SKIN SERIES | Linoleic Acid Deficiency

SKIN SERIES | Linoleic Acid Deficiency


If you’ve found this blog, it likely means you have struggled with your skin. Acne in particular. You’ve researched, taken supplements, changed your diet, and experimented with your skin care – all with varying degrees of success. I’m right there with you. Before we dive into today’s topic, I think it’s important to talk about expectations. I expected to make changes and see glowing, crystal clear skin in the mirror. As a result, I couldn’t appreciate the small changes that were happening. I’m sure you’ve experienced this too. When that happens, our natural inclination is to pivot, adjust our approach, continue trying anything and everything we can to solve the problem. We all know what that looks like – a brand new skin care regimen, different supplements, bringing dairy, gluten, sugar, or whatever we were eliminating back into our diet (because what the hell, right?). And on and on it goes, with increased feelings of anger and frustration every time.

But what if we stopped to appreciate the small victories and really internalized the idea that consistency is key? We are taught to think in 28-day increments, but maybe if we stuck with our diet, supplements, and skin care for 3 months, 6 months, or 1 year, we might be amazed by the results. (Speaking of, I am dedicating myself to a particular skin care regimen for the foreseeable future because I have the terrible habit of introducing new skin care products all. the. time. I’ll keep you updated on the results!)

Of course, this presupposes that you are making the right choices, which can be tricky, especially when it comes to skin care. It’s vital that you understand the mechanisms behind acne (both internally and externally) so that your approach is thoughtful and targeted. Enter the Skin Series. I want this particular series of journal entries to serve as your springboard into understanding what the heck is going on with your skin.

First up, linoleic acid deficiency. Sebum is a naturally occurring, protective substance that creates the acid mantle on the surface of our skin. Our precious skin microbiome lives within this acid mantle. When the skin is able to maintain a pH level of around 5.5, it’s happy. When we start to mess with the pH by over-cleansing, over-exfoliating, and slathering on sebum-stripping products, the bad bacteria take over and inflammation ensues. Not a pretty picture.

So sebum is good? Generally, yes. But excess sebum production tends to be a problem for those with acne-prone skin. Excess sebum production is the result of increased androgen activity, low progesterone, insulin resistance, stress, or any combination of these. Too much sebum causes the sebaceous gland to inflame and before you know it, bam, a blemish. (Remember that acne is caused by multiple mechanisms and excess sebum production is only part of the story. We’ll cover the others later on.)

Even more problematic is that those with acne-prone skin tend to have sebum that is deficient in linoleic acid. Sebum deficient in linoleic acid is hard, sticky, and lacking in anti-inflammatory properties. This leads to an increase in congestion within pores. What can you do? Apply oils rich in linoleic acid, of course! This will help to keep sebum lipids flowing and dissolve congested matter within the pores. Additionally, adequate topical hydration acts as a signal to your skin to stop overproducing sebum. Oils rich in linoleic acid include safflower oil, sunflower oil, evening primrose oil, watermelon seed oil, pumpkin seed oil, prickly pear seed oil, hemp seed oil, and grapeseed oil. This is not to say that you cannot purchase a mixture with some oils that are lower in linoleic acid; just be sure that the bulk of the carrier oils are richer in linoleic acid (i.e. those in the top third of the ingredient list).  

Some of my favorite linoleic acid-rich serums include: