Everything about keto sounds too good to be true!
But this high-fat, low-carb diet is a really effective way to lose body fat and become leaner.
However, a diet as restrictive as the ketogenic diet is bound to impact how your skin looks as well.
Champions of the diet claim that, when done properly, it can leave your skin looking clearer and smoother - and that keto:
- Reduces wrinkles and fine lines
- Improves acne
- Gets rid of dryness
- Regulates oil production
- And leaves thinning hair looking stronger and thicker too.
But how true is that?
Keep scrolling for the pros and cons of the keto diet, how it works, and the effects (good and bad) it can have on your skin – plus some tips to keep your skin looking healthy on the ketogenic diet.
The ketogenic diet is full of healthy fatty acids – like omega-3’s – that can improve your skin, your hair and your nails
Keto's strict high-fat low-carb regime is one of the most popular diets out there. Mainly because it promotes effective weight loss - coupled with lower hunger levels.
But ‘you are what you eat’ and any dietary changes have an impact on your complexion - as well as your waistline.
Although it seems counter-intuitive, a diet that encourages you to eat more fats and fewer carbohydrates can actually help improve acne symptoms, regulate oil production, reduce inflammation, and promote anti-aging effects.
But there’s a caveat…
You need to increase uptake of the right fats - and cut back on the worst carbs.
What is the keto diet? And why is it so popular?
A ketogenic diet trains your body to burn fat (rather than carbohydrates).
It’s based on putting your body into ketosis.
This is a natural process that your body initiates when there aren’t enough carbs, so it has to burn fat for energy instead.
The diet focuses on what you’re eating – more fats and less carbs - rather than restricting calories. So you can lose weight with little hunger compared to other diets.
But it’s only meant to be used as a temporary measure to get your body fat down. Two to four weeks is about all you should do.
Keto-friendly foods that are good for your skin
What foods can you eat on a ketogenic diet?
The ideal keto diet consists of roughly 70-80% fat, 15-25% protein, and only 5% carbohydrates.
By limiting the carbohydrates to just 5%, the diet makes fat your go-to energy source.
Here’s a general guideline of the foods you can eat on a keto diet:
- Protein - red meat, fatty fish (like salmon), poultry, eggs
- Dairy products like butter, cream and cheese
- High-fat foods like bacon and avocado - along with healthy oils (olive oil, avocado oil, coconut oil)
- Leafy green vegetables (broccoli, kale, spinach)
- Non-starchy vegetables (peppers, mushrooms, tomatoes, and cauliflower)
- Nuts and seeds
And the things to avoid:
- Sugar (refined sugar, corn syrup, maple syrup)
- Grains (wheat, corn, rice)
- Fruit juice and most fruits (oranges, bananas)
- Beans and legumes
- Starchy vegetables like potatoes, squash, beets, and carrots
- ALL processed foods
You can find a complete list here – "Ketogenic Diet Food List: Everything You Need to Know".
But how does this high-fat low-carb intake affect your skin’s appearance?
Is the ketogenic diet good or bad for your skin?
As well as losing weight, a lot of people who commit to the keto diet find their skin looks smoother and more youthful - and once thinning hair becomes shiny and strong again.
And indeed there are several studies linking the keto diet with overall skin health and an improvement of acne symptoms.
BUT these improvements rely on you increasing uptake of healthy fats - and cutting back on simple carbs and sugars.
Here’s a closer look at the positive (and negative) effects that the keto diet can have on the way you look…
➕ High fat content improves your skin, hair and nails
- Softer, smoother skin
- Shinier, thicker hair
- Stronger, healthier nails
➕ Reduces symptoms of acne
Despite the high oil and fat content of the keto diet many guys report an improvement in acne symptoms when following it.
And medical research seems to bear this out.
Several studies have shown that eating fewer carbs and more fats reduces the frequency of acne breakouts.
This is down to the anti-inflammatory effect of keto which regulates sebum production, unclogs pores and reduces inflammation and redness.
You should avoid too much dairy as this can trigger acne symptoms in some people.
If you’re already prone to acne then stick to fats found in fish, meat and eggs rather than those found in cream, butter and cheese.
➕ Smooths wrinkles and fine lines
Because a ketogenic diet is very low in simple carbohydrates and refined sugars it reduces blood sugar levels.
It’s the excess sugar in your diet that leads to a process called glycation. This weakens collagen and causes wrinkles, fine lines, and sagging skin.
Adopting any low-carb, low-sugar diet reduces glycation and helps your skin appear smoother, younger and more radiant.
In addition, many of the foods included in a keto diet encourage collagen production.
Collagen is the protein that forms the structure of your skin, keeping it firm and wrinkle-free.
The omega 3 fatty acids, healthy fats, and collagen content of foods like fish, chicken, eggs, and avocados, all help to strengthen the skin’s collagen – slowing down the aging process and leaving your skin feeling smooth and looking more radiant.
➕ Consumption of skin boosting foods
The keto diet is packed with foods that are rich in nutrients and have high levels of skin-enhancing anti-oxidants and vitamins.
These are essential for maintaining glowing, healthy skin and preventing damage from environmental factors like UV rays.
Foods such as:
- Leafy greens like spinach, broccoli and kale
- Plant-based fats like avocado, coconut oil, and olive oil
- Fatty fish like salmon, sardines, and mackerel
all promote healthy skin cell production and make up a big part of the keto diet.
(You can find a full list of the most beneficial foods for your skin here - "An A-Z of the Best Anti Aging Foods for Men").
But it’s worth pointing out the negatives of this diet too…
➖ Eating the wrong type of fat can lead to breakouts
Not all fats are created equal.
And you need to steer clear of eating saturated fats and processed foods when you’re following the keto diet.
But as long as you avoid foods fried in hydrogenated oil and the trans fats found in processed foods, you can get a healthy glow without an oily shine and pimples.
➖ Too much dairy can trigger acne in some people
Some men find that eating too much fat from dairy products can cause acne breakouts on their skin.
And several studies have linked foods that are high in lactose to an increase in acne.
So try to avoid foods like cream, butter and cheese.
And instead focus your fat intake on the fats found in fish, meat, and eggs to avoid provoking a reaction.
➖ Keto rash
Prurigo pigmentosa – or “keto rash” – is a type of inflammatory dermatosis. And it’s a rare side effect that can occur in the early stages of ketosis.
Skin can become irritated and itchy. These rashes usually affect the upper half of the body, rather than your face.
It’s unclear exactly what causes this, and most people on the keto diet won’t experience keto rash.
But if you do start to develop an itchy rash, avoid touching the affected areas, keep your skin hydrated, and speak to your dermatologist about a topical antibiotic cream.
“Keto light” could be the answer
A strict ketogenic regime isn’t for the faint hearted, but you can become leaner (and get the same skin benefits) by adopting a “keto light” approach.
Try making some simpler dietary changes, such as:
- favouring healthy fats and protein (like fatty fish, chicken and plant-based oils)
- avoiding highly saturated fats (like fatty meats, such as pork) and processed foods
- cutting down on simple carbs and excess sugar (like white bread, white pasta, rice, cookies, and cake)
- making sure you’re drinking enough water
Tips to keep your skin looking healthy whatever your diet
Adopting these essential healthy lifestyle habits will make sure that you’re always looking your best.
- Get enough sleep
- Exercise for 30 minutes a day (ideally a combination of cardio and strength training)
- Clean and gently exfoliate your face every day
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- Keep your skin hydrated and smooth
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The ketogenic diet is a really effective way of becoming leaner.
And this high-fat, low-carb diet can give you:
- Clearer, smoother skin
- Shinier, thicker hair
- Stronger, healthier nails
But you must include lots of healthy fats and nutrient rich vegetables - and avoid processed foods, simple carbohydrates and excess sugar.
And for maximum skin benefits complement this with drinking plenty of water, getting enough sleep and exercising every day – along with an excellent daily skincare routine of course!
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