How often have you read posts and just got irritated by half-truths about topics? May I have a little rant? There are multiple benefits if I choose flaxseed oil for skin health. So why don’t we stick with what it does so well and not try to make a whole lot of unsubstantiated and downright fake claims about what is not good at?
Why Do People Make Fake Claims About Flaxseed Oil for Skin?
One reason may be plain laziness from blog writers. They do a bit of superficial reading and simply repeat what others have said.
Another reason may be that they’re trying to get me to buy a product - and they don’t have to honor any money-back guarantees if I am unhappy!
A third reason, and I think that this may be the biggest one, is that people don’t understand flaxseed oil vs fish oil or flaxseed oil vs ground flaxseeds. And so, they make claims for flaxseed oil that only fish oils can deliver. Likewise, they claim the benefits of whole flaxseeds, when they only have the oil.
Ok, I’ve had my rant. Now I hope to clear some of the fog around flaxseed oil for skin! And then I hope you will buy some – I think it may be a good daily supplement for anyone who wants a beautiful, smooth, soft and young-looking skin.
Please buy an oil (or capsules) with added lignan, keep it refrigerated and use it fast. Flaxseed oil goes rancid quite quickly. You can read more about how to choose the best quality flaxseed oils here.
Understanding Flaxseed Oil and Fish Oil – The Omega 3 Difference
Everything we eat is carbohydrate, protein or fat - and we need all of them. The trick is to get the balance right and to understand which ones are better than others. Fats are particularly badly understood. I’m not going into a long explanation (you can read a bit about it in another post here, but I’ve drawn a little diagram to show you how they fit together.
As you can see, there are 3 types of Omega: 3, 6 and 9. There are also three forms of Omega 3: ALA (alpha-linoleic acid) EPA and DHA. Plants, such as flax, produce the ALA version. Fish produce EPA and DHA. Your body needs all of them to function properly and they can only come from your diet. However, they do different things:
- ALA is a food and a good source of energy.
- EPA reduces inflammation in your cells, including brain cells, so has an impact on depression, anxiety, ADHD, etc
- DHA makes cell membranes more fluid and flexible. This is important to the "messaging" system between cells and is also associated with protection from cancer and heart disease, the lowering of LDL (bad) cholesterol levels, and the lowering of triglycerides. Omega 3 is critical to the structure and functioning of your brain - and DHA makes up most of the fat stored in your brain.
The problem in so many blogs is that people see "Omega 3", and claim all the benefits of all 3 forms of it. Unfortunately, flaxseed oil does not have the benefits that come from EPA and DHA.
Here’s a Tip
If you are vegan, try a supplement made from algae - this is also a source of EPA and DHA.
Understanding Flaxseeds and Flaxseed Oil
Whole flaxseeds have been called a superfood, because of their 3 main components: fiber, essential fatty acids (Omega 3, 6 and 9) and lignans (special plant chemicals, that are mainly found in the husk of the seed). They also have protein, magnesium, Vitamin B and Vitamin E. There are some special facts to note:
- The Omega 3 is in the form of alpha-linolenic fatty acid (ALA). Flaxseeds are the best source of ALA in the plant world.
- Lignans seem to have valuable health benefits: They are phytoestrogens (estrogens from plants) and are helpful for hormonal disturbances, including menopausal symptoms like hot flashes and osteoporosis, and breast and ovarian cancer. They also lead to lower risk of death from heart disease and lower cholesterol.
Flaxseed oil (which comes from the germ of the seed) only has the essential fatty acids part. It is mostly Omega 3 (ALA), at between 50% and 70%. About 16% is oleic (Omega 9) and about 15% is linoleic acid (Omega 6).
Many people make the mistake of thinking that flaxseed oil will have all the benefits of the whole seed. It doesn’t. In order to get some of these benefits, it’s important to add lignans to the oil. This can be done by not filtering the oil after it has been pressed, and/or by adding ground husks to the oil later. (At the end of this post, I’ve given a list of some good products that you might try.)
Ok, so now let’s look at whether flaxseed oil is good for skincare and various skin problems.
Facts and Fiction About Flaxseed Oil for Skincare
I was really interested to find that most of the research showed that taking flaxseed oil as a supplement delivered the best results for healthy, clear and soft skin. Of course, you can also use it topically, directly onto your skin, and you’ll find flaxseed oil in many creams and lotions, especially for your face.
Here are some of the claims I found about flaxseed oil. Let me know if you agree with my opinions about whether they are TRUE or FALSE.
#1: Flaxseed Oil Is Good for Sensitive Skins
There is one piece of research that is so clear about the benefits of flaxseed oil, that any of us who have sensitive skin should be reaching for the nearest bottle. In fact, any of us who have skins of any sort should be reaching for a bottle!
Apparently up to 50% of the Western population have sensitive skin. It shows as irritation, inflammation, dry skin, scaling, red skin, dehydration, and rough texture. You may have itchy skin, stinging and burning. Generally, creams and lotions containing Omega 6 are applied directly to the skin for this.
However, in this study, women with sensitive skin were given a flaxseed oil supplement for 12 weeks. After this period, the amount of ALA in the blood had increased; the skin was much less sensitive; it was smooth; it was well hydrated, because it was not losing moisture (through trans-epidermal water loss or TEWL). This showed that the flaxseed oil was actually improving the function of the epidermis and improving the barrier function of the skin.
This is really good news. If drinking flaxseed oil or capsules works this well for sensitive skins, it will probably be just as good for normal skins. It will probably be good for problem skins too, even if it is just by improving general skin health.
This claim is TRUE.
#2: Flaxseed Oil Is Good for Aging Skin
The research above leads me to believe that flaxseed oil may be good for anti-aging. If it keeps the skin hydrated, which will keep it "plumped up", and it improves the functioning of the epidermis, it will probably help to prevent the formation of lines and face wrinkles.
This is supported by another study that showed than increased intakes of Vitamin C and Linoleic acid led to reduction in "senile drying" and "skin atrophy". Linoleic acid is Omega 6. However, about 15 - 17% of flaxseed oil is Omega 6, so perhaps it will help. In this study, reducing fat and carbohydrate intake led to even better results. So, it seems clear that your diet - including dietary supplements - can have a real impact on skin conditions.
This claim is probably TRUE.
#3: Flaxseed Oil Is Good for Psoriasis
Psoriasis is a chronic autoimmune disease, where skin cells turn over too quickly and pile up on each other. This leads to inflammation and scaling of the skin. Dandruff can be a form of psoriasis.
Various studies have looked at oral, intravenous, and topical preparations of Omega 3 for the treatment of psoriasis. One study suggested that adding Omega-3 to the usual drug steroid treatment was very helpful. However, all of these studies were about the EPA and DHA forms of Omega-3, not the ALA form.
This claim is FALSE.
#4: Flaxseed Oil Is Good for Wound Healing
Many posts talk about the effect that Omega 3 has in the healing of wounds. This is true - but studies on humans found that it was EPA and DHA found in fish oil that was effective - not the ALA found in flaxseed.
This claim is FALSE.
#5: Flaxseed Oil Is Good for Protection Against Sun Damage
A study on mice found that ALA was effective in reducing inflammation and redness that followed exposure to UV. What was interesting is that rubbing oil onto the skin did not help as much as flaxseed oil supplements.
This claim may be TRUE, but more research is needed.
#6: Flaxseed Oil Is Good for Protection Against Skin Cancer
There is fairly strong evidence that Omega 3 has a role in the prevention of non-melanoma skin cancer. Again, this was in the form of dietary supplementation, not topical application. It is not clear from this research whether it was ALA or EPA/DHA being used. However, another study, undertaken by the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas, attributed the benefit to fish oils - ie EPA and DHA.
This claim is probably FALSE.
#7: Flaxseed Oil Is Good for Eczema
Remember I said that some posts just irritate me? Well, one was about how flaxseed oil reduces eczema. This was on a website purporting to represent doctors. It talked about how flaxseed oil improves skin elasticity and texture. That is true, as we’ve seen from the research above. But it’s a big jump from there to the statement that, because of this, flaxseed oil was "one of the top choices for …… pesky skin problems like eczema". They even had a reference to support it. The kicker for me was when I followed their link. It was to research on how flaxseed oil helped for horses that had allergies caused by insect bites!
There was some research in the 1980’s on the benefits of omega for eczema - but this was for GLA, which is part of Omega-6. There is some Omega 6 in flaxseed oil, so it may be enough to help. Later research seems to point to fish oil being a better solution.
(Oh, and by the way, for those of you who are wondering whether you can use flaxseed oil for your dog’s dry, itchy skin and allergies – the answer is NO. Fish oil is what works.)
This claim is probably FALSE
Here’s a Tip
If you are looking for a treatment for eczema, try an Evening Primrose oil supplement - this is a good source of GLA.
#8: Flaxseed Oil Is Good for Acne
Claims of acne being cured seem to be based on popular theories rather than research. Many writers offer a rider that flaxseed oil for acne "works for some people but not for others". Some of the claims are based on the proven ability of flaxseed oil to reduce inflammation, help to restore the skin barrier and deal with hormonal problems – all of these can be at the root of acne problems. So, it might be helpful to take flaxseed oil or capsules as part of a healthy diet to build up a healthy skin. I’d recommend this for acne sufferers – in fact for everyone who wants a clear skin. But I hesitate to claim flaxseed oil as a "cure" for acne.
This claim is HALF-TRUE
Side Effects of Flaxseed Oil for Skin
Stick to 1 – 2 tablespoons per day (or a few capsules). Remember that flaxseed oil can be a laxative, especially if it has added lignans. It can also thin your blood and lower blood sugar, so be careful if you are taking a medication like warfarin or something for diabetes.
But, please don’t believe the nonsense I found in someone’s "authoritative" blog that taking too much flaxseed oil will disturb the healthy balance of Omega 6 to Omega 3. It should be 4:1 – and, of course, flaxseed oil has a balance of about 4:1 the other way around. So, if your entire diet were made up of flaxseed oil, you might be in danger of having too much Omega 3. But it’s not. Your current diet probably includes a lot of grains, which is where Omega 6 comes from. This includes all your breads, cereals, cakes and muffins – and eggs from grain-fed chickens and meat from grain-fed cows. This is why your current Omega 6 levels are probably way too high, and having some flaxseed oil with lignans may be really good for you!
………Oh, my goodness, I’ve ended with another rant!
Anyway, I hope that you will try some flaxseed oil for skincare. I think that the research on sensitive skins and aging skins was enough to persuade everyone to use a flaxseed oil supplement, no matter what your skin type or skin problem is. I hope that my list of what’s true and false will help you.
TRUE or FALSE
Claim #1: Flaxseed oil is good for sensitive skins
Claim #2: Flaxseed oil is good for aging skin
Claim #3: Flaxseed oil is good for Psoriasis
Claim #4: Flaxseed oil is good for wound healing
Claim #5: Flaxseed oil is good for protection against sun damage
May be TRUE, but more research is needed
Claim #6: Flaxseed oil is good for protection against skin cancer
Claim #7: Flaxseed oil is good for eczema
Claim #8: Flaxseed oil is good for acne
Have a look here for some ideas on how to look for the best flaxseed oil. And please let me know what your experiences have been with flaxseed oil for your skin.
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