Fish Oil: Evidence for Acne Prevention?

One of the most popular supplements on the market right now is fish oil. The heart benefits from taking fish oil, which is high in omega 3 fatty acids, is well established by science. Omega 3 acts as an anti-inflammatory, and so may be helpful to those suffering from acne. What does the evidence tell us?

The reality is, there are few published studies that have looked for any connection between fish oil and acne. The most specific one only looked at 5 young people, between the ages of 18 and 23, for two months as they took a fish oil pill containing omega 3 from sardines. The number of acne lesions at the end of the two months had decreased from an average of 20 to an average of 7. However, this study was not controlled for placebos and was a very small effort. So it really doesn’t give much information.

Other studies have instead looked to see if acne has an inflammatory dimension, in which case it might be affected by an anti-inflammatory diet. Since omega 3 acts as an anti-inflammatory supplement, this might be an indication of a possible route of treatment, although no study has followed up on this in depth.

There was also a meta-study (a study that looked at the conclusions of other studies) published in 2009 in the Journal of International Dermatology. The authors concluded, with the above point, that there is good support for the idea that omega 3 (as in fish oil) can have an anti-inflammatory effect, and that there is good support that acne is an inflammatory disease. Hence, it follows that fish oil should have some kind of effect on acne.

The last place to turn for information is the completely unscientific world of anecdotes. Looking over fish oil reviews on acne.org, one finds a range of good and bad reviews. Some reported that it cleared up acne, and some reported that it made it worse. So, clearly, caution is warranted.

If you have acne, fish oil might be worth trying out. It is relatively safe to take and has cardiovascular health benefits, reducing the risk of heart disease. It is also anti-inflammatory, which might give it some acne-fighting ability, although your results may vary.