Why you need essential fatty acids in your skin care
At Mokosh we recently reformulated our products to boost their levels of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. These two polyunsaturated fatty acids are called 'essential' because our bodies cannot manufacture them from other foods - instead must be ingested in our diet. They play a vital role in our overall health: they are incorporated into cell membranes throughout the body, where they modulate the immune response and are important for brain function and normal growth and development. In the skin, they are important for the proper functioning of the skin barrier, modulating the immune response in the skin, and they may have other roles not yet fully defined. Here we summarise the science behind why we decided to enrich our 100% certified organic skin care range with these all-important ingredients.
How skin care enriched for omega-6 fatty acids help dry, irritated skin
The importance of the two omega-6 fatty acids, linoleic acid (LA) and gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), became clear in the 1920's. When subjects were fed diets deficient in essential fatty acids they developed thickened, dry, scaly skin with a poor barrier function. The skin changes were reversed when an oil rich in LA was restored to the diet, or was applied regularly to the skin. We now know that LA is incorporated into ceramides of the stratum corneum, the outermost layer of the epidermis. These ceramides are specialised lipids that are vital for the skin’s most critical function of preventing water loss and providing a barrier to the environment. The levels of some ceramides drop during winter months and with increasing age, leading to drying of the skin and a reduced barrier function in some individuals. Studies have shown that topical application of LA can restore ceramide levels and improve the skin's barrier function. All our face and body moisturisers are enriched with LA.
The omega-6 fatty acid, GLA, and eczema
LA is normally converted to GLA in the body, and it has been suggested that individuals prone to eczema are less efficient at carrying out this important metabolic reaction. When patients with eczema, or atopic dermatitis, were given either oral GLA supplements, or applied GLA-rich oils like borage or evening primrose oil to the skin, the redness, itching and inflammation was relieved and the skin barrier was restored in some individuals.
It is clear that omega-6 fatty acids replenish the lipid structure of the skin and are vital to maintaining your skin’s barrier, keeping it smooth, moisturised and elastic. By applying oils rich in both the omega-6 fatty acids, LA and GLA, you are ensuring your skin is receiving the optimal fatty acid nutrition required to maintain healthy, glowing skin. We include LA and GLA-rich oils in all our face and body moisturisers.
Omega 6 fatty acids and acne
Although the causes of acne are known to be manifold and complex, recent studies have shown that acne sufferers have a reduced proportion of LA in their sebum, leading to the idea that it is not simply the over-production of sebum, but the abnormal composition of sebum that contributes to the development of acne. A separate study showed that applying LA to the skin reduced the size of microcomedomes (clogged hair follicles or pores), by almost 25% over a 1-month treatment period. The theory is that sebum becomes thicker when the level of LA is too low, and therefore more likely to block the pores. Applying oils that are enriched for LA is thought to normalise the fatty acid composition of sebum, reducing pore blockage and thereby the severity of acne. We formulated our Makeup Remover & Cleansing Oil and our Elderberry & Chia Seed Beauty Serum to be particularly rich in LA to help normalise sebum in acne-prone skin.
Omega-3 fatty acids
Some plant oils contain significant quantities of the omega-3 fatty acid, alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). When ALA is ingested, it is converted into eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexanoic acid (DHA), which may also be obtained preformed by eating fish oils and some animal fats. However, because the skin does not possess the necessary enzymes, topically applied ALA applied cannot be converted to EPA and DHA.
Plant-derived ALA is found in hemp, chia, walnut, flax, raspberry and elderberry seed oils. Little is known about the benefits of topically applied ALA, apart from its anti-inflammatory effect, which potentially has a significant benefit to the health of the skin. In addition to its anti-inflammatory properties, both ALA and LA reduce the level of injury from UVB radiation to the skin and reduce UV-induced hyperpigmentation. We include omega-3 fatty acid-rich oils in all our face and body moisturisers.
It’s not just the omegas
Plant oils vary greatly in their composition of fatty acids, which may include the omega-3 and -6 essential fatty acids like LA, GLA and ALA, the non-essential monounsaturated fatty acids like palmitoleic acid and oleic acid (omega 9), and saturated fatty acids like lauric acid and stearic acid. When formulating our certified organic skin care products, we choose a blend of oils based on their fatty acid profile as well as other factors, particularly their anti-oxidant levels, vitamin content and other special properties including anti-microbial, UV-protective, anti-inflammatory and other unique characteristics.
Which oils are rich in LA, GLA and ALA in the Mokosh range?
Below is a table showing the approximate percentages of essential fatty acids in some of the essential fatty acid-rich oils we use in our 100% certified organic skin care range. We have blended these with a range of other plant oils and butters to provide all the benefits of the omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids to your skin. We hope you (and your skin) love them as much as we do!