Consuming enough omega-3 fatty acids is super important to your overall health, but what are the benefits of omega 3 for the skin? You may have seen fish oil on the shelves of your drug store and wondered if you should be taking it.
But how do you choose which to take and what exactly does it do for your skin? Read on for the information you need to choose the right omega-3s for your healthy skin and better overall health.
What Are Omega-3 Fatty Acids?
Omega-3 fatty acids are part of a family of essential fats that your body needs to stay healthy. Omega-3, along with its cousins omega-6 and omega-9 fatty acids, are a necessary nutrient that your body needs.
Omega-3 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fats. They’re talked about a lot because your body can’t produce them on its own. So you must get them either by eating the right foods, or by adding supplements to your diet.
What Are the Three Types of Omega-3?
To make things even more confusing, there are three types of omega-3 fatty acids: ALA, DHA and EPA. Here’s a quick summary of what each type is and does for your health:
Alpha-linoleic Acid (ALA)
ALA’s are the most common type of omega-3s. Your body uses them for energy, but small amounts can be converted to the other kinds of omega-3s, EPA and DHA. They’re found in the following foods:
- Chia seeds
- Hemp seeds
- Flax seeds
- Flaxseed oil
Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA)
EPA is a type of omega-3 fatty acid found in animal products, and some microalgae. It’s found in cold water fatty fish, like salmon. This is also the type found in most fish oil supplements. Fish that are known to be high in EPA are:
Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA)
Of the three types of omega-3, DHA is the most important to your health. It’s actually a building block of your brain, eyes and other organs.
It’s found in fatty fish and fish oil. Meat, dairy and eggs from grass-fed animals also contain significant amounts of DHA.
DHA is harder to get if you’re a vegan or vegetarian, so you may need to take supplements if you follow this lifestyle. Thankfully, microalgae supplements are a good source of vegan DHA and are readily available.
What is the Difference between Omega-3, 6 & 9?
So many kinds! So if omega-3 has three types alone, what’s the difference between omega-6 and omega-9? First off, omega-3, omega-6 and omega-9 fatty acids all are important in a healthy diet.
All three types have health benefits, but your body needs them in a particular balance for you to stay healthy. If your levels of these three are out of whack, that’s when you may be susceptible to chronic illnesses.
- Polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA)
- Essential because can not be made by your body so you need to get from your diet
- Good for your heart, brain, metabolism, skin, etc.
- Polyunsaturated fatty acid
- Essential because can not be made by your body so you need to get from your diet
- Mostly used for energy
- Monounsaturated fatty acid
- Not considered essential because can be produced by your body
- Can improve insulin sensitivity and inflammation
Scientists believe that a high intake of Omega-6 fatty acids compared to Omega-3 can result in several chronic diseases. This is where the balance idea comes in.
Researchers estimate that a healthy ratio of Omega-3 to Omega-6 fatty acids should be somewhere between 1-to-1 and 4-to-1. Unfortunately, the average Western diet usually results in too many Omega-6s.
The Skin Benefits of Omega-3 Fatty Acids
So now that you know what Omega-3s are, let’s get down to business. How do omega fatty acids benefit the skin?
Omega-3 fatty acids have a huge role in the health of your skin, from correcting the microbiome of your gut to improving acne.
Benefit 1: Omega-3 & Gut-Skin Axis
You probably already know how important good gut health is to your overall health. You may even have heard about the “gut-brain axis”, but did you know that your body also has a “Gut-Skin Axis”?
Basically, this means that the health of your gut directly affects the health of your skin. And Omega-3 fatty acids are a powerhouse in helping to heal your gut.
Studies have linked inflammatory skin conditions to an imbalanced gut. So when your gut microbiome is out of whack, it can contribute to all kinds of skin disorders such as:
Recent research has shown that adding Omega-3s to your diet can increase the good bacteria in your gut which helps to keep the bad bacteria from entering the bloodstream and wreaking havoc on your skin
Benefit 2: Omega 3 Fish Oil For Anti-Aging
Skin is designed to be the outer barrier of our bodies. This barrier keeps harmful things out, keeps moisture in and repairs itself when damaged.
As part of the natural aging process, your skin cells become thinner. These thinner cells are less able to perform all their important functions.
So as you age, your skin cells become less able to hold in moisture which results in drier skin and wrinkles.
Omega-3 fatty acids help shore up the skin cell membrane, helping it to hold on to moisture so wrinkling is slowed. And it can help smooth out existing small wrinkles that already exist.
Research shows that taking omega-e supplements can actually help the skin’s moisture levels.
Benefit 3: Acne-Fighting Properties of Omega-3s
It may seem crazy fish oil would be helpful in fighting acne, but it’s true.
Studies indicate that diets low in omega 3 fatty acids are linked to acne. Another study found that teenagers who ate higher amounts of fish and seafood (great sources of PUFAs) had fewer breakouts.
In a recent randomized, double-blind study, acne was shown to be improved by the supplementation of omega-3s over the course of the 10-week trial.
Benefit 4: Omega-3s Protect Your Skin From The Sun
Even though you should always wear protective clothing and sunscreen in the sun, omega-3s have been shown to make your skin more resistant to sunburn.
Research showed that participants that took 10 grams of omega-3 fish oil daily, had higher levels of fatty acids in their skin. Those deposited acids protected skin from sunburn caused by UV-B rays.
An interesting finding was that the longer the participants took omega-3s, the more fatty acids were deposited in their skin. And this protection lasted about 10 weeks before skin reverted to its pre-supplementation state.
Benefit 5: Omega-3 and Skin Cancer
A recent study found that taking a daily dose of fish oil actually boosts the skin’s immunity to sunlight. It also indicated that a daily dose could reduce sunlight-induced suppression of the body’s immune system and boost the ability to fight off skin cancer and infection.
Benefit 6: Omega 3s Help The Skin Heal
Omega-3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory properties that can help your skin heal if you suffer from skin disorders like psoriasis, atopic dermatitis (eczema), or acne.
Best Sources of Omega-3
Since omega-3 fatty acids have so many benefits for both your skin and overall health, it’s a great idea to work them into your daily diet, either through foods, or supplements.
What Foods Contain Omega-3s?
As previously explained, fatty fish, algae, seeds and nuts provide the highest levels of omega 3s. If you plan ahead, you’ll be able to get most of your omega 3s from whole foods.
Fatty cold-water fish is the best source of omega-3 fatty acids. This table lists the fish and shellfish that contain the highest amount of this essential fatty acid.
Which Vegan Foods Contain Omega-3s?
While it’s harder to find foods high in omega 3s, there are a few great choices for vegetarians and vegans.
Be aware that these choices don’t contain the more healthy DHA and EPA components of omega-3. To get enough of these, you may need to take a vegan algae supplement.
Best Omega-3 Supplements
I like this supplement because it’s Omega-3 in the form of EPA and DHA. It’s buffered so you won’t be burping up fish all day. And it’s tested independently for environmental toxins like mercury that can be present in some fish.
This is another great choice if you’re looking for the best Omega-3 supplement. It’s made from sustainably sourced, wild-caught Alaskan pollock, and is IFOS tested for purity.
Best Vegan Omega-3 Supplements Contain Algae
It’s a lot harder to find a vegan supplement if you want to get the healthy EPA and DHA components of omega-3. But thankfully, there is a good option.
The best vegan omega-3 supplements are algae-based. Microalgae only contains DHA, but studies have found that when vegans take it as a supplement, their EPA levels also increase substantially.
This is a good option if you’re looking for the best vegan essential fatty acid supplement. It’s non-GMO verified, made from algae, and provides both EPA (210 mg) and DHA (420 mg).
What is the daily recommended value of Omega-3s?
While there’s no official recommended daily allowance for omega 3 fatty acids, most health organizations have settled on a daily dose of 250-500 mg of combined EPA and DHA for adults to maintain their overall health.
EPA and DHA are the types of omega-3s found in fatty fish, fish oil, and grass-fed animal products.
One of the easiest ways to make sure you’re getting enough is to eat fatty fish like salmon twice a week, which is easy if you love fish. If you don’t relish eating fish, you should consider taking a supplement to reap all the health benefits that omega-3 fatty acids provide.
Is It Good to Take Omega 3 Everyday?
If you are a person who knows they won’t be able to eat fatty fish on a weekly basis, taking a daily supplement is a great way to make sure you’re getting enough of this essential nutrient.
The Takeaway: Omega-3s are Beneficial for Your skin And Your Overall Health
Omega-3s can be a key part of your skin care and overall health improvement plans. From helping acne and reversing the signs of aging, to helping your skin bounce back from sun exposure, omega-3s provide many benefits.
Simply eating two servings of a fatty cold water fish each week can provide you with a good amount of this important essential fatty acid. Fish oil supplements can also provide the necessary amounts needed for good health.
If you’re vegan or vegetarian, you may have to supplement to reach the recommended levels of omega-3s in your diet. Look for an algae supplement that lists the amount of EPA and DHA to make sure you’re getting the right components of this essential fatty acid.