Keto Rash: What It Is And How To Fix It

Keto rash is an uncommon symptom of people who are just starting a ketogenic diet. I haven’t experienced the rash personally, but I know people who have and they all agree that it wasn’t much fun.

What is keto rash? Keto rash is an itchy rash that appears on both sides of your body. It is most commonly seen on the neck, chest, armpits, or back.

Are you going to get keto rash? Probably not, but if you find yourself itching after starting keto, keep reading to find out what you should do.

What Is Keto Rash?

A keto rash is one of the more uncommon potential side effects that some people may experience when cutting carbohydrates out of their diet. Although most people won’t experience this side effect, it isn’t enjoyable for those who have to deal with it.

The itchy rash can range from mild and barely noticeably, to intense and getting in the way of normal daily functions, including sleep.

One of the tell-tale signs that the rash is a keto rash is the fact that it will appear in the same place on both sides of the body. It most commonly forms on the neck, chest, abdomen, armpits, or back and will be identifiable as it will occur in red, itchy clusters.

What Are The Symptoms Of Keto Rash?

The most common symptoms of the keto rash include:

  • Red spots on the skin that resemble a spider web
  • An itchy red rash on both sides of any area of the upper body
  • Red spots may be replaced by a dark brown pattern

How Long Does Keto Rash Last?

Since the keto rash is one of the most misunderstood effects of keto, there isn’t really a set amount of time that you can expect it to last. A mild case may have you itching for a week or so while an extreme case may last for several months.

One thing that you’ll want to keep in mind is that how you deal with the keto rash has a direct impact on how long you’re going to have to deal with it. If you haven’t figured out what’s causing the symptoms and dealt with them accordingly, the rash isn’t likely to go away on its own.

What Causes Keto Rash?

As I mentioned earlier, keto rash is a very misunderstood condition. There are a lot of theories about why it occurs, but nobody has been able to find any concrete information.

There have been a limited number of studies performed on the condition. The most promising were those conducted by the Japanese Dermatological Association and Kyung Hee University Hospital.

These studies seem to indicate that there is a direct correlation between people entering ketosis and sweating. Signs are pointing to the ketones found in sweat, causing the rash when it dries.

How did the studies come to this conclusion? Here are some of the findings:

  • When someone enters ketosis, the body secretes a ketone known as acetone. This ketone is known to be irritating when it is highly concentrated. Since sweat is very concentrated, it makes sense that it could be what causes the rash.
  • If someone experiences the rash, it almost always begins right after they enter ketosis and stops within days of returning to a diet that is heavier in carbohydrates.
  • The location of the rash is most common in areas where sweat typically accumulates on the body.
  • The rashes are known to become worse after intense physical activities or when the person with the outbreak has been exposed to higher than average temperatures.

An interesting fact about keto rash is that it’s over 2.5 times more likely to occur in women than men. Of the females that get keto rash, the majority are teenagers and young adults.

Some additional dietary factors trigger the rash. These include:

  1. Nutritional Deficiency – When eating keto, it can be harder to get all the nutrition you need from food sources alone. Keto rash can be triggered when you’re not getting enough omega-3, niacin, or vitamin A.
  2. Fasting – When you’re in a fasted state, your blood sugar dips low, causing extra stress within your body.
  3. Allergies – It’s possible that you could be allergic to something you’re eating. If the rash gets worse when eating certain foods, try cutting them out to see if it improves.

What Is The Treatment For Keto Rash?

Depending on the severity, there are a few treatments that are often recommended for someone experiencing keto rash.

  1. Eating more carbs – This is the most straightforward treatment because all you have to do is splurge on carbs, and the rash will go away relatively quickly. The downside, of course, is that you’ll be kicked out of ketosis and have to start all over again. If you want to follow a ketogenic diet, move onto some of the other suggestions.
  2. Antibiotics – Taking doses of tetracycline or minocycline over a 7 to 10 day period has been shown to treat keto rash symptoms. Give your doctor a call and tell them what’s going on. Many even offer a virtual option where you can upload pictures of your rash, saving you from inconvenient and embarrassing in-person visits.
  3. Insulin – Some studies have shown that people with diabetes are especially prone to contracting keto rash. If you have diabetes, talk to your doctor to see how your insulin could be used as a treatment.
  4. Loose-fitting clothing – Since keto rash occurs when sweat containing ketones dries on the skin, your skin needs to be able to breathe. Tight-fitting clothes restrict airflow, leaving nowhere for the sweat to go. Baggier clothes can go a long way towards getting rid of your itchy rash.
  5. Eliminate potential allergens – Even if you’ve never been allergic to anything, a change in diet can bring on new food allergies. If you find you’re eating more peanuts, tree nuts, dairy, shellfish, eggs, or fish, try eliminating them one by one and see if you notice any improvement.
  6. Relieve Stress – Stress can lead to skin issues. Do you frequently find yourself stressed out at work? Does your home life make you want to pull your hair out? Consider something relaxing, such as meditation, yoga, long walks, reading, or doing something you love.
  7. Supplement your diet – If you’re rash is the result of a nutritional deficiency, try supplementing your diet with what you think you may be missing. The most important to look for are minerals like magnesium, potassium, and sodium. Also, pay close attention to vitamins like niacin and vitamins A and D.
  8. Drink more water – Starting a ketogenic diet can dehydrate you quickly. When this happens, the amount of acetone in your body isn’t able to be diluted. Drinking plenty of water helps prevent acetone from accumulating in your sweat.
  9. Let it clear on its own – As your body becomes more adapted to keto, the rash may simply heal all by itself. If you’ve tried everything else, give it some time and see if it clears up.

In addition to these treatments, following good hygiene is essential to treating keto rash. Some of the most important tops include:

  • Gently wash your affected skin and avoid rubbing it when you clean.
  • If you don’t have to touch the rash, don’t. Excessive touching can irritate it and possibly even spread it.
  • Keep your skin cool. Avoid excessive heat if at all possible.
  • Maintain short fingernails. The rash is spread through scratching, and the longer your nails are, the more likely the outbreak is to travel.
  • Keep your skin moisturized. Dryness makes your skin itchy. When combined with the rash, you’ll be scratching like crazy. Moisturize your skin multiple times per day to relieve this symptom.

Does Keto Rash Leave Scars?

Though it’s not what you typically think a scar would look like, people who experience the worse form of keto rash may be left with small brown marks along the surface of their skin that will never go away.

Fortunately, most people who experience a keto rash will have no signs it was ever there once it goes away.

Is Keto Rash Dangerous?

It itches like crazy, and it certainly doesn’t look pretty, but that’s as bad as it gets with the keto rash. It isn’t dangerous, and it’s not going to cause any irreversible damage.


Derek Masters

Derek Masters is an Amazon best-selling author. After much research, he began keto at 381 pounds in the middle of 2019. Losing 60 pounds and counting, he wants to share what he's learned with others who wish to learn about the ketogenic lifestyle

Recent Posts