Benefits of Flaxseed Oil on the Skin

by David B. Ryan

About David B. Ryan

David B. Ryan has been a professional writer since 1989. His work includes various books, articles for "The Plain Dealer" in Cleveland and essays for Oxford University Press. Ryan holds degrees from the University of Cincinnati and Indiana University and certifications in emergency management and health disaster response.


Proponents of flaxseed oil claim that the ravages of eczema, the annoyance of dry skin and even sunburned skin pain can be alleviated with this natural oil product found on store shelves. Based on examination of medical studies, the National Institutes of Health is more skeptical on the benefits of oral consumption of the oil. Topically applied cosmetic products that incorporate flaxseed oil, however, may produce some positive results.

Flaxseed Oil

Flaxseed, also known as linseed, is sold whole, ground or manufactured into an oil form that is packaged in bottles or capsules. The oil is a natural source of alpha-Linolenic acid (ALA), which is designated as an omega-3 fatty acid. Flaxseed is usually taken by mouth in doses of 10 to 250 grams (g), according to Medline Plus, a service of the National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health.

Medline Plus notes that taking flaxseed oil by mouth for skin conditions has yet to be thoroughly studied, and that claims of its merit may be "...based on traditions or scientific theories. They often have not been thoroughly tested in humans, and safety and effectiveness have not always been proven."

Flaxseed Oil in Cosmetics

Cosmetic-grade flaxseed oil is used in creams and gels to moisturize and smooth the skin. Manufacturers of cosmetics made with the oil claim that their products nourish the skin and have properties that smooth and firm the outer skin. Jeffrey Benabio, MD, FAAD, skin care expert, claims that the benefits of flax oil applied topically include reducing dull-looking skin and softening the look of fine lines. Benabio also says that the oil, due to its anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids, reduces red skin and irritation. Acne, psoriasis, rosacea and eczema can be improved by the use of the oil, according to Benabio's "The Dermatology Blog."

Oil capsules can also be purchased for cosmetics made in the home and a host of companies market the product in cosmetic-grade form. Care is required in preparing these cosmetics, including refrigeration and protection from sunlight, since both heat and light degrade the oil.

Side Effect Dangers

Flaxseed oil taken by mouth to improve the skin has serious risks. The National Institutes of Health and the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC) warn that the side effects of supplements require additional study, and that if you are taking supplements, such as flaxseed oil, you should consult a medical professional prior to use. The UMMC lists potential side effects related to flaxseed oil and drug interactions if you take blood sugar-lowering medications, since flaxseed oil may elevate fasting blood sugar levels and require your physician to re-evaluate the dosage of necessary prescription medications.

The UMMC also warns that flaxseed oil may delay absorption of oral medications. Side effects may also result from too much flaxseed oil. Diets with an improper balance of omega-3 and omega-6, which are both categorized as polyunsaturated fatty acids, are unhealthy. Omega-3 helps to reduce inflammation while omega-6 can promote it, and over-ingestion of flaxseed oil creates an imbalance that increases the risk of developing an inflammatory disorder, according to the UMMC. A healthy balance of two to four times more omega-6 fatty acids than omega-3 fatty acids should be present in the body.

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This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or