All oils are composed of fatty acids. Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs) are a special type of “good fat”. This good fat is essential to our body because the body uses it as a developmental building block for our cells. Every single cell in our body is wrapped with a fatty membrane. To maintain a healthy body, we should have enough essential fatty acids available. In addition, these fatty acids also maintain an outermost barrier layer of our skin and keep it protected and hydrated. EFAs must be obtained through diet because the body cannot make them.
You can dramatically slow the aging process by good hydration and by delivering essential fatty acids to your cells through diet or via your skin. Taking fish oil, Omega 3, Flaxseed, Hemp, or Avocado oil internally and by application on your skin (like a natural serum) would be a very powerful way to use EFA’s to not only nourish your skin but also deliver other vitamins and beneficial nutrients deep into the skin’s layers. Oils rich in EFA’s absorb quickly into the skin and take with them vital elements for healthy glowing skin.
In this article, we will discuss different types of fatty acids and their benefits for our skin. (Interesting fact: Essential Fatty Acids sometimes called vitamin F.)
There are two main EFAs types of fatty acids: Saturated and unsaturated fatty acids.
Within the unsaturated group, we have monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids.
1. Saturated Fatty Acids are mainly found in animal foods, such as meat, butter, and cheese but also in palm kernel and coconut oil. Saturated fats are remaining solid at room temperature. These oils are heavy and have a buttery texture. Saturated fatty acids are used in cosmetics as thickening agents, as well are beneficial for inhibiting skin infections and promote wound healing.
Significant SFAs are:
· Lauric Acid- antibacterial, helps prevent skin infections, acne breakouts. That makes it ideal for cleansing formulations targeting towards preventing those conditions. The SFA is abundant in coconut and palm kernel oil.
· Myristic Acid- antibacterial, great for skin infections. Oils high in Myristic acid also act as surfactants- help dissolve dirt and grime, a great addition to cleanser. This acid found in coconut and palm kernel oil and trace mineral could be found in grapeseed oil.
· Palmitic Acid-this acid found naturally in the epidermis and helps maintain the skin’s moisture levels. Carrier oils with high levels of Palmitic acid are useful in moisturizers because they are very effective emollients. The acid helps other ingredients penetrate the skin and it is also a good thickening agent, which makes it useful in products where a creamy texture desired. High levels could be found in cocoa butter, palm kernel oil. Trace amount found it almonds, sunflower, and grapeseed.
· Stearic Acid- found naturally on the top of the skin, has anti-inflammatory properties, and able to promote wound healing. It is usually used as an emulsifier. This acid found in particular in cocoa and Shea butters.
2. Monounsaturated, and Polyunsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs and PUFAs) - most unsaturated fatty acids are of plant and fatty fish origin. Foods containing unsaturated fatty acids include avocado, nuts, vegetable oils, and salmon. (Meat products contain both saturated and unsaturated fats.)
Of particular interest are polyunsaturated fatty acids. Within the family of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), there are two different groups: the “omega-3-fatty acids” and “omega-6-fatty acids”. Both are considered essential fatty acids because they cannot be synthesized by humans.
These fatty acids remain liquid at room temperature. In cosmetics, they are used to create a lighter texture. Many of the MUFAs and PUFAs have great emollient properties and are considered as wonderful cleansing agents. Here are some of the most beneficial fatty acids:
· Oleic acid- this is a monounsaturated fatty acid that has antiviral and antifungal properties. It can help to prevent skin infections caused by fungus or infections. It has been used quite often as a penetration enhancer, which means, Oleic Acid is able to create a better absorption of other compounds (for example drugs) into the skin. Oils that are high in Oleic acid are sweet almond and avocado.
· Palmitoleic acid – this monounsaturated fatty acid is great for aging skin. It has antibacterial capabilities and can also fight skin infections. It found mainly in avocado oil.
· Gamma-Linoleic acid – this polyunsaturated fatty acid is very effective in soothing the skin, excellent for treating eczema, psoriasis, and various other skin conditions. It is typically found in borage, evening primrose, hempseed, and rosehip seed oils.
· Linoleic acid - Omega 6, is a natural component of the skin sebum. It helps to strengthen the protective barrier on the top layer of skin and guard against water loss, which makes it a very effective moisturizer. In addition, Linoleic acid is recommended for treating problematic oily skin because it helps unblock pores. Oils rich in linoleic acid are sunflower, sesame, and grapeseed.
· Alpha-Linolenic acid (ALA) Omega 3, has been shown to help regulate inflammation. Carrier oils that have a high amount of alpha-linolenic acid are great for treating inflamed skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis, rosacea, and different other rashes. It could be found in rosehip, hemp, flaxseed and sesame seed oils.
Enjoy beautiful skin by consuming essential fatty acids internally and topically. By choosing natural and high-quality oils and butters, you will get essential fatty acids that are very beneficial for your overall health and your body’s largest organ -the skin.
The Aromatherapy Beauty guide, Daniel Sade