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The Benefits of Fish Oil for Skin Health

Published by Dr. Venn-Watson
Highlights

It seems fish oil supplements are at the height of popularity; practically everyone you know seems to be taking one… and suffering through several hours of fishy aftertaste after each capsule they take. 

Fish oil’s claim to fame has always centered around heart health, but it has purported skin and other benefits, too. 

Together, we’ll explore how fish oil was discovered, how we get it, what it can do in terms of keeping your skin looking youthful and healthy, and why the new essential fatty acid on the block might be a good addition to essential fatty acid health stack.

What is Fish Oil?

Fish oil, such as cod liver oil, is an extraction from fatty fish that contains omega-6s and omega-3 fatty acids. Two types of omega-3 fatty acids that can be found in fish oil include EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). EPA and DHA are both polyunsaturated fatty acids. 

Omega-3s include many molecules including ALA, EPA, DHA. EPA and DHA are in higher levels in most food sources of omega-3s

ALA is an essential fatty acid. For nutrients to be essential to our bodies, it means we need them to function properly but can’t make them on our own. As such, we have to get them from food and/or supplementation. 

Dietary sources of omega-3 are fatty fish like salmon, tuna, mackerel, and trout. You can also find omega-3 in some shellfish like mussels and crabs. These all contain EPA and DHA as well as omega-6 fatty acids. Nuts, seeds, and vegetable oils contain ALA (alpha-linolenic acid), an omega-3 that the body can convert to EPA and DHA, although that conversion process isn’t extremely efficient. 

What’s in a Fish Oil Supplement?

If your diet doesn’t contain a lot of fatty fish, a supplement is usually recommended. Fish oil supplements are made up of oils that are extracted from either the livers and/or tissues of fatty fish. 

Most fish oil supplements will contain a blend of both tissue and liver oils, from numerous different fish. You’ll probably also find some preservative ingredients tossed in the capsule. 

Because fish oil supplements are derived from fish, they frequently have a fishy aftertaste, even if they claim to be a “burpless” formula. 

Fish oil supplements contain ALA, DHA, EPA and often, a lot of less desirable ingredients, toxins, and fillers.

How Was Omega-3 Discovered?

It’s important to talk a little bit about the discovery of omega-3, because it directly relates to skin health. 

Omega-3s were discovered in 1929 by Mildred and George Burr, a husband and wife team, by removing omega-3 fatty acids from the diet of mice. They found that the mice developed poor skin and hair. 

Further studies led to the realization that omega-3 was essential for human growth and development. Since that time we have learned more about how omega-3 work in the body and how it can potentially benefit human skin.

Fast forward 90 years, and another husband and wife doctor/scientist team discovered a new essential fatty acid, called C15:0. More on that soon!

Fish Oil for Skin Health

Most of us would admit we’d love to have healthier, more youthful looking skin. Unfortunately, many of the skin-care treatments we find on store shelves only treat the top layer of the epidermis, which houses a layer of already dead skin cells. 

Taking a fish oil supplement might be able to help you get healthier skin. Here’s what we know.

Dry Skin and Eczema

Suffering from chronic dry skin and eczema can be frustrating. It can feel like no matter how much heavy moisturizing cream you use, you can never get relief. 

Eczema can be caused by numerous factors, including changes in the weather. If you typically get patches of eczema in the winter, it could be because the air is colder and drier during winter months. Combined with commercial heaters inside stores and office buildings, winter can be brutal on the skin. 

Eczema can also be caused by an inflammatory immune response to stress. Developing patches of irritation during stressful periods in your life may be a sign your immune system is a little off-balance. 

Symptoms of eczema include:

  • Dry, flaky patches of skin, commonly on the face, joints, legs, hands, and arms

  • Itchy, scaly areas of skin

  • Redness, irritation that doesn’t seem to go away

Fish oil may be able to help. Because fish oil contains DHA and EPA, which are thought to inhibit inflammation, it may be useful in calming eczema.  

Acne

At some point, virtually everyone struggles with a breakout (or two, or three). Acne is one of the most common skin conditions you can develop, and it can be difficult to get rid of a serious case of cystic acne without medical intervention. 

Acne has numerous causes. 

  • Heredity. One possible cause of acne is in your genes. If one or both of your parents had acne, you will be more likely to develop acne. 

  • Improper skin care. Not using the correct products on your skin, or not washing your face regularly can lead to clogged pores that result in acne bumps. 

  • Hormones. Hormonal changes can trigger your sebaceous glands to produce additional sebum. Sebum mixes with dirt and dead skin cells on your skin and clogs pores to form blemishes. 

Fish oil’s effects on acne have been studied with varying results. While some studies show fish oil to be beneficial in decreasing the amount and frequency of acne breakouts, there are also studies that show taking a fish oil capsule either had no effect on the subject’s acne, or that it potentially exacerbated it

Sunspots and Discoloration

Getting older usually means the development of “liver spots,” or sunspots. These spots form from years of UV exposure. Growing up in the 80’s and 90’s meant you likely didn’t wear sunscreen, or at least not a lot of it. As adults, we’re definitely paying for those golden tans we used to get each year. 

UV damage is also referred to as free radical damage. Free radicals attack your cells and damage them, resulting in skin spots that can become permanent. 

While it isn’t likely fish oil will help you eradicate those sunspots overnight (or even over a longer period of time), it can help diminish their appearance. Fish oil also is thought to help with wound healing and can inhibit melanin production, which may help reduce the risk of developing UV-related sunspots. 

It’s important to note, however, that increased melanin is a built-in safeguard for your skin, allowing it to get darker before you burn. While taking omega-3 supplements, it’s important to make sure you are using proper sunscreen. 

The Bottom Line: Does Fish Oil Really Work For Skin Health?

Fish oil is beneficial to your body, but it may not a miracle capsule that will give you glowing skin overnight. The side effects of taking fish oil like fishy aftertaste, loose stools, and potential heartburn often disqualify it from being the skincare supplement of anyone’s dreams. 

When you want healthy skin, it often helps to start at the cellular level. Skin cells need nourishment and support to produce collagen, elastin, and keep skin looking and feeling youthful. 

Healthier Skin, Better Fatty Acid

Healthy skin is a process, but the process starts in your cells. As we get older, our skin cells regenerate more slowly, leaving our skin looking older, feeling drier, and making fine lines and wrinkles crop up around the corners of our eyes. 

Inside your skin’s cells, two structures begin to fail:

  1. Cell membranes. As our skin cells get older, the cell membranes that protect them and give them structure begin to wear out, becoming flimsy and allowing your skin to be more easily harmed by external stressors. 

  2. Mitochondria. The mitochondria of your skin cells gives them their energy, so they can create new skin cells, produce collagen and elastin, and keep your skin looking youthful. As you get older, mitochondrial function begins to wane. 

It’s not just happening in your skin, either — it’s happening all over your body. All your cells are experiencing the same decline with age. While fish oil may be helpful, science supports that another essential fatty acid may be equally or more beneficial to your cellular health.. 

Pentadecanoic Acid and Your Skin

Meet pentadecanoic acid, also known as C15:0. This odd-chain, essential, saturated fatty acid was also discovered through an animal’s diet. Scientists noted that dolphins who ate a diet of fish that contained higher levels of C15:0 lived longer and had less age-related diseases than other populations of dolphins. Since publishing their results in Nature’s Scientific Reports in 2020, over 24 additional peer reviewed publications in 2021 alone were also published describing the benefits of C15:0 to our health. These publications also support that C15:0 is the first essential fatty acid to be discovered in over 90 years.

How C15:0 Works

C15:0 works by strengthening cell membranes, increasing mitochondrial function, and activating receptors that regulate many parts of our everyday health. 

Studies also showed that cellular stability increased by 80%, and mitochondrial function increased by 45% when C15:0 was taken regularly. 

The best part? No fishy aftertaste, ever. C15:0 is found primarily in full fat dairy products, which unfortunately means that many of us do not get enough of this essential fatty acid in our diet.. That’s where fatty15 comes in. 

Fatty15 and Your Skin

You can get the great skin-healthy benefits of C15:0 by taking the first and only supplement to contain the pure, vegan-friendly version of this new essential fatty acid, FA15™. In fact, 2 out of 3 people taking fatty15 report near term benefits, such as thicker hair and more healthy skin within 6 weeks.

Fatty15 is a vegan friendly, easy-to-swallow, small capsule with no fishy aftertaste and no fishy ingredients. Just 100 mg per day can give you healthier skin.* 

You’re going to age, and so will your skin. Fatty15 gives your skin the ability to stay looking youthful, longer. No gimmicks or miracle creams, just solid scientific research and a patented, award-winning, essential fatty acid that improves your cell health and reverses cellular aging. 

Explore fatty15 for yourself here and see how easy it can be to improve health as a whole by improving health at the cellular level.  

*Based on average time reported for users to see visible changes in their skin.


Sources:

Fish oil - Mayo Clinic 

Diet and eczema: a review of dietary supplements for the treatment of atopic dermatitis|NCBI 

Effect of dietary supplementation with omega-3 fatty acid and gamma-linolenic acid on acne vulgaris: a randomised, double-blind, controlled trial|NCBI 

Effects of fish oil supplementation on inflammatory acne|NCBI  

Cosmetic and Therapeutic Applications of Fish Oil's Fatty Acids on the Skin|NCBI 

Profile photo for Eric Venn-Watson

Eric Venn-Watson M.D.

Eric is a physician, U.S. Navy veteran, and Co-founder and COO of Seraphina Therapeutics. Eric served over 25 years as a Navy and Marine Corps physician, working with the special forces community to improve their health and fitness. Seraphina Therapeutics is a health and wellness company dedicated to advancing global health through the discovery of essential fatty acids and micronutrient therapeutics.

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