You may have heard that they’re essential to your general health, but what are essential fatty acids? And why are they so important for your skin in particular?
As a beauty writer, I was curious to learn more about the science of EFAs – from what exactly they do for our skin, to the best dietary and skin care sources. So, I spoke to the resident skin care scientist at Goodness, Kerry-Lee De Villiers, to find out the answers to these questions and more…
What are essential fatty acids?
“Essential fatty acids (EFAs) are beneficial components of fats that are required for the body to function optimally,” explains Kerry-Lee. Only two fatty acids are known to be vital for human health: alpha-linolenic acid (an omega-3 fatty acid) and linoleic acid (an omega-6 fatty acid). The body cannot naturally synthesise or produce EFAs, which means they need to be obtained from other sources, namely our diets and topically.
What is the function of omega-3 and omega-6 essential fatty acids?
Both omega-3 and omega-6 essential fatty acids play an important role in supporting essential bodily processes, such as circulation and cell metabolism. As Kerry-Lee explains, “omega-3s are anti-inflammatory, which helps the body protect itself from anything that probably shouldn’t be there (pathogens, irritants, etc).” Omega-6, on the other hand, encourages inflammation – which sounds bad, but, as Kerry-Lee explains, “is an important function of our immune system when at a healthy ratio”.
Why are essential fatty acids so important for healthy skin?
The two essential fatty acids are “vital for the healthy, everyday functioning of the human body,” says Kerry-Lee, and that includes the functioning of our skin. Not only do “They help keep the skin hydrated, strengthen the skin barrier and aid skin tissue restoration and rejuvenation,” says Kerry-Lee, some studies have even found that EFAs disrupt the production of melanin, “which would help reduce the appearance of age or sun spots”. Without adequate EFAs, our “skin may appear dry, dehydrated and dull,” says Kerry-Lee.
Thankfully, including EFAs in your diet needn’t be a difficult exercise (or hurt your hip pocket). The following foods are good sources of EFAs and readily available at the supermarket: Poultry, eggs, nuts, whole-grains, most vegetable oils, salmon, mackerel and dark leafy vegetables (such as broccoli and spinach).
Why are EFAs in skin care so important?
An EFA-rich diet is essential for overall health, but to promote a healthy, hydrated complexion, it’s also a good idea to include EFAs in your skin care regimen. “Topical application of omega-rich skin care products is likely to lead to a healthy skin appearance,” says Kerry-Lee. Goodness Certified Organic Chia Seed Oil is one such skin care product, formulated with a specific 3:1 ratio of omega-3 to omega-6. As Kerry-Lee explains, this ratio is key, as “omega-3 and omega-6 need to work together in as close to a balanced ratio as possible to optimise their beneficial effects”.
Not only does Goodness Certified Organic Chia Seed Oil contain the optimum ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 goodness, it’s also certified organic (BioGro NZ Ltd) with a cold-pressed extraction process. This means that the “chia seeds are mechanically pressed and never exposed to temperatures greater than 40 degrees celsius,” says Kerry-Lee, which helps prevent degradation to the main bioactive components, including the EFAs. “Oils that are cold pressed are also more resistant to oxidative stress,” says Kerry-Lee, which means they are more stable and have a longer shelf life. The end result? A lightweight facial oil that is packed full of nourishing EFAs, to help deliver anti-inflammatory support, hydration and nourishment to the skin.
Is your skin getting enough EFAs? Have you tried Goodness Certified Organic Seed Oil?