As someone who has had trouble with acne all my life, the ketogenic diet has really been a Godsend. From around the age of 12 until a few months into my keto diet, I regularly got these big cyst like spots around my chin. (I know that doesn’t sound particularly nice – they don’t look too nice either!).

I never had a lot of little pimples that went away in a few days, no. I would get huge, painful spots that stuck out a mile, were bright red and took around 3 weeks to go – always leaving a little scar.

In my younger days, I tried all the potions and lotions and scrubs and expensive creams. I even went to the doctor and got various medications. None of it worked. If anything, these things seemed to make it worse.

Why the Keto Diet Helped me to Cure my Acne for Good

What I know now is, all my acne troubles were connected to my diet and my hormones. I am particularly sensitive to carbs and sugars. Anytime I fell off the keto wagon in the beginning by eating high carb foods, my skin would rage at me angrily. It became a good motivator to stick with keto!

One of the key things that you’re doing by eating keto, is regulating your insulin response. Chris from Acne Advice for Men says that insulin:

  • Stimulates the growth of skin cells, which block pores
  • Makes skin cells grow faster, making them more likely to block pores
  • Stimulates the growth of keratin-producing cells, which stick skin cells together
  • Stimulates the production of sebum, also blocking pores
  • Weakens the skin’s natural barrier, the acid mantle
  • Stimulates the production of testosterone, which also contributes to all of the above
  • Makes the skin more sensitive to testosterone, increasing its acne-genic effects even further.

Acne is also connected to oxidative damage, over-production of sebum, build up of toxins, auto-immune, issues and PCOS amongst other things. All of which can be helped by eating a whole-foods keto diet.

Initially, in the first couple of months of eating keto, my acne actually got worse. I was really peeved about this, but I knew that this was because my hormones were in the process of balancing themselves out, and I had to give it some time for them to settle.

After the first couple of months, the difference was incredible. At my time of the month, I started to look for the telltale signs of new spots arriving, and it just didn’t happen. My old acne scars continued to fade as they do over time, and my skin got healthier and happier as the months went on.

If anyone is suffering from adult acne, here are the steps I recommend:

1. Of course – eat keto.

But also, I recommend not going too low in carbs for too long. So many acne sufferers have hormonal imbalances, and we women usually need a few carbs to help balance them out. What worked for me was adding some carbs to my evening meal two times a week. I mean, a few carrots or beets, a sweet potato or a small serving of white rice.

2. Stop obsessively washing!

I thought that my skin was producing too much oil and therefore I had to watch more. The opposite was actually true. Once I stopped washing my face so much (and therefore drying it out), my skin stopped producing so much oil. If you wash your face too much, your skin produces more oils to try and balance this out.

3. Moisturise.

Again as per the last point, I actually found that moisturising my skins helped to stop the over-production of oils. Completely contrary to what I used to believe. Find a good, natural moisturiser without any added chemicals.

4. Sweat every day.

Help those pores to stay clean and unblocked by sweating. Exercise, of course, is the best way to sweat. Saunas or facial steams are also great.

5. Make use of good supplements.

The supplements that really helped me are probiotics, DIM, Zinc, Krill Oil and Vitamin C. I won’t go into the benefits of each here as there’s loads of info. out there you can find. But taking this combo really made a difference to me.

6. Drink lots and lots and lots of water!

Water helps you to flush out toxins and keep everything clear.

I hope this is helpful! I’d love to hear from anyone else who has had success with getting rid of acne on the keto diet. Let me know in the comments below!

Framed image linking to ketogenic diet guides and plans

17 thoughts on “The Ketogenic Diet for Acne”

  1. Thank you for posting these wonderful guidelines on keto and acne! I just started my keto journey so I haven’t seen much change in my acne yet (I’m 39). I get it on my jaw line and neck. I have “leaky gut” so I’m hoping the keto diet heals through this diet. I do not eat dairy or eggs (yolks sometimes) but I do eat butter and ghee. Just wondering if dairy is something you omitted in the beginning to help with hormonal imbalances. Also wondering what moisturizers you’ve had luck with:) Did you find that when you added a small amount of carbs, your blood sugar spiked?


    1. Hi Natalie, thanks so much for commenting!
      Honestly I didn’t really cut out dairy… I gave it a go a couple of times but I like it too much! And as it happens I was able to sort my acne out while still eating dairy. I do know, however, that a lot of people find that cutting dairy out really helps with acne.
      As far as moisturizers go, nowadays I use Weleda Skin Food. It’s a pretty thick cream so I only use it once a day max and usually once every couple of days. It smells gorgeous and is completely natural – I get mine from Amazon if you want to check it out. Other than that, I leave well alone!
      And yes to the blood sugar spiking. It goes up and down naturally when you eat anyway, so as long as it comes back down again(!) you’re fine.
      All the best with your keto journey!

  2. Hi.. I’m on Ketogenic diet for almost a month now but my Acne seems to be getting worst , It even Can come out 2 to 3 new acne in one day, is this because I’m now eating saturated fat? And I had greatly reduced My carb in take but do still drink full cream milk which has some small amount of carbs, however I continue with My Ketogenic diet because of the benefit It does bring to me such as loosing weight and more energy. I welcome any comment and advice on what to do about my acne. Thank you!

    1. Hi Inez, this could be for a few reasons. It may be because you are still detoxing/adjusting to this way of eating. In which case keep eating clean and drink plenty of water. You could try some DIM and some probiotics. Supplementing with these 2 things really helped me. If your acne is mostly appearing around your jawline, it could be hormonal. In which case, you may benefit from doing a carb-up once or twice a week. This means adding a small amount of carbs to your evening meal such as a small portion of rice or half a sweet potato. Adding a small amount of carbs can really help to balance hormones. You could also try a course of enemas to really help you to detox. Finally make sure you are getting enough sleep and keeping your stress levels as low as possible – and also that you are eating enough calories. It is very easy to undereat on the keto diet, and this can stress our bodies out and cause hormonal imbalance. I hope this helps, all the best.

      1. I have really been playing with Keto and did a really good job with it for about 2 months then developed some dermatitis and my skin actually feels soooooooooo dry. I am actually in the midst of a break out right now. It’s healed but the spots are super dry and won’t heal. I’m not washing like I was due to the dryness. I was hoping that all these amazing fats would help keep me a little more lubricated in the skin department as it’s the dryness that actually causes the breakouts and dermatitis. Also noticed that MCT oil causes a reaction and so do most coconut products. I’m not a fan of consuming gobs of oils but have been eating a decent amount of ghee, olive oil, whole eggs, chicken thighs, salmon, sardines, avocado, etc. I use Net Carbs and they usually come in around 30 grams but I don’t want to lose weight ….. I’m doing this for autoimmunity and skin specifically. I decided to do carb ups twice a week with sweet potato or butternut squash per the recommendations of Dave Aspery and some other gal who is big in to the CUs. I’m hoping they can help.

        What are your thoughts on hemp oil and macadamia nut oil and should we stay away from nuts in general….??? Thanks for the post and sorry for the winded comment.

        1. Dairy caused my outbreaks. Once I quit dairy the acne on my neck and jawline disappeared. Unfortunately, it’s one more thing to eliminate from your diet. I am able to have small amounts of hard, aged cheese now with no issues:) Maybe try eliminating dairy for a few weeks.✌🏼

  3. New to Keto getting into my 3rd week – keeping carbs low below 20 gms and fats high (butter, ghee, coconut oil, olive oil, limited cheese) with moderate protein. I started breaking out severely on my face with acne and now on my chest, shoulders and back with rash and acne. I am mortified as I have always had flawless skin I would get a pimple here and there usually around my period but that’s it. I am super low in confidence right now despite the fact that I am loosing weight. Also I have been maintaining my regular gym schedule which includes 5 days of crossfit type workouts – I find out now that I should not have been doing this this early in Keto. Could this be the reason? Also my gut health isn’t great either I think my liver is having a hard time digesting all these fats. I am afraid if I increase my carb intake my weight loss will stall and that is the main reason I took to Keto to get those last few extra pounds off. I am 5’1″ and weigh 147 pounds. People around me are asking me to come off my diet since my skin is so bad. Please help!

    1. Hi Mel, I’m so sorry you’re experiencing this. I know how crap it is to lose confidence because of acne issues. You are still really early on in your keto journey and your body will still be adapting at this stage. Here are my thoughts: While you are adjusting to keto, your body is under a bit more stress than usual because it is not getting the carbs that it is used to, and so it is having to work hard to get the energy it needs from fats and also it will be working hard to change its metabolic processes in order to do this. This is why it is often suggested that you decrease workouts in the first few weeks (as heavy workouts also cause stress to the body). I have found that too much stress can cause acne outbreaks. From what I read, this is due to hormonal issues. So my advice would be to cut out your workouts (just go for walks or do yoga – something gentle and revitalising) while you are still adapting. Another thing that can happen is, as your body burns fat, some toxins or excess hormones are released which can cause a bit of an imbalance while you are adapting. I used the supplement called DIM – it is a natural supplement that helps to mop up excess estrogens. It worked really well for me. Also, probiotics to make sure your gut bacteria is balanced. Overall, treat yourself gently over this next few weeks. Drink lots of water, try to get some sun, make sure you are eating plenty of fibre to keep things moving along and above all, do what you can to keep those stress levels (both physically and mentally) as low as possible. Finally, make sure you are getting enough calories in – undereating will stress your body more. Do not do intermittent fasting (or any kind of fasting) right now. Nourish yourself, be gentle with yourself and keto on! Oh, and finally, I understand your reluctance to add more carbs. However, now you have done the first 3 weeks it would be fine to do small carb ups now and then. I’m not talking about ‘cheat meals’ –
      just add a little carbs to an evening meal every now and then (such as half a sweet potato)- this can really help with healing hormonal issues. I hope this helps!

      1. Thank you Joan – I will try this and see how it goes I also forgot to mention that I have Hypothyroidism. I am so keeping my fingers crossed and hope it works out because everyone thinks I am crazy right about now and I am determined to prove to them that Keto works! πŸ™‚ Thank you so much for your support ! I think this page is awesome since I feel Keto affects women differently and we really need some extra help πŸ™‚

        1. Thanks Mel! Ah, if you have hypothyroidism everything I said about keeping stress down is even more important! Plus those carb ups can really help. Wishing you all the best on your journey!

      2. Hi – you can also try adding Collagen Hydrolysate to your diet. Make sure you buy pasture feed only. This is one supplement you can’t skimp on quality as the protein becomes a part of your very being, so you don’t want to be adding hormones and antibiotics. The best on the market is Great Lames Gelatin. This will help heal your gut and improve acne. I’ve had hormonal acne for 20+ years and have just had a breakout after not having any since starting keto eating. Just realised I’ve been forgetting my collagen. It can also help with insomnia and weight loss.
        I hope this helps.
        Lynda, Inspire Me Health Coach

  4. Hi..I’m on keto diet for almost a month.. I’m experiencing cystic acne and terrible hair loss..I’m a diabetic type2 ,hypothyroid,pcod type..I need to lose about 50 pounds.. The only reason I am doing keto is to get off medication for diabetes..reduced dairy n increased intake of vegetables but still it getting worse.I’m 5’4 and weigh 189 lbs..please help πŸ™‚

    1. Hi Kirti, although I am of course not a doctor, it sounds to me like you are having a lot of hormonal issues. If you aren’t already incorporating carb ups into your keto diet I highly recommend this. A small amount of carbs a couple of times a week will help to rebalance your hormones. Also, please avoid intermittent fasting right now. The focus needs to be on balancing and health. Here are a couple of videos from Leanne of Healthful Pursuit that might help: Wishing you all the best, Joan.

  5. I have a question. I was keto for 1 yr and a half and took a break of 1 month. I recently jumped back on the keto wagon 1 month ago and I now have horrible and painful acne all over my face and have started to grow body hair super long and fast too. I plucked my brows 3 days ago and I need to pluck again being that I have always been of very little hair growth even on my legs. I am starting to freak out. Has any females out there experienced this on keto?

  6. I’ve been on Keto for a week.. And weirdly, I seem to be able to eat dairy and not break out. Usually just a teaspoon in my coffee and I’m breaking out all over the place by the next day–for some reason, especially on the tip of my nose to start. Then I get huge ones on my chin. I’ve tried all kinds of dairy (organic, low fat, high fat) and it all breaks me out.:-( I’ve had a few high fat dairy meals this week and *no* breakouts. My skin looks amazing.. I’m kinda stunned. Happily stunned.

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