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Can Flaxseeds Help Sensitive Skin?

Instead of treating sensitive skin topically, with lotions and creams, why not treat it from the inside out with diet?

About half of the American population says they have sensitive skin, defined loosely as tingling, chafing, burning, itching sensations when exposed to various environmental factors. A similar high prevalence has been reported throughout Japan and Europe, and it appears especially prevalent among women. Often there are no obvious signs, so it was dismissed as a “princess and the pea” phenomenon by the medical community. Now it’s largely recognized as a genuine physiological phenomenon, thought to arise from a breakdown of the skin barrier that allows potentially irritating substances to penetrate the skin and generate an inflammatory reaction. So what can we do about it?

In 2011, a paper was published entitled Supplementation of Flaxseed Oil Diminishes Skin Sensitivity and Improves Skin Barrier Function and Condition. In a randomized double-blind 12-week study, researchers gave women about a half teaspoon of flaxseed oil a day versus safflower oil as a control. That’s the amount of oil found in about a teaspoon and a half of flax seeds.

To measure skin sensitivity they painted an irritant chemical on their forearms, and after three months there was significant decrease in skin reddening in the flax group compared to the safflower group. Their skin ended up significantly better hydrated, had significantly better barrier function, was less rough, less scaly, and was smoother. If you click on the video above you can actually see the changes in a close-up view of the skin. Their skin looked pretty much just as dry and scaly before and after the safflower oil intervention, but significantly improved after flaxseed oil.

The best source of flaxseed oil is within the flaxseed itself.  Then you get all the nutrition of the whole food, and it’s cheaper and more stable than the oil. Unlike flaxseed oil, you can bake flaxseeds without destroying the omega 3s, and you can even store ground flaxseed for a month at room temperature without spoilage or oxidation.

For more on eating your way towards healthier skin, see my other videos:

For more on flax, see:

In health,
Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos here and watch my full 2012 year-in-review presentation Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death.

Image credit: stevendepolo / Flickr

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Dr. Michael Greger

A founding member of the American College of Lifestyle Medicine, Michael Greger, M.D., is a physician, author, and internationally recognized speaker on nutrition, food safety, and public health issues. Currently Dr. Greger serves as the Director of Public Health and Animal Agriculture at The Humane Society of the United States. Hundreds of his nutrition videos are freely available at NutritionFacts.org.

61 comments

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11:52AM PDT on May 22, 2013

Ty

11:06AM PDT on May 21, 2013

Thanks...good to know :)

9:53AM PDT on May 21, 2013

Combine this with the women's health issues it helps and I need to add more to my daily intake!

7:46AM PDT on May 19, 2013

How interesting, thanks for sharing! Let food be your medicine...

1:33AM PDT on May 18, 2013

I add at least 3 t. of ground flax to my breakfast each day and I've been doing this for a good few years. I'm also well hydrated with at least 8 glasses of water a day. Something must be very wrong, because I still have very dry skin....

9:21AM PDT on May 17, 2013

Thanks.

9:19AM PDT on May 17, 2013

Will try for more flax seeds! Thanks

9:10AM PDT on May 17, 2013

I consume flaxseeds maybe twice a week but I wasn't
aware of it's benefits- thanks!

8:12AM PDT on May 17, 2013

Thank you

7:03AM PDT on May 17, 2013

Thank you for sharing.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
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