(NaturalNews) There may be a safe, reliable and natural way to treat moderate and severe cases of acne: Supplementation with omega-3-rich fish oil.
Acne occurs when a substance known as sebum builds up and combines with dead skin cells. This clogs the skin's pores, producing inflammation and infection, which we recognize as acne.
Sebum is a natural substance that the body produces to keep the skin and other tissues (such as the hair) moist and supple. Sebum can build up due to poor hygiene - producing oily skin and hair - but many other underlying conditions can also lead to sebum overproduction and acne. For example, hormonal imbalances (especially high levels of androgens) and stress both cause the sebaceous glands to produce more sebum. Bacterial infection can also increase the risk of acne, as can oxidative stress to the skin. Finally, while scientists have been unable to link any specific foods to acne, it is widely believed that poor diet can exacerbate the stresses that produce the condition.
Abundant anecdotal evidence supports the idea that increasing the amount of omega-3 fatty acids in your diet could improve skin health and lead to a reduction in acne. In addition, correlational studies have shown that rates of acne are significantly lower among communities with a higher omega-3 consumption than among communities getting less of the essential fatty acid. So far, however, few experimental trials have been conducted to back up these reports.
Study: Supplementation reduces acne severity
One study into the effectiveness of fish oil supplementation was conducted by researchers from California State Polytechnic University Pomona and published in the journal Lipids in Health and Disease in December 2012. The researchers assigned 13 people who were suffering from inflammatory acne to supplement their normal diets and acne remedies with 3 g of fish oil per day (containing 930 mg of EPA).
After 12 weeks, acne symptoms had improved in eight of the participants, but had actually worsened in the other four. Notably, however, seven of the eight participants who showed improvement had suffered from "moderate to severe" acne at the start of the study, while three of the four whose symptoms worsened had suffered from "mild" acne. These mixed results suggest that further studies are needed to determine exactly which types of acne respond most positively to fish oil supplementation.
"There is some evidence that fish oil supplementation is associated with an improvement in overall acne severity, especially for individuals with moderate to severe acne," the researchers concluded.
Why your skin benefits from omega-3s
Fish oil is high in essential omega-3 fatty acids, which have been proven to have numerous health benefits. One of the most well-established benefits to omega-3s is their potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Since both inflammation and oxidative stress play a key role in the development of acne, it makes sense that an increased omega-3 intake could reduce the severity of the condition.
In addition, omega-3s (particularly DHA) have also been shown to help reduce mental distress including anxiety, depression and stress. This may be another explanation for their acne-fighting benefits, since stress is a major contributor to acne.
Beyond omega-3s, fish oil also contains bioactive chemicals called prostaglandins. Among other functions, the prostaglandins produced by your body help regulate the skin's production of sebum.
Of course, the health benefits of omega-3s don't stop with fighting acne. A substantial body of scientific evidence supports the benefits of omega-3s for reducing heart attacks, inflammation, blood pressure and the risk of numerous chronic diseases.
Other than fish oil, you can find omega-3s in flax seeds, chia seeds, purslane, kiwi fruit and canola oil.