Does Fish Oil Help With Acne? (or Can They Cause Them?)

James Cunningham, BSc, CPT
Published by James Cunningham, BSc, CPT | Staff Writer & Senior Coach
Last updated: November 24, 2023
Our content is meticulously researched and reviewed by an expert team of fact checkers and medical professionals. They ensure accuracy, relevance, and timeliness using the latest reputable sources, which are cited within the text and listed at the end of the article. Before publication and upon significant updates, we confirm factual accuracy, committed to providing readers with well-informed content. Learn more.

Everyone goes through an acne stage during their teenage years, which sometimes remains even in adulthood.

We can all agree that no one wants to walk around looking like a pizza. That’s why, as a health optimization coach, I gathered a team and spent hours examining what the top wellness professionals have to say about fish oil and its effects on acne.

If you’re struggling with skin disorders and keeping them under control, you’ll want to learn more about how fish oil can help.

Quick Summary

  • Fish oil contains omega-3 fatty acids, namely DHA and EPA, which improve the general look of the skin and help eliminate acne.
  • Natural fish oil, processed fish oil, and krill oil are the best when treating acne.
  • A study at Seoul National University found that after 10 weeks of omega-3 fatty acid supplementation, inflammatory and non-inflammatory acne decreased significantly.
  • I believe incorporating fish oil into your diet is a simple yet effective way to combat acne and enhance overall skin health.

What Are the Effects of Fish Oil on Acne?

fish oil capsules in stack

Fish oil contains essential omega 3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, which play a vital role in promoting general skin health and getting rid of blemishes.

These omega 3 fatty acids help soothe skin, making it less prone to pimples and lesions.

Research suggests that omega 3 fatty acids are effective in combating moderate to severe acne.

One particular study conducted at Seoul National University was used:

“To evaluate the clinical efficacy, safety, and histological changes induced by dietary omega-3 fatty acid and γ-linoleic acid in a control group of acne patients… after 10 weeks of omega-3 fatty acid or γ-linoleic acid supplementation, inflammatory and acne [caused by non-inflammatory conditions] decreased significantly. [1]”

- Jae Yoon Jung, Clinical Trial Researcher

These medically reviewed trials provide strong evidence that including essential fatty acids in your diet or using omega 3 supplements can reduce the severity of breakouts.

How Does a Fish Oil Supplement Help With Acne?

jar of fish oil pill spilled, and a woman using a magnifying glass to see her acne

Based on our research, fish oil capsules are rich in omega 3s fatty acids known as eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). These omega-3 fatty acids play a vital role in maintaining skin health.

EPA and DHA regulate skin oil production (sebum), subdue breakouts, ensure your skin is hydrated, soothe inflamed acne, and help reduce inflammation.

Omega 3 fish oil supplementation can help treat skin conditions and has been proven to be the most effective on mild to severe breakouts.

The vitamins in omega 3s can soothe all acne lesions due to their anti-inflammatory properties. It acts directly on pimples, papules, and inflamed cysts, reducing inflammation and their severity.

Additionally, omega-3 fish oil possesses antibacterial properties, effectively treating breakouts caused by bacterial infections. It also prevents future breakouts by closing up infected pores once the acne clears.

Omega 3 supplements fight breakouts in the following ways:

Reducing Inflammation

woman scratching her hands

Inflammation is a common cause of adult acne.

Omega 3 supplements help reduce acne severity and prevent future breakouts, as they contain properties to combat inflammation.

EPA and DHA naturally combat inflammation by blocking arachidonic acid - a compound responsible for inflammation.

These fatty acids provide a soothing effect by lowering the body's inflammatory response at a cellular level.

Restoring Hormonal Balance

Hormonal acne is common during events that stimulate hormonal fluctuations. It includes the pre-pubescent and teenage periods in both sexes and pregnancy and perimenopause in women.

Hormonal acne is caused by an influx of androgenic hormones in the body. These hormones trigger oil glands to produce more sebum, leading to clogged pores and breakouts.

Taking fish oil enables the body to produce eicosanoids, which regulate inflammation and helps restore hormonal balance. It further limits the overproduction of skin oil and prevents outbreaks.

Anti-oxidation Effects

man in a black shirt with his hands in a thumbs up

Oxidative stress is another cause of inflammation in your skin.

It occurs when there is an imbalance between the production vs. accumulation of oxygen in the cells.

When sebum becomes oxidized through stress, this creates a favorable environment for acne to thrive in.

Unfortunately, it also induces lipid peroxidation in the skin cells, resulting in breakouts and other skin conditions.

Omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil have strong anti-oxidation properties that combat the effects of stress, helping treat and improve acne.

Lowering IGF Levels

Our liver naturally produces a hormone known as insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1).

In excessive amounts, this hormone increases skin inflammation and sebum production, making your skin more fragile to acne and other bacterial infections.

Fish oil helps regulate these hormones and prevent IGF-1 from causing breakouts.

What Type Is Best For Treating Acne?

man holding both bottle and capsule of fish oil

The best type of fish oil for treating acne is oil derived from fatty fish.

Examples of these fish include swordfish, mackerel, salmon, and trout, rich in oils containing omega 3.

According to a medically reviewed study on an Italian population, eating fish at least once per week helps in reducing the risk of moderate to severe acne by 32%. [2]

However, other studies have also looked at the effects of overall diets as well. For example, some studies show that a Western diet - consisting mainly of sugars, processed foods, and red meat increases the possibility of breakouts.

Compared to individuals that partake in an Eastern diet - which consists of lean meats, seafood, veggies, and fruit, these people had a significantly reduced number of breakouts and more clear skin. [3]

If you cannot eat fish, fish oil supplements can be an effective alternative. Some of the best types of fish oil supplement include:

  • Natural fish oil, extracted from tissues of oily fish and comes in the form of triglycerides. It has a high concentration of EPA and DHA, making it very effective for treating breakouts.
  • Processed fish oil, purified with altered concentration levels to meet consumer demands. It is the most common form and usually comes in the form of capsules.
  • Krill oil, a special kind of fish oil harvested from krill. Krill oil has very few contaminants and comes with a natural antioxidant, making it potent for treating breakouts. Cod liver oil, harvested from the liver of Atlantic codfish. Cod liver oil contains essential omega 3s, which are vital in fighting breakouts, and is also rich in vitamins A and D - both of which are effective antioxidants.

What Kind of Acne Can Fish Oil Supplements Help With?

Omega 3 supplements can help with regular acne and breakouts caused by inflammation and other skin conditions.

Acne Vulgaris

It’s a condition where skin pores become clogged with hair follicles, dead skin cells, sebum, and bacteria.

It may also be a result of hormonal fluctuations, inflammation, genetic disposition, or skin abnormalities. In adults, hormonal changes are the most common cause of breakouts.

Non-inflammatory Acne

This type of acne is a mild form that includes whiteheads and blackheads. Symptoms of this type do not induce swelling or inflammation on the surrounding skin.

Inflammatory Acne

Acne caused by inflammation is more persistent and has much more noticeable effects on the surrounding skin. Breakout severity ranges from mild acne to more severe conditions.

This type of acne commonly results in inflamed blemishes or lesions, which may be painful to touch.

Hormonal Acne

close up imahe of a nose with acne and open pores

Hormonal acne is most prevalent in an individual’s teenage period, as well as in adulthood.

For women, hormonal fluctuations that occur from childbirth, around menstruation, or menopause are triggers for hormonal acne.

That means that if you experience breakouts out of the blue, it may be a sign of something more serious happening within your body.

For men, it is a result of too much testosterone, which stimulates oil glands in the skin to produce excess sebum.

As a result, it causes the skin to become sticky, increasing the likelihood of pores becoming clogged.

Does Fish Oil Cause Acne?

woman pointing out her face acne

One important thing to note is that omega 3 fish oil dietary supplements may even worsen acne in some cases, especially if it is rancid.

It can result from purchasing poor quality oil, using expired supplements, or improper storage where the oil is exposed to direct sunlight.

If you’re looking to get your fish oil from supplements over natural fish, note that the fish oil supplement market is not regulated.

To avoid substandard fish oil dietary supplementation that may make acne worse, opt to purchase from a reputable manufacturer and check labels for EPA and DHA concentration.

Also, too much fish oil can result in many serious complications.

These include diarrhea, bleeding from the gums and nose, high blood sugar, low blood pressure, stroke, acid reflux, insomnia, and reduced immune system functions.

Fish Oil and Its Impact on Skin Microbiome

Fish oil is crucial in balancing the skin microbiome, which is essential for skin health and acne prevention. We’ve determined that omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil help maintain a healthy balance of bacteria on the skin, which can prevent acne outbreaks.

Regularly incorporating it into your diet is an effective strategy for long-term acne prevention. Omega-3s, especially EPA and DHA, keep the skin clear and healthy and regulate sebum production.


How Do You Use Fish Oil for Acne?

By taking 2-4 capsules of fish oil every day, the boost in vitamins and omega 3 can help with skin hydration and treat acne.

How Can I Clear Inflammatory Acne Naturally?

Reducing inflammation is the best way to naturally clear acne affected by inflammation.

Some methods for doing so include applying ice to the affected area, keeping your skin moisturized, using vinegar to fight bacteria and infections, and taking vitamins that regulate hormone production like zinc.

What Are the Best Vitamins for Acne?

The best vitamins for acne are vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin E, and zinc.

These vitamins help regulate hormones and contain properties that combat inflammation, which can effectively treat breakouts.


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