fatty acids and skin health

Fatty Acids and Skin Health

The most important step in skin care is moisturizing. It’s the one way we can keep our skin looking great long after it would have naturally dried up like a prune. It keeps it hydrated, soft, supple, elastic, plumped up, and rosy. It can undo the stresses of too much sun, not enough water, and all the indulgences that make life worth living. Not all moisturizers are equal though, in fact, some can do more damage than good. There are some pretty crap ingredients on the market that cause irritation and put unnecessary stress on the skin. Synthetic skin care ingredients are the norm these days. They line department stores shelves, drug stores shelves, and the mall beauty shop. Most of the emollients in moisturizers are either mineral oil or silicones. The best selling creams have ingredients that start like this ‘Mineral Oil\Paraffinum Liquidum\Huile Minerale, Petrolatum’. Bestsellers! I’m just going to shout this off a rooftop.


They are like wrapping it in a thin layer of plastic. Sure it’s keeping the water in but that’s it! There are no antioxidants, no absorption, and the skin can’t breathe. Do you eat petroleum? A little vaseline on your toast in the morning? NO. Why? Because it isn’t food. It isn’t nourishing and will do nothing for your body. It’s the same with skin. It will do nothing except suffocate it in an inert coating. What your skin needs is oil that is similar to its own oils so it will absorb them and use them to support its functions. The oil I’m referring to is our sebum which is comprised of 57% triglycerides/fatty acids, 26% wax esters, and 12% squalene. The fatty acids in skin are the same as fatty acids contained in plants so when you apply them, they will be utilized to soothe, protect, regenerate, support, heal, and reverse damage.

The fatty acids contained in sebum are:

Palmitic acid - Long-chain saturated fatty acid with antimicrobial properties that creates an occlusive barrier on the skin. Decreases considerably in aging skin. Found in high amounts in avocado oil, buriti oil, tamanu oil, cocoa butter, green coffee oil, illipe butter, mango butter, marula oil, neem oil, black cumin seed oil, palm oil, olive oil, rice bran oil, wheat germ oil, sea buckthorn fruit oil, and soybean oil.

Stearic acid - Long-chain saturated fatty acid that supports and protects barrier function of the skin.Found in high amounts in tamanu oil, cocoa butter, illipe butter, kokum butter, mango butter, and shea butter.

Palmitoleic acid - Medium-chain unsaturated fatty acid. Found in all tissues of the body, it’s an important fatty acid to the body and is an isomer of sapienic acid, produced by the human body only. It has important antimicrobial activities. Found in large amounts in avocado oil, macadamia nut oil, and sea buckthorn fruit oil.

Oleic acid - A monounsaturated fatty acid that helps skin maintain a smooth, soft, and elastic quality. Its liquid structure delivers nutrients to the layers of skin so it is deeply nourishing as well as anti-inflammatory and regenerative. Found in large amounts in almond oil, apricot kernel oil, argan oil, avocado oil, baobab oil, brazil nut oil, buriti oil, camellia seed oil, canola oil, carrot seed oil, tamanu oil, cocoa butter, macadamia nut oil, mango butter, marula oil, moringa oil, neem oil, olive oil, shea butter, sesame oil, and rice bran oil.

Linoleic acid - A polyunsaturated fatty acid whose levels in the skin are a very important indicator of its health. When amounts are low, conditions such as psoriasis and eczema flare up. This fatty acid is anti-inflammatory and helps to relieve redness and irritation in the skin. IT absorbs deeply carrying nutrients into the skin. It is the most effective for healing skin’s barrier. Found in high amounts in blackberry seed oil, black currant oil, blueberry seed oil, borage seed oil, cranberry seed oil, evening primrose oil, grapeseed oil, hemp seed oil, kukui nut oil, black cumin seed oil, pumpkin seed oil, red raspberry seed oil, rosehip oil, safflower oil, sea buckthorn seed oil, sunflower oil, walnut oil, wheat germ oil.

Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) - Linolenic acid (also known as omega 3 essential fatty acid) is converted into this fatty acid in the skin. Anti-inflammatory and protective of the circulatory system. Linolenic acid can be found in large amounts in chia seed oil, cranberry seed oil, evening primrose oil, flax seed oil, hemp seed oil, kukui nut oil, perilla seed oil, rosehip oil, red raspberry seed oil, sea buckthorn seed oil.

Squalene is rich in olive oil, rice bran oil, wheat germ oil, and amaranth oil. Wax esters can be found in jojoba oil, beeswax, carnauba wax, and candelilla wax.

As a collective, we need to reprogram how we look at our skin. For many years, we have treated it like it’s a separate entity from the rest of our body and have allowed petroleum byproducts to moisturize it rather than highly compatible plant oils that humans have used for thousands of years before this synthetic era. Why? Because we were told to by the profiteers, the ones who needed a cheap ingredient combined with a stable shelf life. It’s time for us to do the sensible thing and treat our skin like the rest of our body by nourishing it rather than coating it.   

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