Forget tweaking your Instagram filters to achieve a healthy glow or glossy hair. Upping your omega 3 intake could be the answer. From minimising breakouts to giving thinning hair a boost, in this post we provide a breakdown of the omega 3 benefits for skin, hair and nails.
What is omega 3?
Omega 3 fatty acids are essential nutrients found in certain foods. They’re also widely available in supplement form.
The two main omega 3 fatty acids are docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). Consuming a healthy dose of these nutrients can support a number of areas of wellness, from heart and cognitive health to bone strength and joint mobility.
However, if you boost your intake, you may also discover omega 3 benefits for skin, hair and nails too.
- Omega 3 is known for supporting cognitive, heart and bone health - but these nourishing fatty acids can also give your hair, skin and nails a welcome boost
- When we talk about omega 3, what we’re actually interested in are the fatty acids docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)
- As an essential nutrient, your body can’t produce omega 3, instead it has to come from your diet or topical application
Omega 3 benefits for skin
Why take omega 3 for skin? You can invest in the most potent skincare and sophisticated treatments, but what you eat also has an important influence over how your skin behaves. When it comes to achieving a healthy glow, eating a diet including a plentiful supply of omega 3 fatty acids is top of the list of many beauty experts.
Subdue skin breakouts
Omega 3 can help reduce inflammation. This explains why fatty acids are often linked to easing skin conditions such as acne.1 There’s a growing body of research exploring the link between omega 3 and acne, with evidence emerging that taking a fish oil supplement could reduce the severity of blemishes.2 Studies also uncover a link between the prevalence of acne and diets low in fatty acids.3
Reduce sensitivity to sun damage
Omega 3 has shown potential to help supplement the skin’s resilience to the harmful ultraviolet rays from sunlight.4 It’s certainly no replacement for a good quality SPF and taking appropriate shade, but a regular dose of dietary omega 3 may decrease your skin’s sensitivity to the sun.5
Hydrate and smooth dry or irritated skin
A healthy dose of fatty acids can help skin stay soft and reduce inflammation. Omega 3s can bolster your skin’s ability to retain water by enhancing its barrier function. This could have a positive influence on your skin’s hydration level, providing a welcome moisture boost for those with dry, irritated or dermatitis-prone skin.6,7
- There’s increasing interest in the use of omega 3s to provide a natural boost to skin health
- If you’re prone to spots and blemishes, omega 3 could help reduce inflammation
- It could also help soften rough, dry skin and have a soothing effect on any irritation
- Evidence suggests it could also make skin more resilient to sunlight
Omega 3 benefits for nails
A change in the appearance of your nails is sometimes a sign of nutrient deficiencies. Omega 3 provides a beneficial fatty acid boost that can improve the appearance and health of nails. But it’s not a treatment. If you’re concerned about a change in your nails, it’s always best to seek medical advice.
Prevent dry and brittle nails
If your nails bend or break at the drop of a hat, you could well be deficient in omega 3 fatty acids.8 Increasing your intake of omega 3 fatty acids helps to nurture the cells in the nail bed. This can curb inflammation and encourage the absorption of nutrients.
Stronger, healthier nails
A good supply of omega 3 can help lubricate and moisturise your nails. This not only gives them a shiny appearance, it also contributes to promoting healthy growth.
- Omega 3 could benefit the health of your nails
- The fatty acids can add shine and reduce brittleness
- If you’re concerned about a change in the texture, shape or appearance of your nails, seek medical advice
See our ‘7 ways to improve nail strength’ for more ideas.
Omega 3 benefits for hair
Is omega 3 good for hair? Could fish oil help you grow long, lustrous locks? It certainly seems possible that a lack of omega 3 can contribute to dry looking hair and scalp irritation. So, making sure you’re getting a nourishing dose of these fatty acids in your diet could give your hair a welcome boost.
Increase hair growth
More research on this is needed, but existing studies show potential for a follicle nourishing effect that could increase hair growth. For example, in a study in 2015, women taking a supplement containing omega 3 reported an increase in hair density and reduced hair loss.9 In another study, 10 people suffering with androgenetic alopecia (a form of hair loss) were given a daily supplement that included fish oil and flaxseed oil (sources of omega 3.) Eight people in the trial reported an increase in hair.10
Reducing scalp irritation
Omega 3 nourishes hair at the follicles. As a result, the anti-inflammatory properties of these fatty acids can help to soothe and moisturise a dry, irritated scalp. This may help to prevent flakiness.
Adds elasticity and brightness
By encouraging the production of scalp oils, dry and lifeless hair gets a natural dose of nourishment that can add a sheen to your locks.
- Positive results from existing studies suggest omega 3 may encourage hair growth.
- By nourishing the follicles, omega 3 also promotes hair strength, which could help counteract breakage and hair loss.
Read our post, ‘Cod liver oil benefits for your hair’ for more information.
How to use omega 3 for skin, hair and nails
You can get the benefits from omega 3 by eating foods rich in these fatty acids or by taking a supplement.
The richest food sources are oily fish, such as salmon, sardines and mackerel. However, if you follow a vegetarian or vegan diet, omega 3 is also found in some nuts, seeds and dark, leafy greens. For example, flaxseed, chia seeds, kale, algae and walnuts are alternative plant-derived sources. You can also look out for eggs, milk, yoghurt, bread and spreads that are fortified with omega 3.
Strictly speaking, you could apply a fish oil to your skin, hair, and nails. But given the pungent scent, you may prefer to get the benefits from an ingestible source.
However, if you struggle with chronically dry, flaky skin, using oils or creams that contain omega 3 could offer a useful top-up of fatty acid goodness.
Side effects of omega 3
Side-effects are uncommon and mild if you keep to the recommended daily dose. The most common unwanted outcomes associated with omega 3 are stomach upsets, flatulence and diarrhoea.
Is omega 3 safe for everyone?
High doses of Omega 3 fatty acids can lead to blood-thinning effects. So, if you take anticoagulants or have a bleeding disorder, ask your doctor for advice before increasing your intake.
Some fish oils are very high in vitamin A. Consuming too much can cause you to exceed your recommended daily allowance. In large doses, vitamin A can be harmful.
In particular, pregnant women (or women planning to become pregnant) should not take fish oil supplements containing vitamin A.
- Official guidance is the best way to get enough omega 3s is to eat two portions of fish twice a week11
- Keeping within the recommended dose will help prevent any adverse effects
- You should factor in that omega 3 supplements also often contain vitamin A
- If blood clotting is a concern for you, consult a doctor before taking supplements
For more information on how to include more omega 3 in your diet, read ‘8 of the best sources of omega 3 fats.’
Have the omega 3 benefits for skin, hair & nails got your attention?
This post introduces a whole range of omega 3 benefits for skin, hair and nails. Whether you suffer with acne or brittle nails, this supplement could be a useful addition to your routine. The best way to increase your dose of these essential fatty acids is to incorporate a couple of portions of fish into your weekly meal plan. Alternatively, you could try a supplement or skincare enriched with fatty acids.
Last updated: 7 April 2021