Skin is a dynamic structure, tasked with protecting the body from environmental toxins and harsh external exposures. Ultraviolet (UV) light, cutaneous injury, and dry conditions present significant challenges to the skin’s immune and barrier functions, particularly when prolonged or repeated. The skin’s lipid composition impacts its immune responses and protective capacity, and depends greatly on an individual’s dietary balance of omega-3, omega-6, and other fatty acids.
Fish oil—especially from oily fish—presents an unusually rich combination of nutritional components that can benefit skin composition as well as affect its immune function. This spectrum of fish oil constituents includes polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs), monounsaturated fats (MUFAs), phospholipids, saturated fats, and pro-resolving mediators (PRMs). Fish liver oils may provide especially generous amounts of vitamins A and D, both of which are commonly deficient in diets yet crucial for long-term immune protection and balance.
In this review, researchers detail clinical and preclinical findings on skin benefits from supplementation with fish oil as well as isolates of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), arachidonic acid (AA), and linoleic acid (LA), and selected metabolites of these fatty acids.
Fish Oil and Essential Fats Build Skin’s Resilience
Within the skin, essential fats—and especially omega-3 fats—support regulation of the immune response, barrier integrity, and photoprotection. The most consistent research results have been seen with generous intakes of EPA and DHA and with a low dietary ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fats.