Treat Psoriasis With Oils: Why Omega-3 is Key to Clear Skin 

Psoriasis has become a very common skin disease, affecting at least 2% of the world's population.

It's perhaps one of the least understood skin diseases since its direct cause has largely been misunderstood by medical professionals.

But, there's now a lot of scientific evidence providing links as to how psoriasis is caused and what can be used to treat it.

I'm going to be explaining why omega-3 fatty acids are an important component for treating psoriasis, and providing easy, plant-based sources.

How you can treat psoriasis with oils rich in omega-3

What is psoriasis vulgaris?

Psoriasis vulgaris is an itchy skin disease that appears as red, inflamed bumps or scaly patches around the body.

It's caused by the buildup of skin cells at an accelerated rate of 10 times faster than average skin.

Back in 2013, around 7.4 million Americans had psoriasis. As of 2017, approximately 125 million people were suffering from psoriasis worldwide.

The most common type of psoriasis

Plaque psoriasis is the most common form of this particular skin disease.

It shows up as white dead skin cell buildup, which covers raised patches. These can be quite itchy, and cause cracking and bleeding.

While it can manifest practically anywhere on the body, plaque psoriasis on the scalp, back, face, elbows, and legs are all very common.

In fact, around 80% of people who have psoriasis will get it on their scalp.

You may notice your skin getting worse from excessive washing during the coronavirus outbreak, especially if you're dealing with psoriasis on the hands.

This can be combatted by applying oils (mentioned in the list at the end of this article) in between each handwash.

What's the difference between eczema and psoriasis?

If untested by a dermatologist, confusion around whether a condition is psoriasis vs eczema seems to be really common.

Eczema and psoriasis can look pretty similar, since eczema manifests as itchy, inflamed skin patches as well.

The main difference is that psoriasis will usually have more redness and inflammation, and be much more raised on the skin. Whereas eczema tends to be flat on the skin, and is sometimes dark in colour.

What causes psoriasis

Psoriasis is a very complex skin disease, but ultimately, it stems from genetics and inflammation.

Psoriasis has been shown to be passed down as a hereditary skin condition. 

But It's not that simple. It's careless to say genetics are the sole cause.

It seems while specific genes predispose people to potentially getting psoriasis in their lifetime, certain inflammatory triggers (which can turn on and off certain genes) are also involved with developing the disease.

It turns out that at least 80 genes have been identified to be involved with predisposing people to psoriasis, particularly in European and Asian populations.

Basically, certain biological processes in the body can "activate" genes associated with psoriasis in some people, which will allow the disease to show up on the skin.

To understand what triggers psoriasis to develop, we must look to our gut microbiome for answers.

The gut and skin microbiome involvement with psoriasis

Our gut and skin microbiomes are home to high complex colonies of trillions of microorganisms, which include bacteria, fungi, mites, and viruses.

Our skin alone is incredibly dense in microorganisms, with one billion members found per square centimeter.

The skin microbiome plays an important role in protecting against skin diseases.

Over 100 trillion microorganisms reside in our gut, weighing up to 3 pounds. It makes up approximately 70% of our immune system.

Alterations to our gut and skin microbiome are seen in people with psoriasis.

Gut dysbiosis, which represents an imbalance of intestinal microbial communities, is correlated with psoriasis.

Psoriasis is linked to an increase in pathogens like staphylococcus aureus (bacteria), candida albicans (yeast), and malassezia (fungi), which can occur in response to gut dysbiosis and alteration in intestinal or skin microbiota.

These pathogens induce inflammation within the skin by causing an increase in a group of naturally occurring proteins known as interleukins, which trigger immune responses and in turn, inflammation.

In plain English ‚ÄĒ certain pathogenic microorganisms can colonize the gut and skin, resulting in an inflammatory response.

Interleukins have been shown to be elevated in psoriasis lesions, explaining how inflammation and certain microbes play a role in causing psoriasis.

By the way, these imbalances within the gut and skin microbiomes can be caused by any number of things, but stress, diet, and medications are likely to blame.

Omega-3 & fatty acid imbalances in psoriasis

Omega-3

Okay, what the heck does omega-3 have to do with all of these pathogens in the skin?

If there's one thing science knows about psoriasis vulgaris, It's the close relationship it has with omega-3 essential fatty acids.

People with psoriasis are low in omega-3 fatty acids along with linoleic acid (omega-6 fatty acid), and unusually high in omega-9 fatty acids.

Remember the interleukins I was talking about? Well, it turns out that omega-3 fatty acids reduce their inflammatory responses, which will help to reduce psoriasis lesions.

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Omega-3 supplementation is effective for improving psoriasis and reducing symptoms like dryness, itching, and scales.

Applying omega-3s to the skin while simultaneously taking a supplement has been shown to improve psoriasis.

Oleic acid

Skin prone to psoriasis is high in oleic acid, an omega-9 fatty acid which we talk a lot about on the Loa Skin blog.

Oleic acid is an inflammatory, non-essential fatty acid that's associated with just about every inflammatory skin disease (eczema, acne, psoriasis, etc).

Linoleic acid

Psoriasis-prone skin is also low in linoleic acid, one of the most important nutrients for maintaining moisture in the skin's epidermis (outer layer of skin).

A combination of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids (linoleic acid and skin-loving GLA) supplementation may be effective in some people for treating psoriasis.

Research has shown that a moisturizer containing linoleic acid and ceramides can be effective for treating and preventing psoriasis.

The different types and conversions of omega-3 fatty acids

The way omega-3 works in the body and in the skin is important to understand, especially for choosing the type of oil you want to apply to your skin or take internally. 

Omega-3s are a family of polyunsaturated essential fatty acids, which represents multiple forms. Consuming or topically applying most types omega-3s must be converted to exert certain health benefits to the skin and body.

Here's how the most important omega-3s convert in your body:

ALA (alpha-linolenic acid) 

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SDA (stearidonic acid)

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ETA (eicosatetraenoic acid)

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EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid)

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DHA (docosahexaenoic acid)

ALA, EPA, and DHA seem to be the most important omega-3 fatty acids for treating psoriasis, since these are the types found to be low in people with the skin disease.

ALA is the most basic form of omega-3 and provides anti-inflammatory properties to the skin. It's incredibly easy to get in the diet, and can be found in chia and flax seeds, and green leafy vegetables.

The issue is that only about 9% of ALA eventually converts into DHA in women when taken internally, and this level falls to 4% in men, since it must go through multiple enzymatic conversion steps shown above.

This is what makes using oils topically especially important for speeding up this process and helping to treat psoriasis, especially when combined with oral omega-3 fatty acids. 

SDA is extremely rare, but can be found in a couple of select oils which I'll be listing below. SDA is useful for its easier conversion into EPA and DHA.

Both EPA and DHA can be found in fish, but fish may be contaminated with microplastics, making them a bad choice for omega-3 intake. 

How to treat psoriasis with omega-3 rich oils

I've curated a large list of facial oils high in omega-3s for psoriasis. These are to help reduce symptoms, but will not get rid of psoriasis as there are many internal factors involved.

Each oil is listed in order of their omega-3 content along with their corresponding fatty acid compositions, including linoleic acid and oleic acid so you can decide for yourself which oils are best for you.

Most oils listed will contain only ALA, while some contain SDA and/or GLA.

Check out our other article for a list of oils high in oleic acid (there's a lot of them) you should absolutely avoid applying to your skin.

Omega-3 rich oils for psoriasis:

ÔĽŅWe also offer our Botanical Beauty Elixir, which is rich in omega-3 fatty acids and contain some of the oils on this list.

1. Ahiflower oil

Ahiflower oil is incredibly unique with its high ALA and SDA content, and low oleic acid. The downside is It's really only sold in supplement form.

ALA: 46%

SDA: 20%

Linoleic acid: 12%

GLA: 6%

Oleic acid: 7%


2. Chia seed oil

Chia oil is great because it has a high omega-3 content, combined with one of the lowest amounts of oleic acid you'll be able to find in an oil.

ALA: 57%

Linoleic acid: 17%

Oleic acid: 6%


3. Echium oil

ALA: 30%

SDA: 12%

Linoleic acid: 19%

GLA: 10%

Oleic acid: 15%


4. Perilla oil

ALA: 63%

Linoleic acid: 15%

Oleic acid: 17%


5. Flaxseed oil

ALA: 55%

Linoleic acid: 18%

Oleic acid: 17%


6. Sea buckthorn seed oil

*This is different than sea buckthorn pulp oil, which has a completely different fatty acid profile.

ALA: 36%

Linoleic acid: 36%

Oleic acid: 13%


7. Black raspberry seed oil

ALA: 35%

Linoleic acid: 56%

Oleic acid: 18%


8. Rosehip oil

ALA: 33%

Linoleic acid: 45%

Oleic acid: 14%


9. Strawberry seed oil

ALA: 30%

Linoleic acid: 47%

Oleic acid: 16%


10. Hemp oil

ALA: 10%

SDA: 2%

Linoleic acid: 52%

GLA: 3%

Oleic acid: 10%


11. Cranberry seed oil

ALA: 31%

Linoleic acid: 37%

Oleic acid: 20%


12. Raspberry seed oil

ALA: 23%

Linoleic acid: 55%

Oleic acid: 14%


13. Walnut oil

ALA: 15%

Linoleic acid: 61%

Oleic acid: 14%


14. Blackberry seed oil

ALA: 15%

Linoleic acid: 63%

Oleic acid: 15%


15. Kukui nut oil

Kukui oil is last on this list because of its high concentration of oleic acid.

ALA: 27%

Linoleic acid: 39%

Oleic acid: 25%

Psoriasis FAQ

How do you get psoriasis?

Psoriasis is caused by both genetic and inflammatory factors.

Specific genes have been found to be associated with psoriasis in some people. However, this only predisposes them to potentially getting the skin disease. Certain inflammatory triggers can activate these genes, and psoriasis can show up on the skin as a result.

What's the difference between eczema and psoriasis?

Eczema shows up as dry, itchy patches of skin. Psoriasis will manifest very similar to eczema, but the difference is the patches will be raised, red, and usually more inflamed.

Silvery scales may also be on top of raised red patches, signifying this is psoriasis.

What are the best oils for psoriasis?

The best oils for psoriasis are ones high in omega-3 essential fatty acids. The reason for this is because omega-3s have been shown to help treat psoriasis.

Chia oil, echium oil, and flaxseed oil are all high in omega-3, and can be applied topically to psoriasis-prone skin.

Ingredients like olive oil and avocado oil should not be used on the skin, as these can worsen conditions like psoriasis.