When it comes to preparing a meal, there are good and bad fats from which to choose. We are going to explain the healthy fats, aka Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs). EFAs are a type of polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA), a more liquid fat, not made in our bodies. Therefore, they are obtained only by eating, hence the word essential.
Today we’ll focus on omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. In addition to their roles in maintaining healthy skin, these fatty acids are critical for brain function, hair growth, cardiovascular health, and immunity. In the U.S., we have to work harder to obtain a healthy amount of omega-3 fatty acids than other countries. The typical American diet contains 14-25 times more omega-6 fatty acids than omega-3s. Whereas, adopting a Mediterranean-style diet will provide a healthier ratio of omega-3 fatty acids. Mediterranean diets will include less meat and more fish, vegetables, whole grains, and olive oil.
How EFAs Affect the Skin
These fatty acids play a significant role in skin health, particularly in the dermis and epidermis. The outermost layer of the epidermis (skin) contains collagen-producing cells encased in a protein-lipid (fatty acid) matrix which acts as a protective barrier from the environment.
Essential fatty acids act as moisturizers and provide anti-inflammatory effects while reducing the severity of skin damage such as fine lines, wrinkles, and acne. Additionally, EFAs are often used to treat skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis. EFAs have beneficial effects whether you have dry, flaky or oily skin. A deficiency in EFAs increases transdermal water loss (skin dehydration), leading to excessively dry skin.
At S4 Skincare, we believe that what you take into your body is just as important as what you put on the outside.
Omega-3 Food Sources
Seafood (especially tuna and salmon), as well as flax, chia and hemp seeds, walnuts, cold water fish, soy, safflower, canola, sunflower and sesame oil
What Omegas Do
Omega-6s Arachidonic acid is the most common omega-6 fatty acid found in the skin. Omega-6s create a ripple effect in the body which can cause inflammation.
Omega-3s While making up just 2% of the total fatty acids in the skin, Omega-3s play an important role regulating inflammation and the immune response.
How Omega-3s Protect Your Skin
Photo-protection [minimizes UV-induced damage] While sunscreen provides temporary, local protection from UV damage, diets rich in omega-3 fatty acids offer long-term, systemic benefits. Clinical trials have shown using fish oil supplements increase the skin’s resistance to sunburn. Topically applied omega-3 provides protection by modulating the inflammatory response and decreasing UV-induced skin damage.
Photo-aging A diet high in omega-3 fatty acids is essential to maintaining a more youthful appearance. Photo-aging refers to long-term skin changes accelerated by sun exposure. These changes include deep wrinkling, a loss of elasticity, altered pigmentation, and collagen destruction. A study using topical EFA application showed epidermal thickening and increased collagen and elastin production.
Wound Healing Essential Fatty Acids play a critical role in normal skin function and appearance. EFAs support cell membranes which help to strengthen skin. Without proper nourishment, the skin becomes less flexible, inflamed, and may become uncomfortable to apply products without feeling irritation. Other signs of EFA deficiency include dermatitis, poor wound healing capabilities, and a state of chronic inflammation. Unhealthy skin can look flaky and dull.
Long Story Short
Eating foods rich in omega-3s, taking dietary supplements and enriching your skin care routine with topical essential fatty acids provide substantial benefits in maintaining healthy skin.
Snapshot of Foods Rich in Omega-3s
Image by Total Body Fitness
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