Detox Rash: Myth or Fact?

Detox Rash: Myth or Fact?

We have had a lot of people write to us about “detox rashes” from various cleanses, deodorants, and other products on the market. Is there any merit to this or is this just another health myth? First, we will take a look at toxin and toxicant exposure and how the body deals with them.

The world is full of toxins and toxicants. There are more and more studies coming out every day addressing new noxious chemicals that are found in clothing, pets, food, cleaners, the air we breath, and even the “outgassing” of VOCs from plastics. This is nothing new. The human race has always been exposed to various harmful substances, and though the some of them have changed, the way the body handles them has not.

The biggest difference, historically, is the cumulative toxic load that we are now exposed to. Ancient man would succumb to a high amount of toxins, from tainted food for example. The body would respond to this by expelling the food as quickly as possible. Now, we take in our toxicants in microdoses that are just under the body’s threshold for expulsion. These toxins add up and can make us weak, or even sick over time; thus, the market responds with detox products. Unfortunately, some of these products cause people to have rashes which leads us to an important question: what is causing the rashes? The detox, or the product?

The body’s master detoxification system comes from a family of enzymes categorized as cytochrome P450, or CYP for short. The ultimate goal is to reduce the toxins and toxicants in our bodies and expel them. A good detox product should work with the body to provide chemical energy that will serve as electron donors in redox reactions, or bind the toxic compounds for transport. In normal human physiology, none of these should produce a detox rash.

Rashes are the result of dermatitis, or inflammation of the skin. This means that the skin has been exposed to a compound that is irritating the skin. Rashes are not caused by removing toxic components – this is nonsense. In fact, the ultimate peptide that irritates the skin is known as substance P.  What breaks down substance P?  The enzyme, CYP3A – and the first three letters of this protein indicate that it belongs to the cytochrome P450 family of detoxification enzymes. Therefore, when you are going through a true detox, you should not have a detox rash. Your skin should actually improve in appearance. It is also noteworthy that substance P can also act as a neurotransmitter in the brain and causes irritability, moodiness, and sensitivity to pain. If you detox program is giving you negative psychological side effects, it is a good sign that you are on the wrong program.

My verdict on detox rash:


Where did this myth come from? There is a widely used misnomer in the medical community for drug withdrawal. When someone checks into an alcohol rehabilitation center, they often call it a “detox center.” Due to the continuous use of ethanol, alpha4 GABAA receptors are upregulated, and alpha1, and alpha3 are downregulated. This causes phantom sensations on the skin in 50% of rehab patients causing them to itch resulting in skin irritation. This misconception spread into the naturopathic world and it is causing people harm.

My recommendation:

Here are a list of antioxidants that will have been shown to facilitate the cytochrome P450 pathway:

  • R-Lipoic Acid – use with caution if you have mercury fillings.
  • Milk Thistle
  • NAC – no more than 600 mg, at doses around 1,200 mg NAC may become a pro oxidant.
  • Vitamin C
  • Liposomal Glutathione Supplement

Here are some compounds that have been shown to bind toxins and toxicants:

The skin is our largest organ, and the best external indicator of health. If your detox program is giving you a “detox rash” it is a problem, not a sign that the detox is working. Consider using some of the supplements above the next time you decide to detox.


Written by Jason Hooper

  1. The ideal thing about detox teas is that you could mix unique ingredients and create your own detox tea recipes for weight reduction. So, it’s the exact healthy morning Detox Tea for good wellness and glowing skin.

  2. “Rashes are the result of dermatitis, or inflammation of the skin”
    According to what system of healthcare? If one looks at an holistic system based upon 5000+ years of observation (TCM and Ayurveda), then a totally different viewpoint appears. Allopathic (mechanical) medicine shines when it comes to emergency treatments and plastic surgery, but falls down when it comes to chronic dis-ease conditions. The skin is an organ of excretion (and serves as protection). Red blotches can indeed be a sign of detox. Study TCM and Ayurveda for a vastly different viewpoint than the myopic Allopathy. Ayurveda has been validated by Quantum Physics, but then Quantum Physicsand its implications is too scary for most minds…

  3. Hello,
    I have colitis and I’ve always believed that
    Diet & excersize play a huge part in keeping
    My symptoms at bay. I decided to start taking activated charcoal, half the recommended dose just to help
    Keep my colitis manageable & live symptom free.
    I took activated charcoal, one capsule per day
    And after the first few days, a gland on the left
    side, at the base on my neck started swelling.
    With in a day, it was the size of a large gumball.
    The next day, my right gland under my chin was a large
    Gumball size & my right eye tear duct started to swell up like a sthy. I stopped taking the charcoal that same day.
    It has been a week since I stopped & I have an invisible
    Rash all over my skin. If I scratch my skin
    I can feel the bumps but cant see them. The rash is mainly on my stomach, back, back of thighs & calves. It feels like tiny mosquito bites all over. I’ve soaked in Epsom salts
    And have used hydrocortisone to help. Ive also started taking an antihistamine. Is this an allergic reaction or just my body’s way of purifying & removing infection? What are your thoughts?

  4. I have been on a cleanse, detox weight loss program for 30 days. I’ve lost 27 lbs, feel fantastic inside and out. Last week a few spots, which looked to me like shingles, appeared. A quick doctor visit confirmed that it wasn’t shingles, because they’re not ‘grouped’, and a blood test revealed all good. Nonetheless I walked out with week of steroidal cream and a week of Prednisone. Both of which make me feel just not right. They don’t initially itch and are not painful.
    A few friends; Naprapath, Holistic doc and a Chiropractor, have all said that the spots are the expulsion of toxins, to give a couple of weeks; that they’ve seen it several times before. A few more have popped up, the others seem to be going away.
    Before the program, I was in excellent health, however needing to lose 35lb. I’m a marathoner (90 so far) that weighed 230 because though a no sugar, junk, processed & carb consumer, I do like fine food and needed to tweak my intake. I’m training for 3 runs this year, all this is primarily for a marathon in Antartica.
    I’d appreciate your perpective.

  5. John…help! im trying to get help with potential toxin poisoning..i believe my roommate is poisoning me..i have suddenly developed serious skin rash all over body (esp. face area) and have heart palpitations and short breath…are these common symptoms of toxin (chemical) poisoning and how do i test to find out…Also, how do I detox my body in the event I am being poisoned ?? please, please help me!!!!

  6. “NAC – no more than 600 mg, at doses around 1,200 mg NAC may become a pro oxidant.”

    How can this be? Maybe a quote?

  7. I have not heard of detox rashes, but I’ve experienced skin “eruptions” when I did a detox using the Dr. Natura program about 6-7 years ago.

    About two weeks into the program I got extremely exhausted, experienced skin eruptions all over my upper body, and my wife complianced that our bedroom reeked of chemcials. One day about a week later I woke up feeling more energized and better than I have ever felt in my life. The chemcial smell disapeared and the exhaustion turned to great energy. Eventually the skin eruptions disapeared too.

    Do you classify skin eruptions in the same category of detox rash – myth?

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