The keto (or ketogenic) diet is a high-fat and low-carb dietary plan. It’s followed religiously to reap the rewards by those on the diet. Unfortunately, this means some unwanted side effects can occur. This is the same with any major dietary change.
The keto rash is a typical itchy, red rash that appears on your upper body. This form of dermatitis is a rare side effect that’s most common in young Japanese and other Asian women. But that doesn’t mean everyone else is safe from it—anyone can have this inflammatory condition.
We’ll take you through the symptoms, causes and treatment for the keto rash. We’ll also share with you how to prevent it.
Table of Contents
Keto Rash Symptoms
The formal name for the keto rash is prurigo pigmentosa. It’s a rare condition with few, but distressing symptoms.
- A red, itchy rash—it occurs mainly on the chest, upper back and abdomen.
- Red spots in a web-like formation—these spots are called papules.
- A brown pattern left on the skin after the papules are gone.
If these symptoms appear when you’re not following the keto diet, it most likely isn’t the keto rash.
Keto Rash Causes
At this point in time, the research linking the keto diet to the rash is not vast. There’s enough evidence to indicate the two correlate, but not enough to reveal the exact cause.
There may be a link between the keto rash and other conditions. These include:
Meaning if you have one of these conditions, there may be a more significant risk of developing the keto rash.
As well as these links, being in ketosis is associated with the keto rash. So it isn’t shocking that the rash occurs in people following the keto diet.
Ketosis is when the body is running on ketone bodies from fat for energy instead of carbs. In keto, you strive to be on ketosis for its enhanced fat-burning properties. Any extreme low-carb diet can put you in this state.
The point is, ketosis is present in many instances of the rash. However, external factors may make it worse, including:
- Excessive heat.
- Skin trauma.
People on diets often exercise—which can cause all but one of the above. Is it so shocking that the rash is further linked to keto through those?
Keto Rash Treatment
Luckily, there are quite a few treatments for this nasty rash.
Bring Back Carbs
One study shows that reintroducing carbs into the diet eased the symptoms of keto rash. Not only does this further link the rash to keto, but hints that a lack of carbs is a factor in its formation.
Fix Nutrient Deficiencies
In the early days of following the keto diet, people may feel fatigued, experience brain fog or electrolyte imbalances. This isn’t shocking, as the diet is incredibly restrictive.
When eating in this manner, you could be depriving your body of the nutrients it needs. Especially with keto, in which carbs are a no-go—vegetables are full of carbs, but they’re also full of nutrients.
Meanwhile, skin conditions are linked to vitamin A, B-12 and C deficiencies.
Many of the foods consumed on the keto diet are among common food allergens. If you suspect an allergen causes your rash, do some experimenting to see if one of those foods is the culprit.
Take Anti-Inflammatory Supplements
Rashes are accompanied by inflammation. Several studies have shown supplements, including anti-inflammatory ingredients to improve dermatitis, along with evening primrose oil.
Taking care of your skin can ease the symptoms of irritating skin conditions. The National Eczema Association has some advice on adequate skincare:
- Wash using lukewarm water.
- Use gentle cleansers and soaps.
- Moisturize dry skin.
- Product against cold winds and the hot sun.
Consult a Doctor
Most rashes aren’t life-threatening unless accompanied by other symptoms. You can easily try any of the previous treatments at home.
However, if they fail, consult a physician. There are a handful of medications that can work for clearing up the keto rash.
Keto Rash Outlook
The keto rash is a relatively harmless condition. It’s completely curable and treatable, and the outlook is positive.
After the rash clears up, your biggest issue might be the dark brown marks left behind. These marks will have no symptoms but can be unsightly. Talk to your doctor about further treatment to clear them up.
You can also visit your dermatologist, who’ll be more in tune with skin issues than a general practitioner. Your dermatologist may be able to prescribe a treatment or recommend steps you can take at home to make your marks fade.
If all else fails, you might be able to temporarily cover these marks with makeup if necessary. However, their dark pigment may make this a difficult task.
Keto Rash Prevention
Although nothing is set in stone, it’s possible to prevent the keto rash. It may be rare, but it’s an undesirable condition.
Take these precautions:
- Take it steady: Decrease your carb intake over time, rather than making a sudden lifestyle change. Start with the “bad” carbs (beer, pasta, bread, grains). Follow up with the other carbs, like fruit and vegetables. But be aware, it’s not advisable to cut fruit and vegetables from your diet.
- Take supplements: As you cut out nutrients, you’ll need something to replace them. Take a multivitamin, specific supplements, or consider drinking electrolyte drinks. This video will teach you to make your own beverage at home.
- Ask a doctor for guidance: If any of the side effects of keto concern you, follow this diet under the watchful eye of your doctor or a dietician. It will be safer that way.
- Choose a different diet: Paleo lets you consume whole-food carbs, consider that as an alternative to the keto diet.
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