Fish oil comes from fish that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as mackerel and herring. Some studies suggest that fish oil may benefit people with certain skin conditions, although not all researchers agree.
Omega-3 is a polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA), a type of nutrient that the body cannot produce itself.
In this article, we examine fish oil for skin, including its potential benefits, what the research says, and what skin conditions it can help with. We also discuss how to use fish oil to get the maximum benefit.
A 2018 review in Marine Drugs finds that fish oil and its ingredients, including omega-3s, can support overall skin health. The review found evidence that fish oil may help by:
- Maintaining homeostasis
- Improvement of the barrier function
- Inhibition of inflammation, especially by UV light
- Promote skin healing
Scientists believe these benefits are due to the PUFAs in fish oil, which include eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).
The body absorbs dietary fatty acids into cell membranes. When a cell membrane is healthy, the cell can hold water. In the skin, this results in the cells being hydrated and soft. Omega-3 fatty acids also help reduce the production of inflammatory compounds that contribute to the aging process.
Some fish oils contain other nutrients like vitamin A, vitamin D, and selenium. Vitamin A is an antioxidant related to retinol, a popular ingredient in skin care products and used to treat skin conditions.
While evidence supports the idea that fish oil promotes overall skin health, research on its benefits for certain skin conditions has been more inconsistent.
Eczema, or atopic dermatitis, is a common inflammatory skin disease. It causes itching and flaking, and the skin can sometimes crack and bleed.
A 2013 research article found that both EPA and DHA can inhibit inflammation, which can benefit the skin. Other animal studies also show that fish oil can relieve symptoms of eczema. For example, a 2015 study in rats found that supplementation reduced itch-related scratches and dryness.
However, these results do not necessarily prove that fish oil is an effective remedy for eczema in humans. A 2016 review finds that there is limited evidence to support this benefit.
Scientists need to do more studies with larger numbers of people to understand the value of using fish oil for eczema relief.
Acne causes pimples and cysts that can be inflamed and painful. Because of this, the omega-3 content in fish oil can be helpful in reducing general inflammation in the body. However, studies focusing on the benefits of fish oil for acne have mixed results.
A small randomized, double-blind, controlled study found that omega-3 supplementation significantly reduced acne lesions over the course of 10 weeks.
In contrast, a study of lipids in health and disease had mixed results. Although most of the study participants showed improvement in their acne, others experienced worsening symptoms.
Fish oil may help reduce acne in some people, but there is currently no clear evidence that it will help anyone.
Hyperpigmentation describes darker patches of skin that appear as a result of increased melanin production. There are many causes of hyperpigmentation, including:
- hormonal changes
- UV exposure
- Skin trauma
- Drugs that cause sensitivity to sunlight
Fish oil can potentially help reduce hyperpigmentation in a number of ways. Omega-3 can minimize wound infections and speed healing, which is helpful for hyperpigmentation due to skin injuries.
DHA can also inhibit melanin production, which can reduce the risk of UV-induced hyperpigmentation.
Although rare, fish oil can cause reactions in some people with allergies to fish or shellfish. Symptoms can include headache, wheezing, diarrhea, and hives.
In particular, a person with a fish or shellfish allergy who is sensitive to fish oil may develop eczema. Someone who already has eczema may find that their symptoms are getting worse.
If a person has symptoms of a severe allergic reaction to fish oil, such as: B. Difficulty breathing, she should see a doctor immediately.
People use fish oil in different ways, but generally the easiest option is to take a fish oil supplement.
Fish oil has a strong taste and a pungent odor, so topical application is not always appropriate. Capsules make it easier to take fish oil.
There is no set dosage recommendation for fish oil. However, the Recommended Food Intake (RDI) for EPA and DHA specifically is around 250 milligrams (mg).
The amount of EPA and DHA in fish oils varies widely, but in 1,000 mg of fish oil, people typically get 180 mg of EPA and 120 mg of DHA.
According to a 2019 review, it’s best to take a fish oil supplement with a meal that contains some dietary fat, as this will optimize the bioavailability of the omega-3 fatty acids.
Some research reports that taking fish oil before a meal reduces possible side effects such as acid reflux and indigestion. However, another study reported no apparent difference.
As with any dietary supplement, it is a good idea to check with a doctor before you start taking it.
Fish oil is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids. Some research suggests that these fatty acids can improve skin health as well as certain skin conditions like eczema and acne.
However, scientists need to do more research to understand exactly how effective fish oil is in treating skin conditions, as some studies have shown mixed results.
It’s not entirely clear whether taking a fish oil supplement is beneficial for everyone. However, some people may notice improvements in skin hydration and overall skin health, which can alleviate certain skin conditions.