Fish oil is a kind of nutritional oil derived from the tissue of fish. Mackerel, herring, trout, flounder, tuna and salmon are abundant in oil. It is used for the skin, brain and immune system. Oil in the diet does not necessarily translate to improved functionality in these areas, but the consumption of fish oil will directly improve the condition of your skin tissue, which is constantly being renewed by the formation of new skin cells.
Along with carbohydrates and proteins, lipids are among the major macromolecules of the body. They include such complex molecules as fats, waxes, phospholipids and sterols. Lipids are greasy in nature. Because the body often uses them to lubricate and repel water, they are important structural components. Lipids are therefore an integral part of skin anatomy.
The top layer of the skin is the epidermis. Beneath it is the dermis layer. Here is where the sebaceous glands originate. These glands secrete lipids called sebum into the hair follicles, which are embedded deep into the skin. Sebum is a type of oil that keeps the skin moist and soft. In addition, it acts as a barrier against foreign substances. Sebum is found most abundantly on the face and scalp, but it is distributed everywhere except for the palms and the soles of the feet.
Fish oil is composed of omega-3 fatty acids. There are two main types: docosahexaenoic acid -- DHA -- and eicosapentaenoic acid -- EPA. EPA in particular helps regulate the production of sebum in order to boost the hydration of the skin without too much excretion that turns the skin greasy, keeping it smooth and elastic. Unfortunately, the average American eats too few omega-3 fatty acids in relation to omega-6. A 2002 report in the journal "Biomedicine & Pharmacotherapy" found that the average ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 consumed in the American diet is approximately 15:1, but it should be closer to 4:1 or 5:1.
According to Dr. Doris Day, a dermatologist and professor at NYU Medical School writing for Health.com, fish oils can prevent acne and wrinkles by delaying the skin's aging process. In addition, a 2005 study in the "Journal of Lipid Research" found that EPA can block the release of UV-induced enzymes that degrade collagen, which causes lines and sagging skin. EPA is both an antioxidant and an anti-inflammatory agent. It can prevent and repair sun damage.
A lack of omega-3 fatty acids, on the other hand, can reduce the overall quality of the skin by causing dandruff, dry and flaking skin, poor healing, skin lesions, rashes, cracked skin and eczema, which is the inflammation of the epidermis. These problems often result from a lack of lubrication in the skin.
- Merck Manuals: Biology of the Skin
- Health.com: Are Fish Oil Supplements Good for the Skin?
- Biomedicine & Pharmacotherapy: The Importance of the Ratio of Omega-6/Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acids
- Fish with Omega Fatty Oil: Fish Oil and your Skin
- Journal of Lipid Research: Eicosapentaenoic Acid Inhibits UV-Induced MMP-1 Expression in Human Dermal Fibroblasts