Fatty acids are long aliphatic chains with carboxylic acids, which are divided into two categories: natural fatty acids and essential fatty acids. Essential fatty acids are compounds that humans cannot synthesise and must be ingested from external sources for good health. Fatty acids also have a significant role in topical skincare products due to their hydrating, nourishing and anti-inflammatory properties. The topical application of fatty acids increases the rate of wound healing and helps to strengthen and smooth the skin’s surface. They also enhance the hydration of the skin by sealing in moisture, reducing evaporation to the surrounding atmosphere.[1][2] This article will discuss the primary benefits of some of the best fatty acids in skincare: omega-3, omega-6 and omega-9.  
Omega-3 fatty acids are essential nutrients with multiple skin application benefits. Omega-3’s exhibit excellent emollient properties. Emollients form a barrier over the skin to lock in moisture and fill in gaps between the cells, creating a smoother and softer texture. This helps to sustain skin softness, healthy epidermal functions and elasticity which significantly reduces signs of premature ageing.[3],[4] In addition, omega-3’s help to relieve rough, dry and scaly skin. Research has even shown that alpha-linolenic acid, a type of omega-3, can help to reduce the inflammation in skin conditions as psoriasis.[5] The major source of omega-3 is from:
  • Avocado (Persea Gratissima)
  • Baobab Oil (Adansonia Digitata)
  • Rose Essential Oil (Rosa Damascena)
  • Rosehip Oil (Rosa Rubiginosa)
Akin to the omega-3 fatty acids, omega-6 fatty acids contribute to strengthening the skin barrier and structural integrity of skin cell membranes due to their emollient properties making the skin appear plumper, healthier and more youthful. Omega-6’s also exhibits anti-inflammatory properties. Omega-6 is a polyunsaturated fatty acid that undergoes oxidation to generate eicosanoids, which is an inflammatory mediator. In other words, eicosanoids are bioactive signalling molecules with pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory characteristics. When applied topically, omega-6 fatty acids can increase the rate of wound healing and reduce overall skin inflammation. Oral supplementation of omega-6 fatty acid can also help in alleviating multiple symptoms of inflammatory skin responses.[6] [7] In addition, linoleic acid, a type of omega-6, helps control sebum production, reduces the appearance of blackheads and can prevent acne breakouts. [8] Omega-6 fatty acid is abundantly present in:
  • Evening Primrose Oil (Oenothera Biennis)
  • Baobab Oil (Adansonia Digitata)
  • Arnica Oil (Arnica Montana)
  • Rosehip Oil (Rosa Rubiginosa)
  • Avocado Oil (Persea Gratissima)
  • Rose Essential Oil (Rosa Damascena)
Omega-9 fatty acids are non-essential fatty acids, meaning they are produced by the body, however supplementing the skin with additional omega-9’s will boost the skin’s hydration thanks to the occlusive properties. Occlusives help maintain the softness and suppleness of skin by physically creating a protective layer that prevents trans-epidermal water loss, allowing the skin to retain more water and function more efficiently. They also help protect the skin by preventing irritants and harmful particles from reaching the surface of the skin. Omega-9 fatty acids or oleic acid occurs naturally in:
  • Argan oil (Argania Spinosa)
  • Baobab oil (Adansonia Digitata)
  • Evening primrose oil (Oenothera Biennis)
  • Moringa oil (Moringa Oleifera)
  • Rose essential oil (Rosa Damascena)
  • Rosehip oil (Rosa Rubiginosa)
Fatty acids are essential for maintaining the skin’s epidermal integrity and water barrier. They display excellent emollient and occlusive properties which are vital for reducing dull skin and signs of ageing. Combining fatty acids can result in synergistic mechanisms of action. Research has shown that combining omega-3’s and omega-6’s can help to reduce the inflammation in skin conditions such as atopic dermatitis, psoriasis and acne. [9] [10] Studies have also indicated that combining omega fatty acids along with antioxidants such as vitamin C, vitamin E, carotenoids and flavonoids can create a synergic effect on their activities. This includes superior nourishment of the epidermis and greater antioxidant activity. [2] To optimise the health and hydration of your skin, use a product that contains a combination of fatty acids. Our Nutritive Essential Oil Complex contains a balanced array of plant oils rich in omega-3, -6 and -9 fatty acids that nourish, hydrate and soothe the skin.   DISCLAIMER As a service to our readers, Eliksir aims to provide an objective standpoint in all its articles. Please note the date of the article, as future research may discredit past research. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct advice from your dermatologist, doctor or another qualified clinician.   References:
  1. Katas, et al; “Topical application of omega-3-, omega-6-, and omega-9-rich oil emulsions for cutaneous wound healing in rats.” Drug Deliv Transl Res. (2019) Apr 9(2):418-433.
  2. Giacomelli, et al; “Clinical use of Capilen, a liposomal cream based on fresh plant extracts enriched with omega fatty acids.” Drugs in context 9 (2020).
  3. U. Kim, et al; “Skin Aging And Photoaging Alter Fatty Acids Composition, Including 11, 14, 17-Eicosatrienoic Acid, in the Epidermis of Human Skin.” Journal of Korean medical science 25.6 (2010): 980-983.
  4. S. Black, et al;. “Potential Benefits of Omega-3 Fatty Acids in Non-Melanoma Skin Cancer.” Journal of clinical medicine5.2 (2016): 23.
  5. M. Balbás, et al; “Study on the use of omega-3 fatty acids as a therapeutic supplement in treatment of psoriasis.” Clinical, cosmetic and investigational dermatology 4 (2011): 73.
  6. R. Silva, et al; “Wound Healing and Omega-6 Fatty Acids: From Inflammation to Repair.” Mediators of inflammation 2018 (2018).
  7. V. Hoorn, et al; “A short review on sources and health benefits of GLA, The GOOD omega-6.” Oléagineux, Corps gras, Lipides15.4 (2008): 262-264.
  8. M. Moore, et al; “The Enigma Of Bioactivity and toxicity of botanical oils for skin care.” Frontiers in pharmacology 11 (2020): 785.
  9. Balić, et al; “Omega-3 Versus Omega-6 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids in the Prevention and Treatment of Inflammatory Skin Diseases.” International journal of molecular sciences 21.3 (2020): 741.
  10. Guidoni, et al. “Fatty acid composition of vegetable oil blend and in vitro effects of pharmacotherapeutical skin care applications.” Brazilian Journal of Medical and Biological Research 52 (2019).