Kava Skin

What Causes Kava Dermopathy aka “Kava Skin”

As you are probably aware by clicking through our website, we like to get our "hands dirty" with all aspects of kava. We share the great things as well as the things to watch out for and never shy away. That's because, with everything good, there seems to always be a touch of bad. This isn't necessarily a bad thing but can be a nuisance.

For some, depending on how your body reacts to things, kava dermopathy can be quite troublesome. Below you will find an article covering just about everything we and the scientific world know about kava dermopathy and sincerely hope it helps. If you have questions, please feel free to reach out on our chat option on the website. Bula!


Table of Contents

  1. Kava Dermopathy: An Overview
  2. Unveiling the Causes of Kava Dermopathy
  3. Preventing Kava Dermopathy
  4. Treatment Options for Kava Dermopathy
  5. Prognosis for Kava Dermopathy


Kava Dermopathy: An Overview

In the grand scheme of peculiar afflictions, Kava Dermopathy emerges from the crowd with its own unique charm. It's a condition that might make your skin feel like it decided to dress up as a cornflake, tied to the generous or prolonged consumption of Kava, a root that's all the rage in the Pacific Islands.

Imagine this: your skin turning scaly, yellow, and rough as if it has gotten itself into a midlife crisis, especially on the palms, feet, and back. Worrisome? Undoubtedly. Permanent? Thankfully not.

Our humble Kava Dermopathy's origin story starts with skin that's a bit too keen on being dry. It then leaps evolution to become ichthyosis, which in non-medical jargon translates into a scaly, peeling rash. It's as if the skin has seen too many zombie movies and decided to join the bandwagon(2).


What Causes Kava Dermopathy?

The "who" or "what" behind Kava Dermopathy's existence is a scientific whodunit. Anecdotal evidence points a finger at the 'toss and wash' method of consuming raw Kava root. The list of suspects, however, does not end there. Theories range from meddling with cholesterol metabolism, the presence of a unique chemical group that enables compounds to bond to skin proteins (creating antigens that spark allergies), to an accumulation of plant pigments or compounds known as kavalactones.

Our skin may also be reacting to reduced glandular secretions, chronic allergic dermatitis, or a skin condition that's a doppelganger of pellagra. Add in dehydration and niacin deficiency, and you have quite the lineup. Yet, in a twist of events, the only theory subjected to scientific scrutiny—niacin deficiency—has an ironclad alibi(1).

How to Prevent Dry Skin From Kava?

Prevention strategies do exist, fortunately. Given that Kava has diuretic tendencies, staying well-hydrated while using Kava might keep the dermopathy at bay. Reducing the amount of Kava consumed and eating less raw root could also be potential protective measures.

Options for Kava Dermopathy

Once Kava Dermopathy decides to crash your party, is straightforward. The simple act of breaking up with Kava prompts the dermopathy to pack its bags.

Taking a break from Kava can help you beat it in the short term. Then when you go back to kava, create a plan to do it in stages so you can create an environment where it’s not being used constantly. Which should avoid the situation altogether in the future.

Taking a break for a week or so with any herb or supplement you take can do a lot of other good. It'll give your body to take a break for a bit and reexperience having that supplement again as if it was for the first time.

Some folks have found a middle ground, managing the condition with moisturizing lotions, multivitamins, or Vitamin E applied topically without having to sever ties with Kava. But let's be clear: if the skin decides it won't negotiate, you may have to stop seeing Kava for the condition to retreat.

Please also keep in mind that we're not doctors here. If you're having a serious medical issue, definitely talk to your doctor about it. 

5 Lotions That May Help with Kava Skin:

  • CeraVe Moisturizing Cream: This cream is rich in ceramides and hyaluronic acid that help restore the skin's natural barrier, and it also contains Vitamin E.
  • Nivea Soft Moisturizing Creme: Known for its quick absorption and refreshing feel, Nivea Soft Cream is infused with both Vitamin E and Jojoba oil.
  • The Body Shop Vitamin E Moisture Cream: This product is well-known for its hydrating properties and is specifically packed with Vitamin E.
  • Olay Age Defying Advanced Gel Moisturizer with Hyaluronic Acid: In addition to hyaluronic acid, this product also contains Vitamin E.
  • Seabuckthorn: we highly recommend this cream! We've used it and it works very well for us. From person to person the results may vary, but we're amazed by the quality and usefulness of seabuckthorn in this cream form and also with other products that are for internal use
  • Bonus: Seabuckthorn supplement for internal use. Awesome.

While multivitamins might be helpful in recovering, it's like a surprise party—we're not quite sure how or why it works, but it usually ends up being fun. Antihistamines could lend a hand if the dermopathy is a result of the skin accumulating allergens from proteins.

And then there are keratolytics, the substances that make skin cells break up and shed more rapidly, possibly removing the misbehaving skin cells that kick-started the local reaction in the first place.

Prognosis for Kava Dermopathy

Kava Dermopathy, for all its quirks, is generally harmless. Yet, if left unattended, it can throw a tantrum severe enough to cause skin cracking, bleeding, or, in extreme cases, developing ulcers.

Depending on the individual's dance with Kava, the healing process can take a few days to several weeks. It follows a mysterious order of operations: the rash typically commences in one body part, spreads like a misguided fad, and then peels off in the same sequence it appeared. Interestingly, the rash occasionally decides to put on a final show, intensifying after Kava consumption has been halted.

To sum it up, while Kava Dermopathy might be a transient inconvenience for most, for those harboring a Kava allergy, it's akin to a very insistent door-to-door salesman, making an appearance every time they indulge in their Kava consumption habit.


***It is important to note again here that we're not doctors. If you're having serious issues, please consult a dermatologist or  your GP as soon as possible.


1. Norton SA, Ruze P. Kava dermopathy. J Am Acad Dermatol. 1994 Jul;31(1):89-97. doi: 10.1016/s0190-9622(94)70142-3. PMID: 8021378.


2. Ruze P. Kava-induced dermopathy: a niacin deficiency? Lancet. 1990 Jun 16;335(8703):1442-5. doi: 10.1016/0140-6736(90)91458-m. PMID: 1972218.


3. Ernst E. Adverse effects of herbal drugs in dermatology. Br J Dermatol. 2000 Nov;143(5):923-9. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2133.2000.03822.x. PMID: 11069498.


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