- Food that you eat can affect your skin. If you eat a diet high in carbs and sugar, then it can increase acne and aging.
- Skin ages two ways, both intrinsic and extrinsic. Intrinsic is based on genetics, whereas, extrinsic is from diet, smoking, etc.
- A keto diet can clear up acne by lowering insulin levels, reducing inflammation, and decreasing IGF-1.
- If you want to reduce aging, choose the keto diet to improve ATP production, which comes from the mitochondria.
- Choose to keep your carbs low (20-30 total carbs or under 20 net carbs) to improve your chance of reducing acne and decrease aging.
- You can incorporate keto-carb cycling or increase your carbs after 30 days if you have no acne eruptions and/or improved skin elasticity.
- Monitor your GKI when doing a keto diet for the skin or for any other reason. It is a more accurate determinant of ketosis. You can read more about that here. A Keto-Mojo device to effectively monitor GKI.
Did you realize that the keto diet can help improve your skin?
So, you have heard about the keto diet from others and how it can help shed weight. You may have even heard how keto is excellent for treating cancer and decreasing inflammation. Did it ever cross your mind that the keto diet can help your skin? Yes! If you have been someone who has been struggling with acne or even premature signs of aging, then turn to the keto diet for relief! You see, choosing the keto diet is more than for weight loss and inflammation. It also can help improve the quality of your skin.
Can the food you eat affect your skin?
Ever heard the expression, “You are what you eat?” Well, this is so true! If you feed your temple, aka your body, with junk, then you will turn into that! Ever notice that people who eat clean always seem to have clear skin? Well, there is something to be said for that. To fully appreciate the value that food has on your appearance, you need to understand certain deficiencies. For example, someone with a B12 deficiency will have skin hyperpigmentation, vitiligo (loss of skin pigmentation), and hair changes 1.
If you are not getting the appropriate nutrition from your food, it will manifest outside in your appearance. When it comes to food, there are no shortcuts. You have to eat healthy to have nice skin. If you are asking, “How will the keto diet help my skin?” then you have come to the right place. I will go through the two ways it can help further below. Before I do that, I am going to give you a brief lesson on skin anatomy.
Low Down on Skin
Before we talk about “Will the keto diet help my skin?” you need to understand some anatomy and how the aging process works. Even though it may not be noticeable, your skin is composed of several layers. On the outside, you see the epidermis; then under that, you have the dermis. Beneath the dermis, you have a subcutaneous fat layer. Each layer has its function, and I will outline each of them.
The epidermis is your skin’s top layer. This layer is super thin on some parts of your body (your eyelids) and thicker on others (the bottoms of your feet)2. The epidermis itself is comprised of several layers. The epidermis is responsible for making new skin cells, giving your skin its color via melanin, and protecting your body 3.
The dermis is the layer underneath the epidermis, and this happens to be an essential layer. The reason for this is because the dermis happens to be made up of collagen and elastin. These two proteins are necessary for your appearance and have a lot to do with aging. Both collagen and elastin form the structural framework for your epidermis. Collagen has many essential functions, including providing your skin with structure and strengthening your bones4. On the other hand, elastin is a crucial extracellular matrix (ECM) protein that provides resilience and elasticity to tissues and organs 5. Elastin is roughly 1000 times more flexible than collagens; thus, the primary function of elastin is the elasticity of tissues 6.
The dermis also is responsible for several other things such as sweat, helping you feel things, growing hair, making oil, and bringing blood back to your skin7.
After the dermis layer, there is a layer of subcutaneous fat which also plays an important role. It is responsible for connecting your skin to your bones and muscles. It also helps to store fat and regulate body temperature8.
Why does my skin age?
Now that I’ve covered some anatomy, I will cover aging before we go over, “How will the keto diet help my skin?” It is essential to understand that two factors will cause you to get those wrinkles when it comes to the aging process. These two factors are referred to as the intrinsic and extrinsic aging processes. I will explain the difference below.
Your genetics mainly determines the intrinsic aging process, so you get to blame mom and dad. It is the aging process in which we can’t change 9. You may notice that over time, your skin will lose some elasticity and wrinkles will appear.
Now that we have defined the intrinsic process, aka the non-modifiable aging process, let me go over the extrinsic factors. These factors have a lot to do with our lifestyle! They are influenced by diet, smoking, poor lifestyle factors, alcohol use, and poor skin practices 10. So, if you eat a diet with a lot of refined sugar and carbohydrates, you may experience premature aging11.
Will the keto diet help my skin?
So, now that we have gone over some anatomy and how the aging process works, I will go through two ways that the keto diet will help!
#1- Helps to clear up acne
Did you realize that the keto diet can be used as an adjunct therapy for acne treatment? Yes! If you are someone who constantly struggles with acne and has tried everything in the book for treatment, then consider, “How will the keto diet help my skin?” The way it works is this. In 2012, Italian researchers discussed the potential of ketogenic diets for acne and included the following12 :
- Lower insulin levels: High insulin levels stimulate the increased production of skin cells, sebum, and androgens, thus setting the stage for acne eruptions. Ketogenic diets will decrease these insulin levels.
- Anti-inflammatory effects: Inflammation leads to acne development. Very low-carb and ketogenic diets have been shown to reduce inflammation.13
- Decrease in IGF-1 (insulin-like growth factor 1): Ketogenic diets decrease levels of IGF-114. Like insulin, IGF-1 increases sebum production and has been found to play a large role in acne15.
#2- Helps prevent and reduce the appearance of aging
If you want to prevent and reduce the appearance of aging, then it is good to learn “how the keto diet will help my skin.” As I explained earlier, aging can be due to two factors: intrinsic and extrinsic. Of course, we can’t change our genetics and reduce the intrinsic factors. However, we do have control over the extrinsic and what we do or put into our bodies. When you choose the keto diet, you are giving your body the best chance to prevent aging. The keto diet will revitalize your mitochondria which will help the aging process.
When you follow a ketogenic diet, your mitochondria incorporate the necessary tools to help energy production ( ATP). Mitochondrial function is impaired with a typical American low-fat, high-carb, highly processed diet. If you eat this way, then the normal metabolic signaling is impaired. A low-fat, high-carb diet will, in turn, damage cellular and mitochondrial DNA and cause a defect in the ability to repair damage from other sources.
Keto diet helps with aging pathways
The ketogenic diet seems to affect many of these aging pathways directly and will help with the aging process. It does this because the keto diet’s high-fat, low-carbohydrate composition reduces glucose utilization and promotes the production of ketone bodies. Ketone bodies are a more efficient energy source than glucose. They improve mitochondrial function and biogenesis, with increased health-span, lifespan, and cellular energy production. 16
It all comes down to ATP.
In many anti-aging circles, ATP stimulation is considered one of the holy grails. If you remember ATP, is produced by mitochondria. So the more ATP, the better! Ketone bodies help increase our ATP production from our mitochondria and can have a profound effect on a number of other aging pathways in a very beneficial manner 17.
How many carbs should you stay under for acne or anti-aging treatment?
If you are new to keto and need it to treat acne or for anti-aging treatment, I would aim to keep your total carbs under 20-30 total grams. You want to start low because you want to give your body the utmost chance of decreasing insulin, inflammation, and IGF-1. By keeping your carbs low, you will go into ketosis faster and reduce your blood sugar. In turn, this will lower your need for insulin and help with inflammation and IGF-1. I would keep your total carbs low for about one month or three weeks to allow your body to get into fat-burning mode, and then after that, you can always increase your carb intake.
Start incorporating more carbs after a month.
For example, let’s say that for one month, you have been keeping your carbs under 30 total carbs, and you are in good ketosis (which is 0.5mmol-1.5 mmol on a Keto-Mojo monitor). You can try going up to 35-40 carbs for a week to see if you can maintain ketosis and keep your face clear. If you stay in ketosis and don’t have any breakouts, increase your carbs to about 45-50 total carbs the following week. I would expand your carbs by 5 to 10 increments per week, but I would not go past 60 total carbs in one day.
If you don’t want to do the above option, then choose keto-carb cycling. This is the option I like the best. This option is very flexible because you can start to incorporate 100-150 total carbs two to three times a week, and then other days, you would keep your total carbs under 20-30 grams. Keto-carb cycling is great because you can focus on intense workouts when you do higher carbs and still maintain ketosis. Let me give you an example of how I do it.
Generally, I will keep my carbs under 20-30 grams total for about four days a week, and then three days a week, I increase my total carbs to around 100-150 grams. On the days that I have higher carbs, I tend to do more intense workouts such as power yoga, Zumba, hiking, etc. When my carbs are lower, around 20-30 grams, I opt for hatha yoga or restorative yoga. You have to figure out what works for you. If you want to read more, then go to my Keto-Carb Cycling article here.
If you notice that you are starting to break out again or seeing signs of aging, you can scale back your carbs to 100-150 total carbs once a week instead of two to three times per week. Maybe you need to limit your carbs for a longer time period before introducing more? You have to play around and find what works for you. If you feel like your skin does better on very low carbs, like approximately 20-30 total carbs (20 net carbs) per day, keep up with that number and rarely increase your carbs. The bottom line is this; you have to do what is best for your skin.
How should I monitor my ketosis?
The best way to monitor ketones is by testing your blood with a Keto-Mojo meter. You can use the urine test strips, but they may not be accurate and can lose validity over time. Another way to check ketones is with a breathalyzer, which would probably be the next best thing after testing your blood ketones. Like testing your urine for ketones, a breathalyzer can be affected by different variables.
Use your GKI to determine ketosis.
When I check my ketones, I also like to check my blood glucose and get a GKI( glucose-ketone index) reading. The GKI helps to tell me if my ketosis is effective. On their own, glucose or ketone readings give you a snapshot of where you are at this exact moment, which means they can be independently influenced by immediate variables, such as stress (which heightens blood glucose) or a fat-rich meal (which elevates ketones). The GKI gives you a better overall view of your metabolic status and state of ketosis because its calculation considers the variables and thus normalizes them, resulting in a more accurate, stable picture of your status 18.
How I monitor my GKI
I like to use my Keto-Mojo meter to monitor my GKI to check the effectiveness of my ketosis. For a GKI calculator, click here. It is of utmost importance to monitor your ketosis for the first week upon the start of your keto diet. After that, you can scale back to 1-2 days a week unless you change something in your diet. As long as you keep your diet consistent and know what you are putting in, your ketosis level will remain. So, if you eat the same you did after the first week, and so forth, you can go to monitoring your ketones 1-2 days a week after the first week.
I also like to record my food in Cronometer to know how many carbs I need to stay under per day. Now, Cronometer does not check total carbs, so you will have to look at those when recording your food. I like to pick the rigorous keto setting (which is 20 net carbs or less)in Cronometer, and then I also make sure that I look at the total carbs(remember you want to keep these between 20-30 total carbs).
How to know if you’re in ketosis
Overall, you will know you are in ketosis when your blood ketone levels fall between 0.5-1.5 mmol/L or more! Also, you will have other signs such as increased energy, less fatigue, and improved brainpower. Symptoms such as headaches, muscle aches, and bad breath can also be signs of ketosis; however, these symptoms do not last and are usually initial signs of detoxification. If you want to learn about a good way to incorporate detoxification, then you can read my article on sauna treatment. A sauna happens to be the best way to detoxify your body.
I am glad you joined me to learn how to improve your skin with the keto diet. Improved skin elasticity and reduced acne are just some of the benefits of the keto diet. There are a lot more! Here at HKG, we also emphasize that chakra balance is integral to improving your health. When you choose both the keto diet and chakra balance, you will supercharge your body. If you would like to learn more about this concept, then please listen to this podcast, Keto Diet and Chakra Balance for Your Health.
Also, sign up for my email list and get updates to your inbox every week! I will send you information on doing a keto diet, chakra balance, and other holistic remedies. It pairs perfectly with your everyday morning routine! I also try to send coupons for health items, to help with your health journey. You got this!
[toggle title = “References”]
Kannan, R., & Ng, M. J. (2008). Cutaneous lesions and vitamin B12 deficiency: an often-forgotten link. Canadian family physician Medecin de famille canadien, 54(4), 529–5321.
Paoli A, Grimaldi K, Toniolo L, Canato M, Bianco A, Fratter A. Nutrition and acne: therapeutic potential of ketogenic diets. Skin Pharmacol Physiol. 2012;25(3):111-7. doi: 10.1159/000336404. Epub 2012 Feb 11. PMID: 2232714612 .
Forsythe CE, Phinney SD, Fernandez ML, Quann EE, Wood RJ, Bibus DM, Kraemer WJ, Feinman RD, Volek JS. Comparison of low fat and low carbohydrate diets on circulating fatty acid composition and markers of inflammation. Lipids. 2008 Jan;43(1):65-77. doi: 10.1007/s11745-007-3132-7. Epub 2007 Nov 29. PMID: 1804659413.
Fraser et al. Reduction in serum leptin and IGF-1 but preserved T-lymphocyte numbers and activation after a ketogenic diet in rheumatoid arthritis patients14
Melnik B. C. (2015). Linking diet to acne metabolomics, inflammation, and comedogenesis: an update. Clinical, cosmetic and investigational dermatology, 8, 371–388. https://doi.org/10.2147/CCID.S6913515
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