Fatty Acids for Skin Health: How to Achieve Glowing Skin From the Inside Out

Key Points:

  • Achieving healthy and glowing skin has a lot more to do with diet than you might realize. Essential fatty acids, in particular, have a huge influence on your skin’s performance — regulating natural oils, the skin barrier, and locking in moisture.
  • The skin barrier works to keep moisture in and toxins out of the body. Pollutants, toxins, and chemicals can disrupt the skin barrier, though, and keep it from functioning optimally.
  • When exploring fatty acids and skin health, we need to ensure we’re properly nourished. Most of us aren’t consuming enough fatty acids — and those we do consume go straight to vital organ function, hormones, and our brains rather than our skin.

Untimely breakouts, fine lines, and dry skin are common skincare issues. But what’s even more common is the feeling of isolation that comes along with it.

Sure, clever marketing tells you topical ointments and perfectly formulated skincare products will fix everything.

But when you look past the shiny bells and whistles… you know better.

You’ve tried the cleansers, moisturizers, and serums, and you know they can only help revive your skin barrier so much.

It’s time to aim higher and see what’s really behind your less-than-glowy skin. Namely, your diet.

We’re not talking about food sensitivities (although those certainly can play a role in stubborn skin concerns).

We’re talking about the building blocks that create better skin. Nutrients like antioxidants, collagen, and fatty acids are untapped wells of nutrients for skin wellness.

We’re all about the power of healthy fats around here, so let’s explore fatty acids and see if they could be the missing piece that finally gives you clear, glowing, and unblemished skin.

Table of Contents:

Your Body’s Largest Organ

The skin is your body’s largest organ. Its job is to act as a barrier to toxins, injuries, and basically all of the outside world that would otherwise wreck your much more delicate internal organs and systems. All in all, we don’t give enough credit to the monumental job our skin does.

Skin structure is extremely intricate. It’s made up of three layers: the epidermis, dermis, and hypodermis. But even more than that, your skin harbors an entire ecosystem. Helpful and harmful bacteria influence overall health, while the epidermis is protected by a skin barrier made of natural oils and fatty acids.

When we talk about skin health, we need to understand all the different elements and intricacies — especially when facing the dangers of our modern world. Today, our skin faces more toxins, chemicals, and pollutants than ever before, and this can wear down our skin barrier rapidly.

Fatty acids and skin-healthy foods can help us fight back.

Beneficial Fatty Acids for Skin Health

An intentional diet and supplement routine should give your skin the building blocks it needs to heal from the inside out. Let’s explore fatty acids in skincare and how you can use them to promote balance and protect delicate skin.

Oleic Acid for Skin (Omega-9)

When consumed, omega-9 is helpful for wound healing and calming the inflammatory response. Like other fatty acids, it plays a role in hydrating the skin and balancing the skin barrier. It may also improve elasticity, promoting better aging and fewer fine lines.

Again, make sure that any oleic acid you consume comes from a natural source, like eggs, nuts, olives, or pure extra virgin olive oil.

Omega-6

This fatty acid is particularly helpful for skin growth and moisturization. It’s often supplemented in cases of severe eczema, psoriasis, or other skin conditions.

Omega-6 doesn’t have the best reputation in the holistic community since it enters most people’s diets as highly processed seed oils, like canola and safflower oil. These toxic fats are certainly not good for your skin or your health in general. But we’re talking about carefully sourced omega-6 oils that are never heated or treated with chemical solvents. These are the ones you want for a healthy skin barrier.

When supplementing or consuming omega-6 fatty acids, we always recommend finding an organic and pure source that’s minimally processed with no additives. You’ll also want to maintain the careful 4:1 ratio between omega-6 and omega-3. This ratio between omega-6 and omega-3 is critical. If left unbalanced, excess omega-6 consumption can lead to inflammation.

Omega-3 Benefits for Skin (and Skin Barrier)

One of the most powerful resources for building healthy skin is omega-3 fatty acids. Since omega-3s help to make up your skin’s barrier, they are needed to maintain balance.

For instance, when the skin barrier is rich in nutrients (like omega-3s), you should be able to retain moisture and eliminate toxins better. This naturally fights dry skin and premature aging.

If the skin barrier is missing nutrients, it may allow toxins to slip through — prompting unexplained acne or dryness.

Omega-3 fatty acids for skin should also help regulate your oil production and decrease the inflammatory response. In theory, natural oil production is a good thing. It’s extremely hydrating and helps your skin stay supple and elastic. If too much oil is present, though, this may result in more frequent breakouts. 

Fish Oil

As a natural source of omega-3s, fish oil is a powerful agent for skin moisture and healing. While regulating the inflammatory response, fish oil (both in supplement and food form) offers a natural alternative to OTC anti-inflammatory drugs and skin creams chock full of preservatives and chemicals. 

Some wild-caught fish oils with minimal processing contain something called specialized pro-resolving mediators (SPMs), which are lipid mediators that help to seriously reduce inflammation — from the inside out. These SPMs can benefit the whole body (since inflammation is often connected to disease) and the skin, reducing acne and redness.

Sea Buckthorn Oil

This nutrient-dense oil is known for its benefits internally and externally for the skin. Some may apply it as a cleansing oil, but we’re particularly looking at the benefits when ingesting it.

Sea Buckthorn oil is rich in minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants — all essential nutrients the body uses to create and regulate healthy sebum (oil produced by your skin) and healthy cells. It also has a robust fatty acid profile, naturally containing palmitoleic acid (omega-7), oleic acid (omega-9), linolenic acid (omega-3), and linoleic acid (omega-6).

These fatty acids are known to help with liver function, hormone imbalance, and insulin resistance — all issues that could indirectly cause acne and other skin issues.

Vitamin E

Along with rich fatty acids, vitamin E has several powerful benefits for skin health. It’s a natural antioxidant, may protect against UV radiation, and plays a vital role in wound healing. Using resources like vitamin E can help you move away from toxic sunscreens, relying more on the foods you consume to offer protection from the sun.

Phospholipids

Cellular health is skin health. There’s no way around it. By carefully maintaining the cells that build our skin, we can promote a hydrated and problem-free complexion that looks and feels good. Phospholipids are essential to the cell barrier — keeping nutrients in the cell and free radicals out, so our cells can function optimally. Phospholipids also contain two essential fatty acid “tails,” making their role in skin health both cellular and structural (meaning they nourish the skin barrier as well as individual cells).

The Science Behind Glowing Skin

The nutrient density in your diet has a lot to do with achieving low-maintenance, blemish-free skin. Think about it. When your body is fueled with ample sources of fatty acids, there will be plenty available to promote skin health.

However, if you don’t have enough fatty acids to go around, then your skin health might be put on the back burner. Instead of targeting acne, dryness, or wrinkles, the body will triage the available fatty acids for hormone production as well as to serve as building blocks for vital tissues and organs.

Unfortunately, most people aren’t eating enough essential fatty acids. Their bodies are working extra hard to use their available EFAs for vital functioning, not for skin.

That’s where high-quality supplements come in and help boost your body’s EFA stores.

Our brand-new supplement, Fish Oil+ helps you reach the ideal omega-3 fatty acid intake. It also contains whole food-sourced SPMs, which tackle the inflammatory response, allowing your immune system to relax and focus on other things, like skin health.

Explore Fish Oil+

References

McCusker MM, Grant-Kels JM (2010). Healing fats of the skin: the structural and immunologic roles of the omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids. Clin Dermatol, 28(4), 440-451.

Sales-Campos, H., Souza, P. R., Peghini, B. C., da Silva, J. S., & Cardoso, C. R. (2013). An overview of the modulatory effects of oleic acid in health and disease. Mini reviews in medicinal chemistry, 13(2), 201–210.

Solà Marsiñach, M., & Cuenca, A. P. (2019). The impact of sea buckthorn oil fatty acids on human health. Lipids in health and disease, 18(1), 145.

Thomsen BJ, Chow EY, Sapijaszko MJ (2020). The potential uses of omega-3 fatty acids in dermatology: a review. J Cutan Med Surg, 24(5), 481-494.

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