Every once in awhile, a particular ingredient (edible or otherwise) gets a ton of press and starts appearing in everything from drinks to lotions. Why? Is it all hype, or are there any real benefits? If there are benefits, what’s the best way for you to incorporate this ingredient into your already-crowded life? We do the research so you don’t have to, because we’re good at reading between the lines: welcome to Ingredient Check!
Why are people talking about fatty acids and lipids?
It’s no secret fats are an essential part of a well-balanced, nutritious diet (team peanut butter!). But they also play an important role in skin function and appearance. Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in particular strengthen the skin’s protective barrier, reduce inflammation, and increase blood circulation. All of these things keep your skin looking young, fresh, and glowing.
While our bodies naturally produce fatty acids, the rate of production declines as we age. This can result in uneven texture, tightness, dehydration, dullness, and loss of elasticity. So, we’re seeing fatty acids more and more in topical beauty products to counter these effects.
What are fatty acids, exactly?
Fatty acids are organic acid molecules found in fats, oils, and as components of a number of essential lipids, such as phospholipids and triglycerides. Lipids are skin’s natural fats. They’re essential components of skin and play a crucial role in maintaining the strength of the skin’s protective barrier, which holds in moisture, prevents sun damage, and keeps dirt and impurities out. They also aid the skin’s natural repair process. While there are many types of lipids, these are the three that are most important for the skin:
Cholesterol — This lipid helps accelerate recovery of the skin’s barrier and improve the appearance of skin elasticity. Visible skin aging is often caused by cholesterol deficiency on the skin. (It’s important to note that cholesterol on your skin is different from the cholesterol found in the blood, and having more of it on your skin won’t cause your blood pressure to spike.)
Ceramides — This type of lipid is proven to increase the skin’s hydration and barrier function. Ceramide deficiency is the main cause of dry skin.
Fatty acids — Abundant in young, healthy skin, fatty acids help maintain the skin’s lipid balance.
Do you need fatty acids?
Yes! In order to prevent signs of aging and more serious skin conditions like dermatitis, eczema, and psoriasis, it’s important to supplement with both foods and topical treatments that are rich in fatty acids.
Healthy, youthful skin has an abundance of these naturally occurring lipids. As we age, lipid production declines, and this can result in rough surface texture, uncomfortable tightness, dullness, and loss of facial fullness. A compromised skin barrier is also more prone to irritation and water loss.
How to get it more fatty acids through food and supplements:
Include omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in your diet. In addition to fish, you can find these essential fatty acids in vegetable oils, palm and coconut oils, meat, eggs, dairy, nuts, and seeds. Walnuts are also a great omega-3-rich snack.
Food alone might not be providing you enough fatty acids, so it’s always a good idea to enhance your diet with a supplement. Our favorite is Udo’s Blend of Omega 3-6-9 supplements. “I started taking Udo’s Omega 3-6-9 twice a day and it has changed my skin, hair, and helped my dry eyes considerably,” says Robin Shobin. “It’s literally been a life-changing supplement for me. The liquid tastes quite horrendous (I try to follow a spoonful with a spoonful of honey or peanut butter to mitigate the taste). But it’s worth it. ”
You’ve also probably heard about the many health benefits of fish oil, and it’s also incredibly nourishing for the skin. Dr. Axe explains that fish oil helps skin “maintain a smooth, elastic texture. There is also evidence that fish oil prevents wrinkles and works against the aging process.”
Adding fatty acid-rich products to your skincare is a great idea, too
To fight the effects of fatty acid deficiency on your skin, we recommend SkinCeuticals Triple Lipid Restore 2:4:2 hydrating cream. This cream has an optimal 1:2:1 ratio of ceramides, cholesterol, and fatty acids. Another great addition would be REN Omega 3 Optimum Skin Oil. If you suffer from acne-prone or combination skin, this rose hip seed oil serum is light and nourishing at the same time and helps with anti-aging.
We also recommend nut oils like marula and argan, which are very high in omega fatty acids and naturally occurring antioxidants. We love Drunk Elephant’s Virgin Marula Oil for drier, more sensitive skin and Acure’s argan oil or Josie Maran’s as more lightweight options. “I’ve found that in using pure, unrefined, high-omega oil like marula, your skin will stop overproducing oil, since it isn’t dehydrated any longer, which will in turn cause fewer breakouts,” says Drunk Elephant founder Tiffany Masterson.
And don’t forget the sunscreen! Right now we’re loving SkinCeuticals Physical Fusion UV Defense SPF 50 and Drunk Elephant’s Umbra Sheer Physical Daily Defense.
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