Omega 3 & Acne: Is there a Connection?


Medically Reviewed by Dr. Lee Hwee Chyen

MBBS MRCP (UK) FAMS (Dermatology)

Omega 3 & Acne: Is there a Connection?

Acne, a common skin condition, occurs when hair follicles get clogged with oil and dead skin cells, causing inflammation and resulting in pimples, blackheads, whiteheads, and cysts. Recent research suggests that omega-3 fatty acids could help manage acne due to their anti-inflammatory effects.

Inflammatory acne is triggered by the immune system’s reaction to Propionibacterium acnes, resulting in redness, swelling, and pain. Inflammation can worsen acne by damaging skin tissue, increasing sebum production, and promoting bacterial growth.

Overview of Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are important fats the human body cannot produce and must be obtained through diet. They are known for their anti-inflammatory properties, which can benefit cardiovascular health, cognitive function, and skin health.

There are three main types of omega-3 fatty acids: alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which is found in plant oils, and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which are primarily found in marine oils. EPA and DHA have been shown to reduce inflammation and are the focus of research into managing conditions like acne.

The Connection between Omega-3 and Acne

The relationship between omega-3 fatty acids and acne improvement is complex, involving several mechanisms that contribute to healthier skin and reduced acne severity:

Reduction of Inflammation

Omega-3 fatty acids, particularly EPA and DHA, possess strong anti-inflammatory properties. This decreases the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines and chemicals that reduce redness, swelling, and discomfort.

Regulation of Sebum Production

EPA influences oil production in the skin by regulating the activity of hormones and enzymes involved in sebum production. By preventing excessive oiliness, omega-3s help reduce the likelihood of pore blockages that can lead to acne.

Inhibition of Acne-Causing Bacteria Growth

Research suggests that omega-3 fatty acids can hinder the growth of Propionibacterium acnes. It is a bacteria that contributes to the development of acne, through its anti-inflammatory effects and promoting a healthier skin environment.

Enhancement of Skin Barrier Function

Omega-3 fatty acids maintain the skin’s barrier function, enhancing its integrity and resilience against external irritants. Omega-3s support the skin’s natural barrier by improving skin elasticity and hydration, leading to well-moisturised and flexible skin. This enhancement in skin health makes it less susceptible to acne and other skin conditions.

How to Use Omega-3 for Acne

Eat More Omega-3 Foods to Help With Acne

Adding omega-3 fatty acids to your diet may help to control acne. Here are some food options rich in Omega-3:

  • Fish: Salmon, mackerel, sardines, and anchovies are excellent sources of EPA and DHA.
  • Plant Oils: Flaxseed oil, chia seed oil, and hemp oil are rich in ALA, which the body can partially convert to EPA and DHA.
  • Nuts and Seeds: Walnuts, flaxseeds, and chia seeds also provide a good amount of ALA.
  • Fortified Foods: Some eggs, dairy products, and juices are fortified with omega-3.

Addition of Omega-3 Supplements

Supplements are a good option if you don’t get enough omega-3 from your food. It’s a good idea to talk to a dermatologist to determine how much you should take, as the right amount can depend on your health and specific needs:

  • Fish Oil Capsules: These are a direct source of EPA and DHA. It’s important to choose high-quality, mercury-free products.
  • Algal Oil Supplements: A plant-based option that provides DHA and can be suitable for vegetarians and vegans

Add Omega-3 to Your Skincare Routine

You can find omega-3 fatty acids in some skincare products, which can help reduce inflammation and acne when applied to your skin. Check the ingredients in moisturisers, serums, and creams for omega-3 or fish oil.

These products can target and reduce inflammation directly at the acne spot, strengthen your skin barrier, and keep your skin hydrated. Using them daily and eating foods rich in omega-3, can boost your skin’s health.

Considerations and Precautions in Using Omega-3 for Acne

Everyone’s different, so the way omega-3 fatty acids affect acne can vary, and there’s no one-size-fits-all dosage.

  • Holistic Acne Management: Omega-3 addresses inflammation but may not target all acne causes, so comprehensive acne management should also consider hormonal, stress, and hygiene factors.
  • Balance with Omega-6 Fatty Acids: A balanced intake of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids is crucial, as excessive omega-6 can promote inflammation.
  • Quality and Purity of Supplements: Ensuring the quality and purity of omega-3 supplements is important to avoid contaminants like heavy metals.


Omega-3 fatty acids, especially EPA and DHA, are good for helping with acne because they reduce inflammation, control oil production, stop acne-causing bacteria, and strengthen the skin’s defences. Eating foods or taking supplements with omega-3 might help your acne treatment. Consult with healthcare professionals to determine the appropriate intake. While dietary modifications may help your overall skin health to some extent, they are not the mainstay of treatment for moderate to severe cases of acne. It is still prudent to seek medical assistance and prescription medication if your acne is flaring.

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