The results are in, and the Mediterranean diet is once again the top diet on the U.S. News & World Report’s list for 2024. Leafy green veggies, fruits, and plant-based and lean proteins are hallmarks of the Mediterranean diet. However, there’s another: Omega-3 fatty acids.
These acids are part of the much-praised diet (which isn’t exactly a diet) that science has shown has lowered risks for chronic diseases and conditions like Type II diabetes, some cancers, and hypertension. All told, the Mediterranean diet can help improve boosted longevity. Might the diet — thanks to omega-3s — also help improve your hair, skin, and nails look and feel while walking this earth?
Grooming products contain ingredients that promise solutions to your skin, hair, and nail care woes. However, might the real ingredient be lurking in the grocery store? Here’s what to know about the omega-3 benefits for hair, skin, and nails.
Omega-3 is a term referring to a trio of fatty acids:
- EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid)
- DHA (docosahexaenoic acid)
- ALA (alpha-linolenic acid)
EPA and DHA are found in fish, while ALA is found in plants.
Back up a second, though: Why would fat be considered a part of a “healthy” diet? More broadly, there are two types of fat: saturated fat and unsaturated fat. Unsaturated or polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats are considered “good” and specifically “heart healthy.” Omega-3 fatty acids are a monounsaturated fat.
OK, so omega-3 fatty acids are heart-healthy in moderation, which is great. However, what about the body’s largest organ, the skin? Ditto for hair and nails. Proponents of omega-3s (including in supplement form) report that omega-3s can give hair a smooth shine, skin a glow, and nails a boost of strength. Here’s what we know (and don’t).
Omega-3 benefits for haircare
Hair can be highly personal and part of your style. If you notice your mane dulling or disappearing, you may be interested in reaching for fish oil in food or supplement form. The data on whether omega-3s can help improve haircare woes is unclear, but some studies have shown the Rx could have promise. For instance, a 2018 study found that a type of fish oil called mackerel-derived fermented fish oil promoted hair growth.
As for the rumors about giving your locks a little luster, those are anecdotal right now.
Omega-3 benefits for skincare
Speaking of dullness, the lack of sunlight can cause skin to look just that during the chillier months. Other issues, like acne, can pop up year-round. Can consuming more fish oil be a worthy addition to your skincare goals? Once again, data is limited but promising. Older research shows that omega-3s can help with skin barrier function, warding off dry, itchy skin that may return each winter like clockwork.
People with acne may want to reduce oil. However, fish oil can help with inflammation, an acne trigger, so consuming more may reduce breakouts. Once again, the idea that omega-3s can get you a summer glow in the dead of winter is still anecdotal.
Omega-3 benefits for nail care
Brittle nails aren’t any more fun than acne. Breaking one might cause pained cuticles and hands. A diet lacking omega-3s might factor into brittle nails, research has shown. Therefore, you’re not unreasonable if you give more omega-3s a shot, hoping to strengthen your nails.
However, this strategy, as with others, needs more data, and we should mention that there’s no cure-all for any issues, including hair, skin, and nail care.
Ready to dig into omega-3s? Some delicious foods containing fatty acids include:
- Fish like salmon, tuna, and mackerel. Throw them on top of salads, enjoy them as a main course at dinner instead of red meat, or have a seafood sandwich.
- Walnuts. These powerhouse nuts can be a standalone snack. Alternatively, add some walnuts to oatmeal for a delicious morning breakfast.
- Chia seeds. Add these to overnight oats, baked goods, or Greek yogurt.
A word on supplements
While some of the research regarding omega-3s, hair, skin, and nail care involves supplements, most healthcare professionals generally recommend getting nutrients from food. The FDA does not regulate the supplement industry. Be sure to speak with your doctor before trying any supplements.
The data on whether omega-3 fatty acids can boost hair, skin, and nail care regimens is limited. However, some research suggests that consuming more fish oil can strengthen nails, help with hair loss, and reduce inflammation, acne, and dry skin. Fish oil supplements are one option, but your best bet is to start with foods. Add salmon to a salad, have the fish as a main course at dinner, or sprinkle walnuts into your breakfast. Even if you don’t achieve better hair, skin, or nails, omega-3s are heart-healthy, so you’ll be reaping significant benefits nonetheless. Speak to a provider if you’re concerned about your hair, skin, or nails. They can help you figure out the cause (or refer you to someone who might be able to assist). Also, be sure to speak with your doctor before taking any supplements.
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