Food has a huge impact on acne. Take a thought on this fact – if you’re a westerner you have up to a 95% chance of experiencing acne. BUT, if you grow up in a non-westernized way, your risk of acne could be as small as zero.
This is real life study data my friend and scientists say this gigantic difference cannot be down to genetics.
…but instead is likely down to diet.
Which if you live in a westernized way is full of new foods. Foods your body’s programmed to love but which usually aren’t so great for you.
One huge difference is your omega balance, which you can think of as fish on one side and fries on the other. Fish is high in omega 3, fries are high in omega 6.
Now brace yourself for this fact;
Your great-great-great-great relatives evolved on an omega 3 to 6 balance of 1:1, you’re now likely eating a ratio of 1 to 25… and its effects on you could be acne causing.
Come see what I mean…
What Is Omega 3?
Every food you eat is a super unique and lovable collection of nutrients. Sometimes your love for it comes like a lightning bolt – oh hello chocolate coated raisins. Sometimes that love comes slow and always wins the race tortoise pace – howdy salmon fillet with green beans.
Foods your body loves most are foods your great, great, great, great relatives ate aka what your body’s evolved to eat. Foods your body knows how to use.
Your challenge is negotiating this nutrient minefield like an acne conquering pro.
First stop – your omega 3 to omega 6 balance.
Omega 3 is a type of fat. You might hear it called an unsaturated fat or even a fatty acid. And if we’re getting super science-y, the 3 bit is like a postcode – it tells a scientist exactly where the first bit of unsaturated-ness is.
Don’t worry if you don’t yet feel ready to become an omega post-person. All you need to know is omega fats are a family and omega 3 fats are the healthiest.
Omega 3 fats are special because they’re actively anti-inflammatory.
Which is different to omega 6, because when you eat a lot of ’em these guys can actually be pro-inflammatory.
Fact: Acne is a chronic inflammatory skin condition.
Double fat: Eskimos who eat lots of fish have a ridiculously low rate of acne.
Is Omega 3 Good for Acne?
Getting a good ol’ dose of omega 6 is as easy as falling asleep after a cheeky Chinese takeaway with red wine. Getting yourself a healthy dose of omega 3 is like waiting for ASOS to discount that favourited jumpsuit you’ve spent the last 3 weeks ogling.
The effects of omega 3 on your acne depends on 2 things;
- The amount of omega 3 you’re eating
- Your balance of omega 3 to omega 6
Come see where you could be getting yours from;
- Omega 3 is mostly found in fatty fish; salmon, mackerel, tuna, herring, anchovies, halibut and if you’re looking for a vegetarian or vegan omega 3 source – some types of algae – I’ll be linking to one soon.
- Omega 6 fats are found in most western foods because most western foods use omega 6 high oils like sunflower oil, peanut oil, sesame oil and corn oil, foods like crisps, fries, biscuits, cookies, cakes, pastries, salad dressings (yes – even when you think you’re being healthy!), fried foods, ready meals, dried fruits (which are kept moist by ‘rehydrating’ with sunflower oil).
Can you see how incredibly easy it is to find omega 6 in your diet? Take a peek at the humble walnut – a healthy food – for every walnut you eat, you’re getting 10% omega 3 but 52% omega 6.
— Cheryl Woodman (@HonestyForSkin) 3 September 2018
Remember how acne is inflammatory? And how omega 6 can be pro-inflammatory but omega 3 is anti-inflammatory?
Bottom line: Omega 3 balance looks set to be very important for helping relieve your acne symptoms. Come see what these published studies tell us…
Are Fish Oil Pills Good for Acne?
If you’ve ever considered taking supplements for acne, fish oil is a fantastic choice to trial. Getting enough omega 3 into your diet can be a struggle and for this reason it’s extremely likely that right at this very moment you’re eating a lot, lot, lot more omega 6 than omega 3.
Here’s what published scientific studies say could happen if you take action to correct this now;
- Case study 1 – published in 2008 tested the effects of 1000mg EPA – a type of omega 3 as a daily supplement for acne sufferers/warriors. After 2 months, most people saw an average acne lesion drop of 41 to 11 – not bad ‘eh. Even though this is a small scale study, it’s results are promising.
- Next up in 2012 scientists studied the effects of 3 grams of fish oil on a small group of acne warriors. Super interestingly after 12 weeks of taking a daily supplement people with moderate to severe acne showed the most benefit.
- …and finally (!) 2014 was witness to a landmark omega 3 and acne trial, which tested 2 types of omega 3 supplements against a did-nothing group. After 10 weeks there was a significant improvement in both inflammatory aka cystic acne and non-inflammatory acne lesions. And even more interestingly a specific blood marker associated with acne symptoms i.e. an overgrowth of skin cells inside of pores was reduced. Bonus! Imagine what taking an omega 3 supplement for longer than 10 weeks could do.
Bottom line: Fish oil supplements or omega 3 supplements could be very helpful for your acne. But remember – how you take them matters aka if your diet has a heck load of omega 6, all the omega 3 supplements in the world aren’t likely to help. And bonus psst… taking them with another supplement could boost their effects…
Do Probiotics Help With Acne?
Not many people know this my friend so brace for super-savvy-skindom. Probiotics can increase your body’s ability to absorb omega 3 fats. This is huge. And very interestingly is linked to helping another potential cause or aggravater of your acne – poor gut health aka leaky gut aka small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO).
Facts worth knowing;
- An omega 3 deficient diet increases your risk of SIBO
- It’s estimated about 66% of people with acne have SIBO
- Probiotics can help you get rid of SIBO aka improve your gut health
So if omega 3 can help hormonal acne/acne/adult acne and more, then taking probiotics with your omega 3 supplement could be like finding the Robin to your Batman.
Psst! If you’ve already tried taking omega 3 supplements for acne with no benefit, this could be why.
How to Take Omega 3 for Hormonal Acne
AKA how much omega 3 will help your skin? Helpfully the studies I’ve mentioned above tell us. Here’s the omega 3 combination those omega 3 and acne trials tell us works best;
- 2000mg of omega 3 as 1000mg of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and 1000mg of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) taken daily
- Which can be absorbed even better when partnered with a bifido-probiotic
Which means you’ll want to take a combination supplement for acne like this;
- [US available] Omega 3 fish oil supplement – 3 tablets daily
- With this high strength probiotic – just 1 daily
- Omega 3 fish oil soft gel supplement – 2 of these daily
- With Ultra Maximum Acidophilus capsules – a type of bifido bacteria – 1 daily
Or if you’re vegetarian or vegan;
- [US available] 4 of these vegetarian omega 3 supplements by Ovega
- [EU available] 3 of these Opti3 Omega-3 EPA & DHA vegetarian and vegan supplements daily
Supplements for acne tip: Some omega oil supplements will tell you 1000mg on the front label meaning 1000mg of fish oil. What you want to be looking at is the nutritional information on the back label e.g. I’m looking at one right now which reads as 1000mg cod liver oil supplement but on the back tells me it would give you just 110mg of EPA and 100mg of DHA.
Bottom Line: Is Omega 3 Good For Your Acne?
Science says yes omega 3 for acne is looking like an extremely promising supplement for acne. Not only can taking an omega 3 supplement help correct your omega 3 to omega 6 balance, it can also help pacify your acne symptoms with a super helpful anti-inflammatory punch.
How long should you take an omega 3 supplement before deciding whether or not it works for you? My friend, based on those above omega 3 and acne studies I’d recommend taking this acne supplement for at least 2 months. Oh and remember, as your omega 3 to 6 balance is super important – you’ll want to make sure you’re limiting your omega 6 intake too.
Take a peek at my free acne yes and no foods cheat-sheet here. It’ll help you start designing an acne diet which works.
Have you tried taking supplements for acne? Come share your experiences in the comments below. Have more questions about taking omega 3 for acne? Come leave those too…
Cheryl Woodman is a scientist & award winning skincare formulator who’s more friend next door than bow tie wearing professor. As creator of Honesty For Your Skin her aim is to help you care for your skin in the best ways possible. She’s founder of the natural & fragrance free skincare brand Honesty while also hosting 1 to 1 skincare coaching to help you get your best skin yet. Find out more here.