‘Keto rash’ is latest side effect of low carb diet

‘Keto rash’ is latest side effect of low carb diet

It started off with the humble keto flu, which then progressed into keto breath, and then finally the horrible keto crotch. But now, ketoers are battling through, quite possibly, the worst/most painful/most disgusting side-effect to date: keto rash.

Now, we’re not talking about a few minor red bumps here and there. We mean a full on heebie-jeebie itchy rash that can quickly spread to every single part of your body – your scalp included. What’s worse is that once you’ve treated the rash, a dark brown pattern may be left on the surface of the skin. Yep, the keto diet can literally scar you for life.

Don’t believe us? Here are a few poor souls who’ve taken to Reddit asking for emergency advice on how to beat their horrid keto rash:

One dieter took to Reddit after noticing a rash across her left boob by day 3 on the keto diet: “By day 14, my rash was up and down both of my boobs, in my cleavage, along my bra line in the back and all over my neck, into my hairline. It was PAINFUL, burning, itching. I was insanely irritable. It looked horrific. My son kept slapping and pinching it (it’s just what he does) and I could feel my skin burning for hours after touching him. I woke up that Sunday unable to put on a bra due to the sensation.”

Reddit user ketoko’s rash became so severe she resorted to cutting her nails and wearing gloves because she was “unconsciously scratching [herself] at night”: “It started out as a few specks on my neck and I thought it would be fine if I just apply some anti-itch cream and it’ll eventually go away.. However within these 3 days, it started to swell and spread to the front and back of my neck, chest, and now my back… I’m starting to develop scabs and blisters and it just hurts really bad.”

Another user, riddler236, noticed the rash appeared after consuming less calories than usual and completing a strenuous 90-minute workout: “I was well hydrated and felt great throughout, showered immediately after my workout, and got a good night’s sleep after. When I woke up the next morning, I found that I had an onset of itchy, red, raised bumps symmetrically below my armpits and across my lower back. Super unpleasant!”

Unpleasant? You can say that again.

Symptoms of keto rash

According to Healthline, the rash is formally known as prurigo pigmentosa. What’s interesting is that although anyone can experience it, it’s more common amongst Asian women.

The main symptoms of the keto rash include:

  • An itchy, red rash that occurs primarily on the upper back, chest, and abdomen.
  • Red spots, called papules, that take on a web-like appearance.
  • A dark brown pattern left on the skin once the spots disappear.

So, what causes the horrible keto rash?

Unfortunately, to this date, the exact cause of keto rash remains unknown. Research has suggested that instead of the rash been set-off by the keto diet directly, it’s seen alongside symptoms of ketosis – the state where your body uses your fat for energy, rather than carbs.

Those that have experienced the side-effect have noted the rash appeared only when they cut their carb intake significantly – below 20g per day, to be exact. Due to this, Healthline recommends that the first line of order you should take to prevent yourself from developing keto rash is to slowly lower your carbohydrate intake. “Rather than dropping your carbohydrate intake suddenly, try to slower taper carbohydrates out of your diet,” the website states.

Furthermore, you should also consider taking a multivitamin/mineral during the first few weeks of starting the high-fat low-carb diet.

However, your doctor will be able to give you the best advice for transitioning to the keto diet safely.


From Nigella stavia, antibiotics to applying Black Seed Oil, there’s definitely a bunch of advice from co-sufferers on how to treat keto rash, surfing on the net. But, before following anyone’s advice, you should seek immediate help from your doctor.

Healthline also recommends other at-home treatment methods for the keto rash, should you experience it:

1. Reintroduce carbs – a non-negotiable, and one that is backed by scientific studies.

2. Correct your nutrient deficiencies – specifically vitamin A, B-12 and C.

3. Eliminate food allergens – popular keto foods such as eggs, dairy, fish and nuts also happen to be on the list of common food allergens. Therefore, consuming such foods may worsen rash symptoms.

4. Incorporate anti-inflammatory supplements – probiotics, prebiotics, vitamin D, and fish oil supplements have all been used in clinical studiesTrusted Source to help improve symptoms of dermatitis.

5. Extra care for your skin – the National Eczema Association recommends using lukewarm water for bathing and showering, and cleaning only with gentle soaps and cleansers.

Bottom line

Giving up practically every food group (besides fat) is one thing. Having a smelly breath and feeling nauseous 24/7 is another. But dealing with a painful and itchy rash? Nuh-uh. It’s a hard N-O.