Is It True Fish Oil Helps With Acne? A Dermatologists Explains

Getty / Evgeniia Siiankovskaia

Most of us who deal with pesky blemishes or consistent acne will try just about anything to make it all go away. However, there are so many products out there that claim to be the solution to stubborn acne that it’s hard to determine what will actually help you say goodbye to pimples. One solution many are reaching for lately is an unexpected choice: fish oil.

You may think of fish oil as a not-so-tasty supplement with lots of benefits for your overall health. Recently, skin-care enthusiasts have been raving about how they believe fish oil has helped improve the appearance of their acne. Given fish oil has so many components that do nothing but impact the body positively, there’s a great chance it can do the same for your skin, right?

There are various face serums, spot treatments, and supplements that many swear by to tackle their stubborn acne, from small breakouts to cystic acne. So is fish oil actually the key to helping get rid of your acne? We spoke with a dermatologist to help us understand whether or not fish oil helps with acne.

Expert Featured in This Article

Brooke Jeffy, MD, is a board-certified dermatologist and founder of Btwn Skincare.

What Is Fish Oil?

Fish oil is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids and comes from oily fish such as tuna, anchovies, mackerel, and herring. “Omega-3 fatty acids are essential fatty acids, meaning they have to come from the diet – the body does not make them – and are crucial to overall health,” dermatologist Brooke Jeffy, MD, tells PS.

You can incorporate fish oil into your routine in a few ways. However, the most common is taking a supplement. The taste and odor can be pretty strong, which is why a capsule is usually preferred over topical use.

Can Fish Oil Help With Acne?

Yes and no. Fish oil has a few components, such as omega-3, that support the skin’s overall health. Taking it can help improve skin barrier function, inhibit inflammation, and promote skin healing, per research published in the journal Marine Drugs. The study states that the omega-3 content in fish oil can assist in reducing general inflammation in the body.

“Because fish oil is rich in antiinflammatory omega-3 fatty acids, it can improve acne by reducing inflammation in the skin,” Dr. Jeffy says. “Specifically, omega-3 fatty acids block a pathway in the body that generates inflammation. They work to stabilize testosterone and insulin like growth factor 1 (IGF-1), which both tend to increase oil production . . . a key step in acne formation.”

Dr. Jeffy explains that those with inflammatory (red, swollen, painful blemishes) and comedonal (small flesh-colored acne) acne may benefit best from fish oil. However, others may actually experience worsening acne, because individual reactions to fish oil supplements may vary, per Healthline. This study states that after providing individuals with three grams of fish oil to add to their diet for 12 weeks, “acne severity improved in eight individuals and worsened in four, and remained unchanged in one.”

Are There Any Side Effects of Fish Oil?

According to Dr. Jeffy, fish oil can cause gastrointestinal upset and increase risk of bleeding, including bleeding gums and nosebleeds. Some people who have allergies to fish or shellfish may also experience reactions such as headaches, wheezing, and hives, though this is rare, according to Medical News Today.

How Long Does Fish Oil Take to Work?

It could take anywhere from two to three months to see the effects of fish oil, Dr. Jeffy explains. However, this may vary depending on your severity of acne and the type of acne you have.

Sydney Wingfield has been a freelance writer in the beauty and wellness space for six years. She has written for Women’s Health, Marie Claire, Glamour, and other publications and loves to cover all things skin care, makeup, and hair.

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