While omega-3 fatty acids are often talked about for their incredible health benefits, which largely stem from their anti-inflammatory properties, their benefits to skin health aren’t spoken about as much.
Let’s take a look at the multiple ways in which omega-3 fats are beneficial to our skin:
1. They reduce hyperpigmentation
Hyperpigmentation (darker patches or spots on our skin) occurs when our skin produces more melanin (a pigment that gives skin its colour) for various reasons, including sun damage .
2. They can prevent certain types of acne
Acne is an inflammatory condition, which means that the anti-inflammatory properties of omega-3 fats can help soothe acne [1, 5]. Apart from this, omega-3 fatty acids also help control the body’s levels of testosterone, a hormone that can trigger the overproduction of sebum - another major cause of acne. By controlling testosterone, omega-3 fats are indirectly able to keep our sebum production in check and prevent related acne outbreaks [6, 7].
3. They help prevent premature ageing
Our body produces an enzyme called ‘matrix metalloproteinases’ (MMP), which is known to degrade both collagen (our skin’s main structural protein) and elastin (a protein that provides elasticity to our skin) - you can see how, in doing so, MMP contributes to the premature ageing of our skin [8, 9]
Omega-3 fatty acids can inhibit our body’s production of MMP, preventing this from taking place .
4. They protect our skin from sun damage
Being exposed to the sun causes free radical damage in our skin, which can lead to premature skin ageing over time. Omega-3 fats help increase the levels of antioxidants in our body, which are known to combat free radical damage [9, 11].
5. They help our wounds heal
The primary function of inflammation in our body is to support our immune system. Whenever we suffer an injury, our immune system gets activated - and its first response is to reduce damage (by reducing blood loss, restricting passage of foreign invaders into our body, etc.) - this is where inflammation comes handy. For example, the bump after an ant bite comes from acute inflammation, triggered by our immune system, to prevent the particles injected by the ant from entering further in the body .
However, after a point, this inflammation needs to be settled down, for the wound and/or injured area to start healing. Having good levels of omega-3 fatty acids in our body can enhance the production of anti-inflammatory molecules, which lower the inflammation in the wound and aid wound healing [1, 15].
6. They improve our skin’s protective barrier (and keep it hydrated)
Our skin has a protective barrier, to prevent its water content from evaporating through the skin’s surface, in a process known as Transepidermal water loss (TEWL). When this barrier is compromised, TEWL increases and can lead to dry and irritated skin .
The dryness caused by TEWL is also seen in some skin conditions like psoriasis and dermatitis. Maintaining good omega-3 levels in the body may even help manage the symptoms of these conditions [18, 19, 20, 21].
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has also seen an increase in dry skin conditions - which brings us to:
How omega-3 fats can help reduce the dry skin caused by frequent hand sanitisation
The past couple of years have really changed the way we (the general population) treat hand hygiene (for the right reasons, of course). The use of sanitisers has increased multifold, which has led to a reduction in various types of infections worldwide.
Having said that, reports about an increase in skin conditions caused by dry skin, for example, dermatitis and hand eczema, have surfaced as well.
When our skin is frequently in contact with water, as well as the oil-stripping soaps and drying alcohol found in hand sanitizers, the healthy fatty compounds in its top layer end up reducing [22, 23, 24].
As a result, the skin barrier we mentioned earlier gets compromised, which can lead to skin that’s dryer than normal.
So, if this pandemic has rendered your hands dry, omega-3 fatty acids will be particularly helpful, given their ability to repair the skin’s protective barrier. Just make sure to also apply some moisturiser to help hydrate the skin even more!
Now that you are aware of the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids, here are a few links that may help you find the right omega-3 fat sources and dosage for you:
We hope this blog helped you understand the important role omega-3 fats play in our skin health. If you have any questions related to nutrition for skin health, we’re just a comment away. :)