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Skin Science

Breaking down omega-3 benefits for skin

A woman takes a fish oil capsule to reap omega-3 benefits for skin.
Liz Thompson
Liz Thompson May, 20, 2020

Freelance writer, green beauty expert, coffee drinker, beach bum wannabe

Following a healthy skincare regimen throughout the year is the best way to support your body's skin for the long haul. But your diet also plays a hugely important role! Case in point: The omega-3 benefits for skin simply can't be ignored.

New research suggests a balanced gut microbiome can play a pivotal role in determining the way skin behaves. For instance, omega-3s (the fatty acids found in fish oil and other seafood) can help maintain gut health and give skin a soothed, glowing appearance. If you're not getting enough omega-3s in your diet, it's important to understand what you may be missing out on — and how to turn the situation around!

Here are answers to six of the most commonly asked questions about omega-3 benefits for skin.

1. What are omega-3 fatty acids, and what do they do for skin?

Omega-3 fatty acids are essential nutrients found in certain foods. They can serve to regulate the skin's oil production, improve balanced hydration, subdue breakouts and minimize signs of aging. Omega-3s can also help soften rough, dry skin and have a soothing effect on irritation and dermatitis.

But that's not all! Research shows that regularly taking fish oil may boost the skin's immunity to UV damage and skin cancer.

Fish oil capsules in yellow on a white background. Health care, nutritional supplements for athletes. The benefits of Omega 3 and capsules for the beauty of hair and skin.2. What foods contain omega-3s?

The most well-known food to be packed with these nutrients is fish oil. Think that suggestion sounds a little too ... fishy? Flax seeds, chia seeds and soybean oil are all vegetarian sources of omega-3s. The difference is that omega-3s from fish oil are readily absorbed upon consumption, while plant forms need to be converted first in the body before they can be used.

3. How do omega-3s interact with skin?

Getting your omega-3s through fish oil supplements or other foods can improve the fatty acid composition in your skin and balance its inflammatory response. In other words, skin stays softer and less inflamed! Keeping your fatty acid levels up also helps to minimize the effect of sun damage and improve sensitive skin conditions.

4. What is the best concentration for omega-3 benefits for skin?

There's actually no set recommendation for how much omega-3 you need. However, health experts recommend adults get 500 mg per day, or the equivalent of two servings of fatty fish per week. This is your ticket to improvements in your overall wellness, not to mention supple, radiant skin.

5. What are the myths surrounding omega-3 fatty acids?

Omega-3 supplementation is a hot topic right now, which means myths abound. One of the most common misconceptions is that any fish is a good source of omega-3s. In reality, different fish contain different levels of certain nutrients! The discrepancies are either due to the biological makeup of the fish or because they were raised in less-than-healthy conditions. Safety is also a factor. It's often best to eat smaller fish — which are less likely to contain high levels of mercury — or supplement your diet with a high-quality fish oil.

Once you've chosen the best way to get your omega-3s, keep in mind that you only need up to 500 mg per day. No need to waste your money on highly-concentrated capsules that can wind up costing you thousands!

Additionally, maybe you've read that plant sources of omega-3s work the same way as fish oil. That isn't exactly true. It's important to know that omega-3s need certain components to become active. While plant omega-3s contain the acid that rejuvenates skin, they lack the other components that unlock the awesome benefits you're after. Fish oil, on the other hand, contains both the acids and the active components.

6. What should you keep in mind when consuming omega-3s?

Not all omegas offer the same benefits. For example, omega-6 fatty acids may sound like omega-3's more powerful sibling, but in practice, the two compete for the same enzymes that activate the fatty acids in the body. When omega-6 levels are high, they can actually cause inflammation and decrease the effectiveness of omega-3s. Chances are good that your diet already includes plenty of omega-6s — most people actually tend to get too much of them!

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