Flaxseed, also known as linseed, is a blue flowering plant grown on the western Canadian prairies for its rich oils. The oil is high in omega-3 fatty acids, which promote healthy heart and immune system functioning and may also help restore skin health.
Civilizations have been using flax since humankind's early beginnings: Flaxseed was one of the first crops ever cultivated and was used in Ayurveda to improve the skin's elasticity, moisture levels and appearance, per a September 2014 article in the Journal of Food Science and Technology.
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Just 1 tablespoon of flaxseed oil contains more than 7 grams of an omega-3 fatty acid called alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), per Harvard Health Publishing, making it one of the richest sources of the plant-based omega-3.
However, your body has to convert ALA into other kinds of omega-3 fats in order to process it, so although it's a good source of the nutrient, you'll also want to eat various other omega-3 rich foods like fish and nuts, according to Oregon State University's Linus Pauling Institute.
And while you may be inclined to use flaxseed oil in everything, know that it's not recommended for cooking, since it has a low smoke point. If you want to include it in your food, you can use it in dips, dressings and other recipes that don't need to be heated.
When you're not creating nutritious meals with it, consider using flaxseed oil as a natural skincare remedy. Here are flaxseed's benefits for skin.
1. Flaxseed May Smooth Wrinkles
Skin is made of protein and requires protein to restore its health. The omega-3 protein found in flaxseed oil may reduce the appearance of wrinkles by helping to repair skin cells.
In a small November 2010 study published in Skin Pharmacology and Physiology, women who used flaxseed oil saw a decrease in their skin's sensitivity to irritation and roughness, and reported an increase in smoothness and hydration.
To apply to your skin, you can rub 1 tablespoon of flaxseed oil on a clean face in the morning and before bed. You can use an oil or break open one flaxseed oil supplement capsule and rub the oil onto the skin. Just apply it to a small patch of skin first to make sure it's not irritating or pore-clogging.
2. Flaxseed Oil Can Soothe Dry Skin
The essential fatty acids found in flaxseeds help keep your skin hydrated and smooth in appearance. Flaxseeds increase your body's natural oil production, according to dermatologist Jeffrey Benabio, MD. The fatty acids are necessary for keeping your skin soft.
Using flaxseed topically or taking it orally can both protect and moisturize your skin. It protects your skin in three ways, Dr. Benabio says:
- Flaxseed oil acts as a protective barrier, keeping irritants from entering your pores.
- Flaxseed oil can help lock water into your skin.
- Flaxseed oil can help prevent water loss through the skin, which can help minimize the appearance of wrinkles.
How Much Oil Should You Use?
Follow the instructions on the label when it comes to flaxseed oil dosage. And remember — if you're taking an oral supplement, the FDA does not require supplements to be proven safe or effective before they are sold, so there’s no guarantee that what you take is safe, contains the ingredients it says it does or produces the effects it claims.
3. Flaxseed Oil May Tame Psoriasis Symptoms
Psoriasis is a condition in which plaques or scales appear on the skin as a result of inflammation in the body, per the National Psoriasis Foundation. Omega-3 fatty acids, like those in flaxseed oil, may help improve the skin barrier function, which can help seal in moisture and keep irritants away.
An April 2017 systematic review in the International Journal of Rheumatic Diseases found that some studies showed that omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids could help decrease the severity of psoriasis symptoms, though the doses of omega-3s and findings vary and are not conclusive.
4. Flaxseed Oil Might Help With Rosacea
There are a number of possible treatments for rosacea, a common skin condition that causes redness, visible blood vessels and sometimes small, red, pus-filled bumps on your face, per the Mayo Clinic.
While there is no research to suggest that flaxseed oil can reduce rosacea symptoms, there are a number of anecdotal reports that claim, when applied topically, the oil can help reduce the appearance of the skin condition.
Some preliminary studies — including one published August 2018 in Marine Drugs — suggest omega-3 fatty acids may increase the speed at which skin wounds heal, which could make flaxseed oil a helpful agent in treating conditions like rosacea, dermatitis and psoriasis. Still, more research is needed to confirm this potential benefit.
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Why not flaxseed oil?"
- Journal of Food Science and Technology: "Flax and flaxseed oil: an ancient medicine & modern functional food"
- National Psoriasis Foundation: "About Psoriasis"
- International Journal of Rheumatic Diseases: "Effect of omega-3 fatty acids on disease severity in patients with psoriasis: A systematic review"
- Mayo Clinic: "Rosacea"
- Marine Drugs: "Cosmetic and Therapeutic Applications of Fish Oil’s Fatty Acids on the Skin"
- Linus Pauling Institute: "Essential Fatty Acids"
- FDA: "FDA 101: Dietary Supplements"
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