Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. I receive a small commission at no cost to you when you make a purchase using my link.
All fatty acids are made up of chains of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen atoms. What makes fatty acids differ is their molecular configuration.
Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are also known as omegas. There are three types of omega fatty acids: omega 3, omega 6 and omega 9.
These fatty acids are important in skin care because they affect how an oil behaves on the skin.
In this article you will learn:
- Types of Omega 3 Fatty Acids
- Types of Omega 6 Fatty Acids
- Types of Omega 9 Fatty Acids
- Omega Fatty Acids and Their Role in Skin Health
- The Two Most Important Fatty Acids for Skin Care
- Fatty Acid Composition of Common Facial Oils
- Which Oils are Best for Which Skin Types
Types of Omega 3 Fatty Acids
Omega 3's are polyunsaturated fatty acids that have their first double bond located at the third carbon from the omega end. They are considered an essential fatty acid because the body cannot produce them on its own.
- ALA, or alpha-linolenic acid, is an 18-carbon chain with three cis double bonds. Found in some vegetable oils, nuts (mainly walnuts), leafy vegetables, and grass-fed animal fat.
- EPA or eicosapentaenoic acid is a 20-carbon chain with five cis double bonds. These come mainly from fish oils.
- DHA or docosahexaenoic acid is a 22-carbon chain with six cis double bonds. These come mainly from fish oils.
Types of Omega 6 Fatty Acids
Omega 6' are polyunsaturated fatty acids that have their first double bond located at the sixth carbon from the omega end. They are considered an essential fatty acid because the body cannot produce them on its own. Found in meat, poultry and eggs, as well as nut and plant based oils.
- LA or linoleic acid is an unsaturated omega-6 fatty acid. It is an 18-carbon chain with the first double bond located at the sixth carbon from the omega end of the fatty acid.
- GLA or gamma-linolenic acid also is an unsaturated omega-6 fatty acid with an 18-carbon chain. However, it differs slightly from LA, and is found in different food sources.
- AA or arachidonic acid is a 20-carbon chain.
Types of Omega 9 Fatty Acids
Omega 9's are a monounsaturad fatty acids that have their first double bond located at the ninth carbon from the omega end. Omega 9's can be produced by the body, but are also beneficial when obtained in food. Found in vegetable, nut and seed oils.
- Oleic acid is the primary omega 9 fatty acid.
Omega Fatty Acids and Their Role In Skin Health
- Omega 6 and omega 3 polyunsaturated fatty acids play a critical role in normal skin function and appearance.
- Metabolism of linoleic acid and a-linoleic acid is limited in the skin. They are considered essential nutrients for the skin.
- Omega 6 polyunsaturated fatty acids play an important role in the structural integrity and barrier function of the skin.
- Omega 6 and omega 3 polyunsaturated fatty acids influence the inflammatory response of the skin.
- Both topical and oral supplementation are effective ways to deliver essential fatty acids to the skin.
- Topical application of certain omega 3's lessens UV-induced photo damage, signs of skin aging and inflammatory skin responses.
- A significant portion of ingested essential fatty acids may be oxidized by the liver before reaching peripheral tissues. This means topical application can be a more efficient route of delivery for skin effects.
More Info is available here*
*This link leads to a website provided by the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University. The Best Organic Skin Care is not affiliated or endorsed by the Linus Pauling Institute or Oregon State University.
Omega fatty acids are required by our body for a number of functions, including healthy skin. Consuming a diet rich in these fatty acids will ensure that our bodies do not become deficient. Topical application is an effective method for delivering these fatty acids directly to the skin, where they can protect and nourish our skin's layers.
Omega 3 6 9 Benefits for the Skin
The two fatty acids that are most important to topical application and skin care are: oleic acid (omega 9) and linoleic acid (omega 6).
Omega-9 Oleic Acid
Oils high in oleic acid are richer and heavier in consistency. They are extra-occlusive and seal in moisture really well.
Oleic acid is absorbed well by the skin, has anti-inflammatory and skin softening properties.
Oils high in oleic acid have a longer shelf life than oils high in linoleic acid.
These oils are especially suitable for people with dry skin.
Omega-6 Linoleic Acid
Oils high in linoleic acid are lighter and thinner in consistency. They nourish and protect the skin without being too heavy.
Linoleic acid can restore the skins barrier function and reduce scaling on your skin.
People with acne have been shown to have low levels of this acid in their skin.
Oils high in linoleic acid have a short shelf life unless the oil also contains an abundance of antioxidants.
These oils work well on those with oily skin.
Omega-3 (alpha-linolenic acid) also has topical benefits for the skin.
Omega-3 fatty acids help the skin retain moisture, regulate oil production, and maintain elasticity. Topical application of omega-3 fatty acids lessens UV-induced photodamage, external signs of aging, and anti-inflammatory skin responses. Learn more here.
Fatty Acid Compositions of Common Facial Oils
I am only including the fatty acids that fall under the Omega 3, 6, 9 spectrum. There are other fatty acids contained in these oils, but I have not included them in the table below.
Oleic Acid (omega 9)
Linoleic Acid (omega 6)
a-Linolenic Acid (omega 3)
Shiso (Perilla) Seed
Black Cumin Seed
Sunflower (high linoleic)
Which Oils are Best For Which Skin Types?
Different skin types will do best with different fatty acids.
Stick to oils high in Linoleic acid.
Recommended Oils: Raspberry Seed or Prickly Pear.
Dry, Sensitive Skin
Look for oils that have a higher percentage of linoleic acid, and a small amount of oleic acid for its moisturizing properties.
Recommended Oils: Pumpkin Seed or Prickly Pear.
Acne Prone Skin
Use oils rich in linoleic acid that will not clog pores.
Recommended Oils: Hemp or Sunflower Seed.
Rosacea or Sebbhoreic Dermatitis
High oleic acid oils may exacerbate problems. Stick to higher in linoleic acid.
Recommended Oils: Raspberry seed or Pomegranate
Oily, Aging Skin
Oils high in linoleic acid as well as being high in antioxidants are best.
Recommended Oils: Raspberry seed or Prickly Pear.
Looking at the omega fatty acids within an oil can give us a good indication of how the oil will benefit our skin. I hope that the above information is valuable to you and your search for the perfect oil.
There are other considerations to choosing an oil such as Vitamin E content, Polyphenol content and its vitamin/mineral content. Stay tuned for future posts about these other factors.
Have any questions? Leave them in the comments, we always answer! if you liked this article, be sure to share it with your friends.
Yours In Beauty,