Flax oil or flaxseed oil is derived from the pretty, blue-flowering flax plant. The oil, obtained from processing the seeds, is high in omega 3 fatty acids, especially alpha linoleic acid (ALA). Omega 3 fatty acids are essential for normal skin and body function, but they are not produced naturally by your body.
The only way to get omega 3 fatty acids is from your diet. You can add flax oil as a dressing in salads, as a substitute for other oils (except in cooking, since flaxseed oil breaks down quickly when heated), or even take a tablespoon in a healthy smoothie. Flax seed flour, which is also high in omega 3s, can be added to muffin or pancake mixes or even sprinkled on cereal. You can also buy flax seed supplements.
Foods high in omega 3s help your skin protect itself by increasing natural oils that your skin secretes on the surface. These fats and oils are critical for keeping your skin soft, protecting it from irritants and preventing it from drying out.
But will it make me look younger?
Ah, the question most people want answered: maybe. According to a report in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, women who consumed the most linoleic acid had the youngest-looking skin among 40-74 year-olds.
Like vitamin C and olive oil, flax oil has benefits not only from eating it, but also from applying it directly to your skin. When smoothed on your skin, flax oil can help lock in moisture and prevent water loss through the skin. Applying it can also improve your skin’s dry dull appearance and even improve the appearance of fine lines, both of which certainly make you appear younger.
As an added benefit, omega 3 fatty acids are anti-inflammatory, which help minimize redness and skin irritation. There is evidence that omega-3s can improve chronic skin conditions such as eczema (atopic dermatitis), rosacea, acne, and psoriasis, but only preliminary studies have been done. Omega 3s have been shown to aid in wound healing as well. There is even some evidence that flax seed oil might protect against ultraviolet light (sun) damage and can help protect you against skin cancer.
What to look for when buying flax seed oil:
Because flax seed oil is easily oxidized, which diminishes its antioxidant capabilities, it is important that you find flax oil that is
- in a dark container
- protected from light
- vacuum sealed when you buy it
- stored in the refrigerator after opening it
What about cold pressed oil? This is controversial. There is no standard for labeling an oil “cold pressed.” Heat and/or high pressure is needed to extract the oil from the seeds. Oil that is labeled as cold pressed and sold in the refrigerator section is certain to be a lot more expensive but not necessarily more effective. As soon as the oil is exposed to air and light, it begins to break down, anyway. So save your money.
Post written by Jeffrey Benabio, MD.