Fish oil comes from fish that are rich in omega-3, such as mackerel and herring. Some studies suggest that fish oil may benefit people with certain skin conditions, though not all researchers agree. Omega-3 is a polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA), which is a type of nutrient that the body cannot make for itself. In this article, we look at fish oil for the skin, including its potential benefits and which skin conditions it may help. We also discuss how fish oil can benefit your hair.
Scientists believe that these benefits are due to the polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) in fish oil, which include eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). The body incorporates dietary fatty acids into cell membranes. When a cell membrane is healthy, the cell can hold water. In the skin, this results in cells being hydrated and soft. Omega-3 fatty acids also help reduce the production of inflammatory compounds that contribute to the aging process.
Some fish oils contain other nutrients, such as vitamin A, vitamin D, and selenium. Vitamin A is an antioxidant related to retinol, a popular ingredient in skin care products and a treatment for skin disorders. Let’s look at the rest of fish oil’s benefits for your skin.
Acne causes pimples and cysts, which can be inflamed and painful. For this reason, the omega-3 content in fish oil may be helpful for reducing general inflammation in the body. A small randomized and controlled trial found that omega-3 supplementation decreased acne lesions significantly over the course of 10 weeks.
In contrast, an investigation in Lipids in Health and Disease had mixed results. Although most of the study participants showed an improvement in their acne, others experienced worsening symptoms. Fish oil may help reduce acne in some individuals, but there is currently no strong evidence that it will help everyone.
When you’re taking Omega 3 supplements to help acne, you might also notice an improvement in scarring, due to the effect the long-chain fatty acid EPA can have on collagen. Depressed scars, such as the icepick and boxcar types, are formed when the body produces too little collagen in response to an injury. Consuming fish oil is known to have a beneficial effect on collagen and elastin in your body, thanks to its antioxidant properties.
Taking fish oil for acne scars could also help treat the red, inflamed looking keloids that particularly severe lesions leave behind. According a study, the EPA in fish oils inhibited the growth of keloid scars significantly.
Hyperpigmentation describes darker patches of skin that occur as a result of increased melanin production. Fish oil could potentially help reduce hyperpigmentation in several ways. Omega-3 may minimize wound infections and speed up healing, which is useful in cases of hyperpigmentation that are due to skin trauma. DHA can also inhibit melanin production, which may reduce the risk of UV-induced hyperpigmentation.
The goal in treating eczema is to control and soothe symptoms and prevent flare-ups. Preventing inflammation is key when treating eczema, as the condition is considered to be an inflammatory skin disorder.
The omega-3 fats eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) have been shown to counter inflammation in several ways, including by inhibiting the production of inflammatory proteins. Not only eczema, many studies also have shown that supplementing with fish oil benefits those with inflammatory diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease.
Telomeres are the extreme ends of chromosomal DNA. Basically, to look younger, you need longer telomeres. One study found that patients with lower levels of omega-3s in their blood experienced quicker shortening of their telomeres. This not only affects the physical aging process, but other signs of aging, such as heart disease and cell degradation.
Many people consume fish or fish oil supplements to promote hair growth and prevent hair loss, suggesting that the omega-3 found in fish oil:
- provides essential proteins and nutrients to hair follicles and skin
- prevents hair follicle inflammation, a factor that can directly contribute to hair loss
- promotes circulation in the scalp that may trigger hair growth
Fish oil advocates anecdotally suggest topical application of fish oil may help add luster and shine to your hair as well as making it healthier. If you decide to apply fish oil directly to your scalp, be aware that fish oil may have an odor considered unpleasant to you or others.
Omega-3 is an essential nutrient that most people can obtain from dietary sources. Consuming more fish oil and omega-3 may bring some health benefits but eating a diet that offers a variety of nutrients is likely to be healthful. Anyone who is considering taking supplements should first check with a healthcare provider to ensure that it is safe.
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