Benefits for dry skin, acne and more

Fish oil comes from fish that are high in omega-3s, such as mackerel and herring. Some studies suggest that fish oil may be beneficial for people with certain skin conditions, although not all researchers agree.

Omega-3 is a polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA), which is a type of nutrient that the body cannot make on its own.

In this article, we take a look at fish oil for the skin, including its potential benefits, what the research says, and what skin conditions it can help. We also discuss how to use fish oil to get the maximum benefit.

A 2018 report in Marine drugs notes that fish oil and its components, including omega-3s, can help support overall skin health. The review found evidence that fish oil can help by:

  • maintain homeostasis
  • improvement of the barrier function
  • inhibiting inflammation, especially UV light
  • promote healing of the skin

Scientists believe these benefits are due to PUFAs in fish oil, which include eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).

The body incorporates dietary fatty acids into cell membranes. When a cell membrane is healthy, the cell can hold water. In the skin, this results in hydrated and soft cells. Omega-3 fatty acids also help reduce the production of inflammatory compounds that contribute to the aging process.

Some fish oils contain other nutrients, such as vitamin A, vitamin D, and selenium. Vitamin A is an antioxidant related to retinol, a popular ingredient in skin care products and a treatment for skin disorders.

However, while the evidence supports the idea that fish oil improves general skin health, research into its benefits for specific skin conditions is more mixed.

Eczema, or atopic dermatitis, is a commmon inflammatory condition of the skin. It is itchy and flaky, and the skin can sometimes crack and bleed.

A research article 2013 notes that EPA and DHA can inhibit inflammation, which may be beneficial for the skin. Other animal studies also show that fish oil can alleviate symptoms of eczema. For example, a 2015 study on rats found that supplementation reduced the scratching and dryness associated with itching.

However, these results do not necessarily prove that fish oil is an effective remedy for eczema in humans. A 2016 review note that there is only limited evidence to support this benefit.

Scientists need to conduct more studies involving more people to understand the value of using fish oil for eczema relief.

Acne causes pimples and cysts, which can be inflamed and painful. For this reason, the omega-3 content of fish oil can be helpful for reduce general inflammation in the body. However, studies that focus on the benefits of fish oil for acne have mixed results.

A small, randomized, double-blind, controlled trial found that omega-3 supplementation decreases acne lesions significantly over the 10 weeks.

On the other hand, a survey in Lipids in health and disease had mixed results. While 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 solid evidence that it will help everyone.

Hyperpigmentation describes darker patches of skin that occur as a result of increased production of melanin. There are many causes of hyperpigmentation, including:

  • hormonal changes
  • UV exposure
  • aging
  • skin trauma
  • drugs that cause sensitivity to the sun

Fish oil could potentially help reduce hyperpigmentation in several ways. Omega-3s can minimize wound infections and speed healing, which is helpful with hyperpigmentation due to trauma to the skin.

DHA can also inhibit melanin production, which can reduce the risk of UV-induced hyperpigmentation.

Although rare, fish oil may cause reactions in some people who are allergic to fish or shellfish. Symptoms can include headache, wheezing, diarrhea, and hives.

In particular, a person allergic to fish or shellfish who reacts to fish oil may develop eczema. A person who already has eczema may find that their symptoms get worse.

If a person exhibits symptoms of a severe allergic reaction to fish oil, such as difficulty breathing, they should seek immediate medical attention.

People use fish oil in a variety of ways, but the easiest option is usually to take a fish oil supplement.

Fish oil has a strong taste and pungent odor, so its topical use is not always appropriate. The capsules help make fish oil easier to take.

There is no dosage recommendation for fish oil. However, the Recommended Dietary Intake (RDI) for EPA and DHA is approximately 250 milligrams (mg).

The amount of EPA and DHA in fish oils varies widely, but in 1000 mg of fish oil, people typically get 180 mg of EPA and 120 mg of DHA.

According to a 2019 review, it is best to take a fish oil supplement with a meal containing dietary fat, as this optimizes the bioavailability of omega-3 fatty acids.

Some to research reports that taking fish oil before a meal reduces potential side effects, such as acid reflux and indigestion. However, another to study reported no apparent difference.

As with any nutritional supplement, it is a good idea to consult a healthcare practitioner 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 specific skin conditions, such as 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 had mixed results.

It is not entirely clear whether taking a fish oil supplement will benefit everyone. However, some people may notice improved skin hydration and overall skin health, which may provide relief for some skin conditions.

Patricia J. Callender