Omega 3 Deficiency Is Wildly Common, and That’s Not Great News for Skin

Photo: Getty/SanneBerg
It took but one deep-diving DNA test to tell me that I was severely deficient in Omega 3s (and 6s, the full-package deal) which are widely known to help improve cardiovascular health and even brain function—not to mention skin condition. There are complexion-boosting benefits to both ingesting essential fatty acids and applying them topically that should be taken seriously—especially since according to Arivale, the new wellness platform that tests nutrient levels in comparison to thousands of clients, most of us are likely lacking.

“Arivale tests labs related to your Omega 3 levels, called an Omega 3 index. At the initial observation, 88.62 percent of Arivale members were out of range,” says Erica Mouch, RDN CD LD and Arivale Coach, who adds that since we can’t naturally create more, it’s time to be an adult and seek them out. “To have the right levels in our bodies, they must be consumed or taken as a supplement. Together, Omega 3 and Omega 6 support reducing inflammation, which may be most visible in your skin.”

Ingesting Omega 3 and 6 for skin health

A quality supplement is a must, which has been the focus of Omega 3 Innovations, who follow Norway’s sustainable fishing regulations to produce cod liver oil (with zero fishy taste, mind you) masquerading as delectable treats like dark chocolate truffles and gluten-free cookies that deliver the same amount of fish oil as eating a 5-ounce filet of salmon. The easy sweet-tooth swaps are serious business for skin according to Anne-Marie Chalmers, MD, who co-founded the brand. "Omega-3 fatty acids make up an important part of every skin cell in the body and are at the heart of numerous cellular functions. In particular, these fatty acids are great at fighting inflammation,” Dr. Chalmers shares. “In addition, they provide a nourishing lipid barrier for the skin.”

Beauty buffs are taking note too. Jane Iredale Skin Omegas ($47) encapsulate super-purified Omega 3 fish oil and Omega-6-rich evening primrose oil for a measured dose meant to boost lipid layers for a more luminous complexion, while Arbonne Essentials Greens Balance ($52) blends superfood powders like quinoa and flax seed to deliver a smoothie-destined scoop of fatty acids. And for Hum Nutrition’s OMG! Omega The Great ($30) capsules, the brand notes that in an eight-week study of patients with acneic skin, those taking fish oil saw a 67 percent reduction in inflammatory breakouts.

Applying Omega 3 and 6 onto skin for skin health

Should we even act surprised that something so essential to our internal balance may have value on the exterior as well? There have been a steady uptick of fatty acid appearances in new skin-care formulas, like Emma Hardie Firming Neck Treatment ($87), which utilizes omega-rich Inca Inchi oil to help skin retain moisture and improve elasticity, or Rahua Body Oil ($57), which similarly features Amazonian Sacha Inchi (AKA the Inca peanut) packed with fatty acids and antioxidants. Then there’s One Love Organics Skin Savior ($40) harnessing the former from chia seeds, and Savor Beauty’s Caviar Eye Cream ($64) which unsurprisingly finds them in actual caviar extract. So what does it mean on a surface level?

“We incorporate natural sources of Omega 3, 6, and 9 in several products in our range for their remarkable hydrating properties,” says Jeremy Muijs, co-founder of the Australian-based brand Grown Alchemist. “For example, our Pure Rosehip Oil ($89) contains extremely high levels of Omegas 3, 6, and 9, which are biologically required for healthy skin structure and tissue regeneration. When applied topically they work to visibly smooth and firm the skin's surface while working to reduce the appearance of fine lines.” Lamees Hamdan, MD, who founded Shiffa’s organic skin-care line based on the principles of dermatology, seconds the notion of fatty-acid-enforced topical care. “Omega 3 has the ability to bolster the skin's barrier function, improve the texture of your skin,” shares Hamdan, who admittedly applies the Energising Body Oil ($63) for head-to-toe skin nourishment.

Even high-science brands understand the benefits, like G.M. Collin, who launched their Phyto Stem Cell + Cream ($116) that blends plant stem cells, peptides and Omega 3s into its signature recipe, or Algenist Genius Liquid Collagen ($115), whose 13,000 beads of naturally sourced microalgae oil in each bottle are rich in Omega 3, 6, and 9 and designed to restore bouncier skin in just a couple of weeks. On the chilled-out end of the spectrum, the CBD beauty craze is alive and well, and for good reason—hemp and CBD have incredibly high omega 3 and 6 levels, making options like Stacked Skincare Calming Hemp Seed Facial Elixir ($77) and the new Kiehls Cannabis Sativa Seed Oil Herbal Concentrate ($49) obvious picks for soothing complexions prone to flare-ups. Internal, external, hippy dippy, or lab-coat friendly—healthy fats are part of a new skin diet that’s getting real-time attention.

BTW: If you've ever wondered how much fish oil to take, we've got you, and here's how to sneak more in (if you need it), even if you're vegan.

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