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6 Benefits and Uses of Omega-3s for Skin and Hair

Health + Wellness
Yulia Reznikov / Moment / Getty Images

By Alina Petre, MS, RD

Omega-3 fats are among the most studied nutrients.

They're abundant in foods like walnuts, seafood, fatty fish, and certain seed and plant oils. They're subdivided into three types: alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).


Omega-3 fats are renowned for their powerful health benefits, including their potential to fight depression, lower inflammation, and reduce markers of heart disease. Plus, one lesser-known perk is that they may benefit your skin and hair.

Here are 6 science-based benefits of omega-3s for your skin and hair.

1. May Protect Against Sun Damage

Omega-3s may protect against the sun's harmful ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays.

Studies have shown that supplementing with a combination of DHA and EPA — two long-chain omega-3s — may reduce the skin's sensitivity to ultraviolet (UV) rays.

In one small study, participants who consumed 4 grams of EPA for 3 months increased their resistance to sunburns by 136%, while no significant changes were observed in the placebo group.

In another study, participants who applied EPA- and DHA-rich sardine oil to their skin after UVB exposure experienced around 25% less skin redness, compared with the control group. However, other types of omega-3s did not exert the same effect.

There's some evidence that omega-3s may also reduce the severity of symptoms of certain photosensitivity disorders, including skin rashes or fluid-filled blisters following UV exposure.

However, there are few studies on this topic, and more research is needed before conclusions can be made.

Summary

Omega-3s may increase your skin's resistance to sunburns, reduce the severity of skin redness after UV exposure, and alleviate the symptoms of certain photosensitivity disorders. However, more research is needed.

2. May Reduce Acne

A diet rich in omega-3s may help prevent or reduce the severity of acne.

Omega-3s have been shown to reduce inflammation, and new evidence suggests that acne may be primarily caused by inflammation. Hence, omega-3s may indirectly fight acne.

A few studies have reported a decrease in acne lesions when supplementing with omega-3s, either alone or in combination with other nutrients.

Omega-3 supplements also appear to reduce the side effects of isotretinoin, a drug commonly used to treat severe or resistant acne.

However, few studies have observed the effects of omega-3s alone — rather than in combination with other compounds — and effects appear to vary by individual. Thus, more research is needed.

Summary

Omega-3 supplements, taken either alone or in combination with other supplements, may help prevent acne or reduce its severity. However, more research is needed to confirm these effects.

3. May Guard Against Dry, Red, or Itchy Skin

Omega-3s may moisturize the skin and fight red, dry, or itchy skin caused by skin disorders like atopic dermatitis and psoriasis.

That's because omega-3s appear to improve skin barrier function, sealing in moisture and keeping out irritants.

In one small study, women who consumed around half a teaspoon (2.5 ml) of omega-3-rich flaxseed oil daily experienced a 39% increase in skin hydration after 12 weeks. Their skin was also less rough and sensitive than that of those in a placebo group.

High intake of omega-3s has also been linked to a lower risk of atopic dermatitis in infants and improved psoriasis symptoms in adults. Nonetheless, other studies have been unable to replicate these results.

The varying dosages and modes of delivery used between studies may partly account for the conflicting findings.

Hence, more research is needed before strong conclusions can be made.

Summary

Omega-3s may hydrate your skin and protect it from irritants and skin disorders like atopic dermatitis and psoriasis. However, more studies are needed to confirm these effects.

4–6. Other Potential Skin and Hair Benefits

Omega-3s may also offer additional benefits.

  1. May accelerate wound healing. Animal research suggests that omega-3s delivered intravenously or applied topically may quicken wound healing, but human research is needed.
  2. May reduce the risk of skin cancer. Diets rich in omega-3s may prevent tumor growth in animals. However, research in humans is needed to confirm this.
  3. May boost hair growth and reduce hair loss. Test-tube and animal studies suggest that omega-3s may boost hair growth. More studies on the effects of omega-3s on hair growth and loss in humans are needed.

It's important to note that only a small number of studies have investigated these benefits in humans. Plus, the studies often used multiple supplements at once, making it difficult to isolate the effects of omega-3s from those of other supplements. Hence, more studies are needed.

Summary

Omega-3s may accelerate wound healing, boost hair growth, reduce hair loss, and even lower your risk of skin cancer. That said, more studies are needed to confirm these benefits.

The Bottom Line

Omega-3s are healthy fats found in fish, seafood, and plant foods like walnuts, flax seeds, hemp seeds, and chia seeds.

In addition to their powerful health benefits, these fats may benefit your hair and skin. Though research is limited, they appear to boost your skin's resistance to sunburns, reduce acne, and protect against dry, red, and itchy skin.

All in all, these healthy fats are an easy and worthy addition to your diet, as they not only benefit your hair and skin but also your overall health.

Reposted with permission from Healthline. For detailed source information, please view the original article on Healthline.

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