the inside out is the major goal.

Focus on eating whole foods, organic and grass-fed and finished when possible. And consider a more plant-centered diet to reduce the consumption of foods that may increase inflammation and trigger pesky breakouts.

Also, remember that water—whether plain, seltzer, or coconut—all provide loads of essential hydration that keeps all systems well primed and able to function properly. Plus, adding more hydration into your daily routine is vital on a ketogenic diet since fluids, along with minerals and vitamins, are more readily released from the body and require frequent replenishments to keep the body balanced.

Follow any or all the tips shared, enjoy the recipes included, and grab a chilled tall glass of water to feed your skin—your body’s largest organ—and raise a toast to your renewed and improved flawless complexion journey, made possible with the help of the mighty marvel of metabolic ketosis.


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  • DeWeerdt, S. (2018). The edible skincare diet. Nature, 563(7732).
  • Ansari, S., Fatima, S., & Fahamiya, N. (2019). Low carb diet outranked a low fat diet in weight loss. Middle East Journal of Rehabilitation and Health Studies, 6(4).
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