The outermost layer of our skin, our skin’s barrier (which I talk about incessantly due to how important it is), is protected by something called the lipid matrix, made up of ceramides, cholesterol, and free fatty acids. Fats in general are something we are very used to speaking about in a negative light — however, fats are integral to how our body and our skin work so they should be embraced rather than avoided. The lipid matrix is essential to how our skin’s barrier functions — namely, how it maintains the moisture levels of the skin.
If our skin’s barrier function is impaired, we may see skin dehydration, dryness, flaking, redness, and irritation. When it’s not working correctly, our skin is not as protected as it should be and external aggressors can irritate it more than it usually would — this includes skincare products and harsh weather.
Our barrier needs to be minded in the winter months, when we essentially attack it by blasting up the heat and then going outside into very cold weather. Many, myself included, believe that supplementation of essential fatty acids has positive effects on our skin barrier and our skin in general, and seems to help with skin dehydration, sensitivity, and texture.
In a study carried out by the Institute of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology I in Düsseldorf in 2010, supplementation of fatty acid-rich flaxseed oil and safflower oil led to a significant decrease in reported skin sensitivity and roughness in the skin, while increasing skin hydration and skin smoothness.
This isn’t the same as saying “all fatty acid-rich foods or supplements are proven to make the skin happier” — far from it. In a more casual manner, Nerd Network clients and friends of mine notice a definite improvement in the bounce, glow, and plumpness of their skin when they take omega supplements versus when they don’t.
Fats aren’t just beneficial internally — they can be incredibly skin-soothing and hydrating when applied topically. According to our Skingredients cosmetic chemist, Gabriela Duffy Morales, ceramide NP (or ceramide III) is proven in concentrations of 0.05%-1% in formulations to reinforce barrier function while significantly improving the water retention capabilities of the skin. This is why we included this particular ingredient in the proven level in Skingredients Skin Good Fats (€42, skingredients.com and selected stockists). Fatty ingredients don’t have to feel oily on the skin — for example, the aforementioned Skin Good Fats is non-comedogenic and sinks into the skin without leaving a film of oil.
Ceramides are only one of the types of lipids that are beneficial to our skin. Chia seed oil, for example, is rich in omega 3, which is believed to assist in the appearance of lines and wrinkles when applied topically. Sunday Riley Luna Sleeping Night Oil (€53, arnotts.ie) pairs chia seed oil with retinol for double anti-ageing trouble. Inca inchi oil is another omega 3 and omega 6 rich plant oil, and is a star ingredient in Ren’s Vita Mineral Omega 3 Optimum Skin Oil (€28, theskinnerd.com & selected stockists) — perfect for adding on top of your usual serums to aid your skin through the tumultuous colder months.
If you are suffering from skin that is much drier and easily irritated, you are most certainly not alone and maybe this year, you’ll break the annual curse by horsing avocado into you and leaning on oils in your skincare routine too!
If you take multiple supplements, you can cut down on fuss and packaging with Skin Ultimate, which features your daily dose of antioxidants, with separate astaxanthin and CoQ10 supplement, vitamin A and omegas. I have long loved Skin Vit A+ and Skin Omegas+ from Advanced Nutrition Programme, so I adore that Skin Ultimate bundles the goodness together to save you time. If you want to support your normal skin and hair health, promote glow, smooth the appearance of lines and wrinkles and protect the skin all from the inside out, give Skin Ultimate a go.
Advanced Nutrition Programme Skin Ultimate (140 soft gels, €91, theskinnerd.com)