Q: I understand that Essential Fatty Acids are important to skin health. Can you outline what EFAs are so good for me?
A: Three cheers for EFAs! When you read about essential fatty acid deficiency (EFAD) it refers to low or insufficient levels of important long-chain fatty acids, as these are required to regulate cardiovascular, immune and inflammatory pathways. A deficiency in any nutrient can be detrimental to health, but a deficiency in essential fatty acids presents possibly the most symptoms and signs of illness, compared with any other nutrient deficiency.
There are a number of signs that indicate a fatty acid deficiency. If you imagine how important omega-3 fatty acids are for the optimal functioning of organs, it is no surprise that if fatty acid levels are low in the body, the extremities such as skin, hair and nails are likely to be left until last. Low fatty acid status in the body therefore results in easy-to-spot physical symptoms. The brain can also suffer if omega-3 levels are low, as requirements for optimal functioning of neurotransmitters (the brain’s chemical messengers) are so high.
Below is a list of Essential Fatty Acid Deficiency signs relating to skin health.
- Rough or dry ‘bumpy’ skin
- Dry, dull or ‘lifeless’ brittle hair and dandruff
- Soft, peeling or brittle nails
If you are experiencing two or more of these symptoms, you are likely to have an omega-3 deficiency. Deficiencies can easily be rectified for most individuals by manipulating dietary and lifestyle factors. Diet is important to start address first, but be mindful that not everyone has the same requirements or ability to digest these fats properly. Think about what you are eating. Are you getting enough EFAs in your diet? Explore foods that contain high amounts of essential fatty acids. Food like: Halibut, Herring, Mackerel, Oysters, Salmon, Sardines, Trout, Tuna, Vegetables; especially green leafy ones, flax, walnuts, chia seeds.
From a topical perspective, look for EFAs in products listed as: linolenic acid, linoleic acid, phospholipids and squalane.