7 Fish Oil Beauty Hacks to Try for Healthy Skin, Hair, and Nails

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Fish oil offers some impressive benefits from head to toe. Here’s why board-certified dermatologists recommend adding supplements or the oil itself to your vanity.

Coconut oil, almond oil, jojoba oil, olive oil — these are all oils that you can use to DIY a spa day at home. With the rising popularity of fish oil, which you can buy in solid, supplemental or liquid, bottled form, you may be wondering: Can I use this trendy ingredient on my hair, skin, and nails, too?

Fish oil is made up of polyunsaturated fatty acids, particularly the omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), notes the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Fish oil may also contain vitamins A and D, selenium, and retinol, according to a review published in August 2018 in Marine Drugs.

You can take fish oil as a supplement — in liquid form, like cod liver oil, or capsule form, such as omega-3 supplements. Technically, you can also apply it to your skin, hair, and nails. You may not want to, though. For one, fish oil has a pungent odor. No surprise: It smells like fish. You may find that other types of oils, namely coconut, will have a more pleasant scent that you enjoy using.

Hydrate Dry Patches With Omega-3s
Is this your new after-shower oil? “Omega-3 fatty acids are extremely hydrating. They can improve skin barrier function to prevent water loss,” explains Debra Jaliman, MD, board certified dermatologist in New York City and author of Skin Rules. “If you are using fish oil topically, it’s best to use it in dry areas,” she says. Dab near the eyes or around the edges of the face onto small rough patches, Dr. Jaliman advises. Or try the really dry places elsewhere on your body, such as elbows and knees.

One warning (an anti-hack, if you will): If you are acne prone, when applied topically fish oil can cause breakouts, so you’re best off avoiding it, Jaliman says. For that same reason, skip using it in your T-zone completely.

2. Soothe Red or Sunburned Skin With a Small Amount
Fish oil’s anti-inflammatory properties may also help quell redness in inflammatory skin problems including eczema, sunburn, or sensitive skin in general, says Purvisha Patel, MD, board-certified dermatologist and founder of Visha Skincare in Germantown, Tennessee. “The oils help repair the epidermal cell barrier, and helps increase skin strength and decrease DNA damage in the skin,” she says. To calm angry skin, she recommends applying a small amount to damp skin. (Do not apply oil and then go out into the sun.) But using a skin product that contains omega-3s as an ingredient may be a better option, says Dr. Patel, as it will be specifically formulated to absorb well into skin, contains supporting ingredients to enhance effectiveness, and smell more pleasant.

3. Fish Oil May Help Speed Skin Healing
Consider dotting a bit of fish oil on a small cut or scrape — there’s some limited evidence that a topical application of omega-3s and omega-3 supplements encourage wound healing, says Jaliman. Indeed, a small, previous randomized controlled trial suggested that fish oil offers promise for this purpose.

4. Use Fish Oil for an Extra Boost of UV Protection
EPA in fish oil in particular may bolster your body’s internal defenses of UV rays — similar to sunscreen from within, in part because of its anti-inflammatory properties, past research has suggested. Still, it’s not a replacement for applying a good SPF 30 to exposed skin in the morning — but that a diet containing fish oil may add another layer of protection.

For Your Hair

5. Balance Oil Production and Fight Flakes
When it comes to getting a lustrous and shiny mane, skip massaging fish oil directly on your scalp (you don’t want fishy-smelling hair, anyway) and start popping a fish oil supplement instead. Once again, this taps into the moisturizing properties of these omega-3s, says Kerry Yates, a trichologist and founder of Colour Collective in Dallas, Texas. Fish oil helps manage sebum (oil) production in the skin. “By default, hair health is improved, as balanced sebum production works wonders in naturally conditioning the hair, preventing inflammatory scalp conditions and possibly dandruff,” she says.

For Your Nails

6. Cure Dry Cuticles With a Dab of Fish Oil
Massage some fish oil into winter-ravaged, dry, peeling, and painful cuticles. Try it “before bedtime to help moisturize the skin around your nails,” Patel says. Bonus, she adds, “no hangnails.”

7. Restore Dry Nails With a Swipe of Fish Oil
Nails need TLC, too, and their fatty acids will rehydrate parched or peeling nails. “Use fish oil directly on the nails if they tend to be dry,” Jaliman says.

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