Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs) or fatty acids are known in scientific parlance as long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids. The well-known benefits of these healthy fats are good for both the body and the skin, leading to a healthier, more glowing and youthful complexion. Since skin cannot produce most essential fatty acids on its own, acids need to be consumed or topically applied to achieve the beauty benefits. This explains their increasing appearance in the skin care industry.
HOW EFAS BENEFIT SKINOmega-3, omega-6 and omega 9 all play a critical role in normal skin functioning and appearance. Retaining high levels of omegas-3, 6 and 9 as one ages improves cellular structure and function, reinforces lipid content and repairs the skin barrier function. All skin types benefit from this efficient cellular activity and the protection and additional hydration within the lipid barrier.
EFAs protect delicate and irritated skin by helping it retain its own moisture levels, reducing skin sensitivity and inflammation. They also protect skin from harmful oxidants and ensure the proper passage of nutrients and waste products in and out of the cells, and maintain the health of cell membranes. These benefits enable proper skin hydration, suppleness and softness, helping skin feel less sensitive.
EFAs act like a seal that keep moisture in and irritants out. Both topical application and oral supplementation are an effective means of delivering EFAs and their plethora of benefits to the skin.
TOPICAL BENEFITSTopical application of EFAs benefit many skin conditions (see sidebar ) and provide protection from both pollution and extreme weather conditions such as cold and wind, which can strip away at the skin’s lipid barrier. EFAs assist in the preservation of the fluid lipid film coating the skin’s surface. This film holds hydration, softness and elasticity in the skin and creates protection from disease-causing organisms and harmful bacteria. This is crucial as the body’s ability to produce its own lipid barrier decreases with age, depleting skin of hydration, emollience and youthfulness.
NUTRITIONAL BENEFITSA deficiency of EFAs in the diet is associated with various forms of dermatitis, skin conditions and even mild deficiencies in the skin’s ability to heal and renew itself. Adequate consumption of fatty acids, on the other hand, can reduce inflammation associated with rosacea, eczema and psoriasis.
Increasing dietary intake of omega-3 fats is an important step toward healing the skin. High levels of these fatty acids have been shown to decrease inflammation. From a nutritional standpoint, taking small amounts of omega-3s, approximately 400 mg a day, or eating oil-rich fish such as mackerel, salmon and herring, replenishes and reduces the skin inflammation causing these conditions. Consuming healthy fats including unsaturated fats, fish oils and nuts improves the overall quality, tone, health and appearance of one’s skin.
Additionally, eating saturated fats and omega-6s, prominent in linoleic acids, keep skin looking its youngest. Small amounts of high quality linoleic fats from whole nuts and seeds such as sunflower seeds, pine nuts, pecans and Brazil nuts or cheese, are all recommended sources of EFAs for preserving skin’s youthfulness.
TOPICAL SOLUTIONSAll skin types and conditions can benefit in unique ways from topical application of EFAs. The following conditions respond best to specific types of omega sources to address their symptoms.
Very dry skinOleic acid replenishes the oil skin loses as one ages, and helps the skin produce sebum, its own natural oil. It makes oils richer and heavier, so they are extra-occlusive. Some oils that fall into this high-oleic oil category include olive oil, safflower oil, almond oil and avocado oil.
Aging skinAging skin responds especially well to high-oleic oils that are rich in antioxidants. Good sources include rosehip, argan and camellia oils.
WrinklesRich fatty acids are excellent for fighting wrinkles and skin exposed to aging factors. Good sources include avocado oil, rich in antioxidants and lecithin, which helps the skin generate collagen and combat signs of age, and extra virgin olive oil, a moisturizer rich in fatty acids and vitamin E.
Healing and regenerationEFAs are helpful in mitigating sun and free radical induced damage. Coconut, almond and olive oils all provide healing and regeneration, and even sunscreen protection ranging from SPF 6 to 8.
ScarringCoconut, almond and olive oils help treat scarring by improving elasticity and tone. Rosehip seed oil increases skin turnover and reduces scars, discoloration and fine lines.
Acneic skinOil dissolves oil. EFAs replace oils that have been sitting on the skin surface and developed bacteria with clean and nutritional oil that replenishes and protects the skin. A blend of castor and olive oils can pull impurities from the skin, making it ideal for oily or combination skin.
Sensitive and eczema skinCoconut oil gently protects sensitive skin and eczema prone skins. It alleviates sensitivity and protects skin from harmful bacteria.
Dermatitis and irritated skinEFAs soothe dry and itchy skin. Flaxseed oil has tremendous anti-inflammatory properties to address these issues. Safflower oil is mild and rich in linoleic acid, which also relieves dryness and itching.
Essential Fatty Acids in Home CareStock your retail shelves with the following products to provide your clients with the outstanding benefits of EFAs for their home care routines.
• Cleansing oils that contain a mixture of botanical oils such as olive, sunflower, sesame, safflower, almond or grape seed.
• Moisturizers for normal skin that include jojoba, olive or coconut oils for their mild nature, beneficial components and ease of absorption. For aging skins, argan and rosehip oil provide additional hydration; primrose oil is especially useful in reducing the symptoms of menopausal skin. Sensitive skins benefit from the repairing properties of flaxseed oil. Dry, chapped skin respond well to shea and cocoa butters.
• Body lotions containing olive and coconut oils are wonderful for normal skin types. Avocado oil, sesame oil, shea and cocoa butters provide great relief for dry skin and markings.
• Lip balms with sweet almond, coconut and pomegranate oils are as tasty as they are healing.
INCORPORATE EFAS INTO SPA TREATMENTSFacial treatments: Start the service with an oil cleanser that removes all traces of makeup and completely rinses off the skin. EFAs are wonderful carrier oils that enhance the absorption of other bio-actives. Good sources include sea buckthorn, jojoba, olive, coconut, flaxseed and avocado oils. Combine EFA based oils with a serum application or the massage stage of the facial treatment to create extra hydration, skin suppleness and a luxuriating feeling.
Body treatments: Create a treatment to improve skin elasticity, fight bumps and eradicate dryness, incorporating coconut and olive oils or shea butter cream.