A pot of Reviva Labs' EFAs Cream ($25) landed on my desk the other day. It contains 10 essential fatty acid oils and is aimed at thin delicate skin. I know that essential fatty acids (the omegas) are important for overall health and I have noticed that, little by little, they are beginning to crop in skincare (notably in one of my favorite body lotions, Xomega by Dermophisiologique). I wanted to know more about the connection between EFAs and skin and whether both omegas (3 and 6) are important.

Reviva's EFAs Cream has both linoleic (omega 6) and alpha linoleic acid (omega 3). In America, we consume way too much omega 6 and it is making us fat by stimulating the appetite, according to recent research. We should be making sure that our diets favor omega 3 (fish, olive oil etc). But what about our skin? It seems a balance of omega 3 and 6 is necessary.

Youthful skin is full of plump, water-filled cells. A skin cell’s ability to hold water decreases with age. A healthy skin cell has a healthy membrane, which keeps good things in, like water and nutrients, and allows waste products to pass out.  It is a fatty acid’s job to keep that cell healthy and its membrane functioning. Not getting enough essential amino acids results in unstable membranes that cannot keep their buoyant shape, which in turn leads to saggy, aged skin.

Linoleic Acid is a polyunsaturated fatty acid and is part of the Omega 6 fatty acids, found in many vegetable oils, especially safflower and sunflower oils. It occurs naturally in the body, and deficiencies lead to dry hair, hair loss, and poor wound healing. It is no surprise then that linoleic acid is often used as an ingredient in beauty products for the treatment of these same problems. It is used as an emulsifier, and in the making of soaps and quick-drying oils; it is also used as for its anti-inflammatory, acne reduction, and moisture retention properties.

Dietary deficiency of linoleic acid results in a characteristic scaly skin disorder and excessive epidermal water loss (source). According to research, as a fatty acid, linoleic acid helps to maintain the health of cell membranes, improve nutrient use, and establish and control cellular metabolism. It also produces prostaglandins, which stimulate circulation via vasodilatation and strengthen the body’s natural defenses, suppressing inflammation; it may help with the treatment of atopic eczema. A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition assessed the effects of a combination of Linoleic Acid and Vitamin C on over 30,000 people and saw a marked improvement in senile dryness (as a result of aging) and skin atrophy (thinness)..

Alpha Linolenic acid is an omega 3. Seed oils are the richest sources of α-linolenic acid, notably those of rapeseed (canola), soybeans, walnuts, flaxseed (Linseed oil), perilla, chia, and hemp. In one clinical study, 13 people with sun sensitivity known as photo dermatitis showed less sensitivity to UV rays after taking fish oil supplements. However, topical sunscreens are much better at protecting the skin from damaging effects of the sun than omega-3 fatty acids. In another study of 40 people with psoriasis, those who took EPA with their prescription medications did better than those treated with the medications alone. However, a larger study of people with psoriasis found no benefit from fish oil.

In Reviva EFAs Cream, sunflower oil and borage provide the omega 6. So too does rosehip, which is about 40% lineolic acid. Flaxseed oil has both, as does hemp (in fact hemp has more EFAs than flax). Avocado oil is a great source of omega 3.

Although not included in Reviva's EFAs Cream, it is worth mentioning chia seeds. A mere tablespoon a day will give you more than enough. 64% of chia seed oil is omega 3 (compared to 55% for flax seeds) and only 20% omega 6. As a quick aside, kiwi fruit is also a great source at 62% omega 3.

Ingredients

Purified water, aloe vera gel, vegetable glycerin, cetearyl alcohol, sunflower oil, flaxseed oil, borage oil, rosehip oil, hemp oil, avocado oil, wheat germ oil, black currant seed oil, olive oil, sesame seed oil, polysorbate 60, stearic acid, glyceryl laurate, panthenol, pomegranate oil, mixed tocopherols, olive squalane, soy liposome, green tea extract, sweet almond oil, allantoin, cocoa butter, phenoxyethanol, ethyl hexyl glycerin, benzyl alcohol (preservatives).