There is a lot of talk in skin care circles about the importance of essential fatty acids (EFA’s) in skin health. They are a fundamental part of the protective skin barrier and help to keep skin well hydrated, firm, calm and luminous. We have written a two-part blog post on the importance of these crucial fats and how you can incorporate them into your skincare regime and diet in order to keep your skin looking it's glowing best!
The Role of Essential Fatty Acids in the Skin Barrier
To understand how important fatty acids are lets briefly discuss the skin barrier. The skin barrier is found in the stratum corneum, the top layer of the skin. It consists of corneocytes (flattened skin cells), ceramides (waxy lipid molecules), cholesterol and free fatty acids. The skin barrier has been likened to a brick wall. The corneocytes are the bricks and the ceramides, cholesterol and free fatty acids act as the mortar, or cement, holding the bricks together.
The skin barrier is veiled by a mixture of fats and water know as the hydro-lipid film. The water component of the hydro-lipid film is made up of natural moisturizing factor (NMF). A group of ingredients that includes amino acids, lactic acid, sodium PCA, various sugars and minerals, and peptides. The hydro-lipid film had three main roles:
Maintains optimum hydration, to keep skin soft, supple and firm.
Keeps skin pH at 4.5 – 5.5, allowing beneficial bacteria to flourish and harmful microorganisms to be destroyed.
Provides a proper environment for enzymes to engage in cell turnover and exfoliation.
Together they form an amazing, water-resistant, anti-bacterial, super shield. Protecting your skin from bacteria, allergens, pollution, UV exposure, extreme climate conditions and other environmental stressors and pathogens. They are also crucial in maintaining skin hydration by limiting water loss in skin cells. A healthy strong skin barrier will keep your skin soft, supple, hydrated, and calm. A damaged skin barrier, on the other hand, can sensitize your skin, causing redness, irritation, excessive dryness, acne and outbreaks of dermatitis and eczema.
Fatty acids are an essential component of the skin barrier and hydro-lipid film. They help keep skin firm, supple, moisturized and protected. A lack of fatty acids can diminish and weaken the skin barrier and lead to the multitude of skin problems mentioned above.
Fatty Acids 101: What You Need to Know
Essential fatty acids (EFAs) are, well, essential. That’s because your body requires them to function properly but the catch is our bodies cannot make them on its own. Therefore, the foods you eat and what you apply to your skin must include EFAs.
Essential fatty acids, also known as omega-3 and omega-6, are polyunsaturated fats that help sustain the skin barrier. Omega-3s are composed of a-linolenic acid, and omega-6s are composed of linoleic acid. Throughout the body, these essential fatty acids keep cell membranes healthy and flexible. They are generally considered good fats. If your body is lacking them, it may show in your skin as inflammation, flakiness or excessive dryness due to trans-epidermal water loss (TEWL), water evaporating from the surface of the skin. Locking water in and reducing trans-epidermal water loss is one of the ways essential fatty acids keep skin plump, hydrated and elastic. Unlike traditional moisturizers, which offer a temporary boost of hydration, essential fatty acids provide a deeper, more permanent, solution.
Research has shown that omega-3s can help prevent UV photo-damage, in addition to reducing inflammation and signs of skin aging like fine lines and wrinkles. (1) In fact, there is even some evidence that consumption of omega-3s can help reduce acne since inflammation is a major cause of the condition. (2) As a bonus, omega-3s have further been linked to reducing the risk of heart disease, cancer, and arthritis. Omega-6s, meanwhile, stimulate skin and hair growth, regulate metabolism and are also imperative for brain function and normal growth of the body.
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Our HARMONY Omega 3|6 Recovery Serum, HARMONY Omega 3|6 Recovery Body Serums and SANCTUARY Vita 3| Anti-Ox Defense Serum contain blends of nutritive plant oils that are exceptionally high in Omega 3 and 6 essential fatty acids, particularly shiso (omega 3, 54-64%) and watermelon (omega 6, 55-65%) ) oils.
The information provided on this blog is for educational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or qualified health provider with any concerns or questions about a persistent problem or medical condition.