Omega-3 and Skin that Glows
We all love to have clear, glowing skin, right? No one wakes up in the morning and says, “Hmm, you know, I’d like to have dry skin or maybe acne today.” But I have to tell you, when you balance work and raising three kids, sometimes skin care just falls by the wayside. Moisturizing doesn’t seem like much of a priority when you’re hoping that you won’t catch the flu from your son or your daughter has a soccer tournament all weekend.
That’s why it came as such a pleasant surprise to me that when I started to take in more omega-3 again to get back into running, I also noticed my skin started to look and feel healthier. I did some research, and it turns out there is a link between omega-3 and skin health. Whether the issue is wrinkles and signs of aging, dry skin, or inflammation like acne, both omega-3 topicals and dietary supplements have been shown to be a very efficient treatment. They certainly helped me start to care for my skin again.
But before we talk about the correlation between omega-3 and skin health, we have to talk about how skin can become unhealthy and what skin issues can be improved with omega-3.
What’s Causing Your Bad Skin?
Let’s be clear, I didn’t write this post to call you out. If anything, I’m calling myself out, but there’s no point in dwelling on blame. It only takes time away from focusing on solutions. In this case, however, it is good to have context of what caused the problem, so you can know how best to solve it. When it comes to skin, often unhealthy skin is just the result of being too busy or not knowing how to properly care for your skin.
Here are a few common causes of unhealthy skin:
Insufficient hydration. Everyone knows how important it is to hydrate, but few of us actually hydrate as much as the doctor tells us we should. According to the Mayo Clinic, women should drink about 2.7 liters of water each day, while men should be drinking 3.7 liters of water every day.1 I don’t know about you, but I’m lucky if I get in two bottles of water on a day when I’m not running. But without hydrating sufficiently and regularly, skin can become dry, flushed, or inflamed.2
Poor diet. The most common cause of unhealthy skin is poor diet. If you eat an excess of greasy food, processed food, or refined sugars, that shows in some way on your skin. Especially meaty diets also have an adverse effect on skin, which is probably why my vegan sister has such great skin all the time. On the other hand, a healthy amount of fruits and vegetables can help prevent wrinkles on your skin.3 And as you might expect, your intake of omega-3 and skin health have a correlation: an omega-3 deficiency can cause your skin to feel rough or bumpy.4
Lack of exercise. If you’re looking for an additional reason to stick to your new year’s resolution of working out more, here it is: not exercising can be harmful to your skin. The main reason is that your skin, like all other elements of your body, needs a healthy blood flow in order to stay fresh and happy. You also need to get out more and get some natural light on your skin to promote both skin health and emotional health.
Sun. On the other hand...you can have too much of a good thing. Over exposure in the sun can lower your collagen levels, as well as your skin’s natural elasticity. Too much sun can lead to wrinkles, brown spots, or, in the worst case, skin cancer.5
Stress. When I’m stressed, it’s easy to feel like I’m breaking out, but sometimes stress does in fact cause breakouts. Stress releases cortisol, which can cause acne, as well as eczema or psoriasis. If you already have issues with your skin, stress can exacerbate them.6
And that’s to say nothing of skin disorders and conditions that can make living with your skin hard no matter how well you take care of yourself. Basically, life can be pretty rough for your skin, especially when you don’t have time or the right habits to take care of it.
But enough about blame. Let’s talk about the connection between omega-3 and skin health and what can help give you skin that glows.
Omega-3 and Skin Health
I’d known of the importance of omega-3s for some time. As a runner, taking omega-3 supplements offers a natural way for me to lessen my joint pain after an intense workout. As a bit of a health nut, omega-3 supplements help me keep myself and my family healthy without having to have fish twice a week every week. But for a few years, I wasn’t running quite as often as I used to. It turns out having kids can make a pretty significant change to your schedule — who knew? After my last child was born, however, I decided to get back into running as a routine.
And it was rough, at first, let me tell you. Not only was I out of practice, but after three kids, my body didn’t feel the same way. Joint pain became a constant part of my life, and thus, so did omega-3 supplements. I took the recommended supplement every day and then I put on my sneakers and started running again. The fact that the omega-3 supplements lessened my joint pain and made running every day more bearably was great, but expected. What I didn’t expect was the effect that my omega-3 supplements had on my complexion.
In fact, I didn’t even notice myself until the mother of my oldest daughter’s best friend pointed it out to me. It was a typical day. I came by to pick my daughter up and before going home, we started talking and catching up. Halfway through this conversation, she blurted out, “I’m sorry, I have to ask: do you have a new skincare routine or something?”
I was a little thrown by this question. Between motherhood, work, and running, skincare wasn’t just isn’t a priority for me. I said that I wasn’t doing anything new, although I had started running more again. “Well, whatever you’re doing,” she said, “it’s working. You look great.”
I was pretty sure it had something to do with the exercise, but I decided to do a little research when I got home, and it turned out to be true: people often take omega-3 for smooth complexion.
As I said before, an omega-3 deficiency can have a negative effect on your skin health. On the other hand, take in the right amount of omega-3 and skin health will flourish. There are a few different benefits to draw from taking omega-3 for healthy skin:
Omega-3 protects skin from harmful UV rays of the sun. According to a 2013 study done by The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, omega-3 intake has been shown to double the immune system’s protection against harmful UV rays of the sun.7 It makes sense, since omega-3s are famous anti-inflammatories and there’s little that’s more, well, flammatory than the sun. Of course, it’s no substitute for sunscreen, but it’s nice to have that extra layer of protection.
Omega-3 and skin hydration. Remember when I said that one of the major causes of unhealthy skin was dehydration? Omega-3 supplements can help with that! Omega-3s act as a natural moisturizer for the skin, taking over where cell membranes start to fail with age.8 So not only can you use omega-3 for smooth complexion and glowing skin, but they can actually help reduce wrinkles with age.
Omega-3s reduce redness on skin. Actually, it’s more accurate to say they reduce the cause of the redness, which is usually inflammation. Omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA are champions when it comes to fighting inflammation (which is why omega-3s are such a big help at reducing joint pain). When your skin is less inflamed, the red blotches fade, leaving in their place just smooth, glowing skin.
Which Omega-3 for Healthy Skin Should You Take?
Here’s the thing: technically, you could get all the omega-3s you need by eating 8 ounces of seafood (roughly two servings) each week, particularly fish that are rich in EPA and DHA.9
These fish include:
- Lake Trout
- Albacore Tuna
If you really love eating fish, that’s fine. Personally? I’m not a big fan of fish. I can have it every once in a while, but it’s certainly not something I want to eat twice a week. So that’s where omega-3 supplements come in. However, most omega-3 supplements are made with fish oil, and it’s obvious from the fishy aftertaste that follows the pill down. I’ve also known people who want to start getting more omega-3 but have a seafood allergy that doesn’t allow them to do so.
The first omega-3 supplements I took came in huge capsules and had a strong taste of fish. I chased it down with a big glass of water and reminded myself that this was good for me, even if it didn’t taste like it. But when I started running regularly again, I wanted to find something that was a little easier to swallow. I started searching for sources of omega-3 that weren’t fish oil.
There are a few omega-3 foods that aren’t fish oil and can easily be worked into a diet, including flax and chia seeds, walnuts, and of course, the incredible, edible egg. But I also found a supplement I could easily work into my diet on busy days. Lately, I’ve been taking Omega XL because it’s not made with fish oil. It’s made instead from the green-lipped mussel in New Zealand with all the nutrients extracted so you can get your omega-3 boost with none of the seafood. It also comes in a smaller pill so it’s less daunting.
Ultimately, you have to find the omega-3 intake that works best for you. Maybe you get enough omega-3 from your regular diet that you don’t need omega-3 supplements. If so, more power to you! Taking omega-3 supplements, especially without fish oil, is a quick and easy way to get my omega-3 intake and get on with my day, and apparently an excellent benefit to skin health.Reference:
1 Water: How much of it should you drink every day? - Mayo Clinic
2 6 Unusual Signs and Symptoms of Dehydration - Everyday Health
3 8 Foods That Fight Wrinkles - Huff Post
4 Omega-3 Deficiency Symptoms | How much do we need? - Igennus
5 Sunlight and Skin Cancer - Honnavara N Ananthaswamy
6 Can Stress and Anxiety Affect Your Skin? - Allure
7 Omega-3 Fatty Acids Can Protect Skin from UV Rays - Best Health Nutritionals
8 Hydrate Your Skin With Omega-3 Foods - Foodamo
9 DIETARY RECOMMENDATIONS FOR FISH CONSUMPTION - A For Assessing the Effects of the Food System - Food and Nutrition Board
10 What Are the Best Fish for Omega-3 Fatty Acids? - Dr. Williams