Omega-3s are essential fatty acids that have incredible benefits for our health, playing a role in a range of brain and body functions, but did you know they also provide perks for your hair and your skin? Read on to learn more.
What Is Omega-3?
Omega-3s are a family of essential fatty acids that play vital roles in your body whilst also providing a lot of health benefits. (1) We call them ‘essential’ because your body is unable to produce them on its own, so you must get them from your diet.
There are 11 different types of Omega-3s but the three most important ones are alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). (2) ALA is found mainly in plant oils such as canola, flaxseed, and soybean oils, whereas DHA and EPA are found in fatty fish and other kinds of seafood. (3)
As we know, our body cannot make Omega-3s, but once you have consumed ALA your body can convert some into EPA, and then into DHA, but it tends to be only in very small amounts. Getting EPA and DHA from foods or dietary supplements are the only practical ways to get efficient levels of these essential fatty acids into your body. (3)
What Are The Benefits Of Omega-3 fatty acids?
Omega-3 fatty acids have a wide range of amazing health benefits for your body and brain, but they also provide a few benefits to your skin and hair.
There have been numerous studies into the effect fish oils and Omega-3s have on hair loss, with research suggesting that they promote hair growth. These studies found fish oils cause your lock to enter the hair growth phase or stay in this phase for longer periods of time.
The hair growth happens in four stages: anagen, catagen, telogen, and exogen. The anagen stage is when growth happens. A study with 120 female participants found that taking Omega-3 and Omega-6 supplements reduced the amount of hair in the telogen stage (the rest stage) and increased time spent in the growth stage. (4) Compared with the control group, the participants, who had taken the supplements for 6 months, reported less loss and more growth.
The same study cited above found that almost 90% of participants in the supplement group said their hair felt thicker than before. (4) With 86% reporting an improvement in hair diameter, and 97% in hair density.
Sun damage is the number one sign of ageing (5) as the ultraviolet rays (UV) that damage your skin and cause sunburn. Over time, these rays can lead to wrinkles, dark spots, and dry skin.
Omega-3s may protect against these harmful UV rays, with studies finding that supplementing with a combination of DHA and EPA may reduce your risk of skin’s sensitivity to UV rays. (6) In a smaller study, participants who consumed extra Omega-3 EPA for 3 months increased their resistance to sunburns by 136%, whilst the placebo group found no significant changes. (7)
More research is needed on these topics before conclusions can be drawn, but there certainly seems to be a cause and effect relationship.
Dry Skin and Eczema v
Eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis, is an inflammatory condition of the skin that causes itching and scaling, with skin that can sometimes crack and bleed. A study found that both EPA and DHA can restrict inflammation, which may benefit the skin. (8)
A study on rats found that supplementation of Omega-3s reduced itch-relating scratching and dryness. (9) These effects do need further studies, though, as a 2016 study found there is only limited evidence to support this benefit. (10)
Hyperpigmentation is when darker patches of skin appear due to a result of increased melanin production. This has many causes, including: ageing, UV exposure, hormonal changes, and skin trauma.
Omega-3s could help to reduce hyperpigmentation, as it can minimise wound infections and speed up healing. This is especially useful if the hyperpigmentation is due to skin trauma. (11) DHA has also been shown to inhibit melanin production, which may reduce the risk of UV-induced hyperpigmentation. (12)
As acne causes pimples and cysts that can be inflamed and painful, Omega-3s may help reduce general inflammation. (13) Studies focusing on Omega-3s benefits for acne have shown mixed results.
A small, randomised, double-blind and controlled trial found Omega-3 supplementation decreased acne lesions (a catch-all term to describe the bumps that characterize most acne conditions) significantly over the course of 10 weeks. (14)
Omega-3s may help reduce acne in some individuals, but there isn’t strong evidence that it will help everyone, but it may be worth giving it a try.
What About Vegan Omega-3?
As mentioned earlier, DHA and EPA are most commonly sourced from fatty fish, which vegans don’t consume, so this makes it difficult for those on a plant-based diet to get many of the Omega-3 hair and skin benefits.
But there’s good news, the fish don’t make the Omega-3s themselves. Instead, they obtain it from eating krill who have eaten a special species of micro-algae that has evolved to create their own DHA and EPA.
This means that the best source of Omega-3 fatty acids for those on a plant-based diet is an algae oil supplement. By going straight to the source the fish use, we can create a healthy, vegan Omega-3 fatty acids supplement with minimal environmental impact. One study even found algae oil was better than krill at raising EPA levels. (15)
Protect your future health by getting your Omega-3s - straight from the source. If you’re looking to begin taking an Omega-3 supplement, then check out Omvits, a 100% plant-based, ocean-friendly, and sustainable multivitamin and mineral creator.