Essential fatty acid deficiency causes dry skin

We’re crazy about naturally great skin and taking care of it as we age through diet and lifestyle choices. No moisturizer or serum is going to work on skin that doesn’t have all of its dietary needs met. Compromised skin is almost always a sign of a some underlying deficiency somewhere, usually attributed to diet . One of those deficiencies could be essential fatty acids like omega-3 and omega-6, which are responsible for the health of our skin and nails. They are called essential because the body cannot produce them and they must be obtained through diet. The following are a list of symptoms present in fatty acid deficiency. If you have several of the following symptoms, or if your skin is always an issue to deal with in some way, it may benefit you to check for a fatty acid deficiency.

Symptoms of Essential Fatty Acid Deficiency

  • Dry skin or flaky skin
  • Cracking/peeling fingertips & skin
  • Small bumps on back of upper arms
  • Mixed oily and dry skin (‘combination’ skin)
  • Irregular quilted appearance of skin (e.g., legs)
  • Thick or cracked calluses
  • Brittle fingernail
  • Dry eyes
  • Dry mouth/throat
  • Poor concentration
  • Sleep problems
  • Excessive thirst
  • Allergic tendencies (e.g., eczema/asthma/hay fever/hives)
  • Crave fats/fatty foods
  • Stiff or painful joints

While total fatty acid deficiency is more rare here North America, an imbalance in these two fatty acids is very widely prevalent, and that can be just as detrimental to skin and health. Omega 3 fats come from grass fed beef, pastured free range chicken eggs, dairy products from grass fed animals and wild caught oily fish. Omega 6 fats are in processed vegetable oils such as soybean and corn. We should aim for a 1:1 ratio of Omega 3 to Omega 6, but standard diets in America are getting 1:15, meaning there is way too much Omega 6 in our diets and a deficiency in Omega 3. This is usually from eating out, as restaurants use cheap oils to cook with, as well as any processed food such as frozen dinners, bottled salad dressing, bags of chips, etc. Look on any ingredient list and see how much these cheap vegetable oils are part of almost everything sold in a bag or a box.

If most of your diet is fresh, whole foods without a long ingredient list, and your skin looks great for your age, you are probably just fine. You could still supplement your diet with fish oil pills (or flax if you are vegetarian) and see if there is a decrease in dry skin over two months. If you feel your skin has gotten better and less reactive, you are on the right track. As a bonus, Omega 3 fats also reduce weight and inflammation. Too much Omega 6 increases weight and inflammation, so again, balance is key. 

Supplementation need not be forever, as it is most helpful to supplement just while transitioning to a more balanced diet. Use a lab test or your own markers to know when you are no longer deficient and enjoy your moist and supple skin. Now you can treat it to a solid moisturizer to maintain your beautiful results.

xo, Jacci & Laura


Jacci Delaneau

Adventuress, animal activist and recovering cheese addict. Dreamer and doer. A patent holding serial entrepreneur, our founder Jacci, has traveled the world in search of bizarre beauty rituals, the planet’s most beautiful beaches, and the perfect pizza. She combines her background in Marine Biology and Organic Cosmetic Science to develop clean, high performance skin care using sustainable ocean based ingredients. Read more about Jacci.