Fish Oil Benefits for Skin: Eczema and Sun Sensitivity

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Cheerful woman with Omega 3 fish oil, over whiteWhen most people think of fish oil, they automatically think of of the brain and the heart. But the truth is that fish oil has a lot of beneficial effects on other body parts as well. For instance, fish oil benefits for the skin are just beginning to become elucidated by research.

Omega-3 oils have been shown to have benefits in the treatment or various skin conditions as well as slowing the aging process. Fish oil seems to be particularly beneficial for the treatment of eczema.

What is Eczema?

The word eczema is actually used to refer to more than one possible skin condition.[1] Generally speaking, eczema is a chronic, inflammatory skin problem that is not really well understood. No one is quite sure what causes eczema, although some people do seem more susceptible to developing it than others. Eczema is a frustrating condition because it does not always respond well to conventional treatments.

Fish Oil and Eczema

Researchers experimenting with the effect of fish oil on eczema discovered that people taking fish oil daily were able to significantly reduce their eczema.[2] This is probably because of the anti-inflammatory impact of fish oil.

If you are struggling with eczema, taking fish oil that contains up to about 1.8 grams of EPA a day may help you control your eczema. Of course, the best approach to combatting eczema is one that takes advantage of more than one treatment. Your decision to use fish oil to help control your eczema should not cause you to stop using any doctor-prescribed treatments for eczema you have been using.

Sun Sensitivity and Fish Oil

People with a condition known as photo dermatitis do not tolerate exposure to the sun as well as normal people. Researchers conducting one small study discovered that research subjects with photo dermatitis that took fish oil experienced fewer problems after exposure to ultraviolet radiation.[3]

Of course, this doesn’t mean that taking fish oil is a reasonable alternative to using sunscreen. But it could help point researchers in the right direction to discover more about how rare skin conditions can be treated with fish oil or other products derived from fish oil.

Consulting with a Dermatologist

It is possible that fish oil has a lot of positive impacts on skin health that we are just beginning to understand. However, before you use fish oil as a medicine to treat serious skin problems, you should first consult with a dermatologist about your condition. Use fish oil as an adjunct therapy for skin problems — not your main therapy.

If you have spoken with a dermatologist and decided to use fish oil to help address your skin problems, you need to decide whether you are going to get your fish oil from supplements or eating fish. Fish oil supplements are made from the naturally omega-3-rich fish oil contained in fatty fish like salmon and sardines.

So, which is better; taking fish oil supplements or eating fish?

Many experts advise eating fish to get your omega-3s but, for many of us, this can be a challenge. Fresh wild-caught fish is not exactly a readily available commodity. Also, taking fish oil supplements is the best way to monitor your fish oil dosage. There is a distinct advantage in taking supplements.

Watch Out for Farmed Fish

However, if you decide you would rather just eat fatty fish more regularly, you need to be careful about eating farm raised fish. Unlike wild ocean-caught salmon and sardines, farmed fish are not always rich in omega 3s.[4] This is because fish in the wild do not synthesize omega 3 fatty acids. They get them from the plankton they consume. If farmed fish do not get any omega 3 fatty acids in their diet, they not accumulate omega 3 fatty acids in their bodies.

The Three Things to Look for in a Fish Oil Supplement

Not all fish oil supplements are created equal. Here’s what to look for when reading fish oil labels:

  • Purified fish oil. The best manufacturers purify the fish oil used in their supplements so that it does not contain toxic compounds.
  • Sufficient amounts of DHA and EPA. The manufacturer should state how much DHA and EPA per serving of the supplement will provide.
  • Freshness. The oil should be processed as soon as possible after the catch. Also, make sure you only buy supplements that are not past their sell-by date.

The Future of Fish Oil and Treating Skin

No one really knows what researchers will discover next about the connection between omega-3 and various skin problems. But people with skin conditions like eczema don’t have to wait for more research to be done. They can start using fish oil to help control some of their skin problems and discover for themselves the different fish oil benefits for the skin.


References:

[1] Oregon Health and Science University: Atopic Dermatitis (Eczema)

[2] University of Maryland: Eczema

[3] University of Maryland: Omega-3 fatty acids

[4] Health Psychology: Age Related Brain Decline: Got Fish?


Statements made on this page have not been evaluated by Food and Drug Administration. The product(s) featured is/are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. If you are pregnant, nursing, on medication, or have a medical condition, consult a licensed medical practitioner before starting on a new supplement.

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