It's been drilled into our heads by doctors for years that a fish-rich diet is actually good for our bodies. It's suggested that we eat fatty fish that are also lower in mercury -- like salmon, trout, sardines and tuna -- at least two to three times a week or take fish oil supplements regularly to improve heart health, boost memory and even increase sperm count.
As if those health benefits weren't persuasive enough, there's also scientific research and nutrition claims that the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish also protect the skin against sun damage and nourish hair follicles.
But making sense of all the findings on fish oil -- not to mention swallowing that pill -- is no easy task. So we asked facialist and skincare creator Ildi Pekar, consulting dermatologist for L'Oreal Paris Flor Mayoral, M.D. and Matrix celebrity stylist Nick Stenson to lay it straight.
The fatty acids in fish oil supply hydration to your skin and help with inflammation.
"Taking any kind of fish oil is like putting oil in your engine to run smoothly," says Pekar. "Fish oil is great for your heart and health but especially your skin," reducing acne and warding off wrinkles.
Dr. Mayoral agrees, adding that most dermatologic literature points to two properties of fish that help us out. Omega-3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory properties while low-glycemic foods like fish benefit people with psorasis, non-melanoma skin cancer and melanoma.
Fish oil also provides strength and shine to fragile or weakened hair.
A report published in the January 2013 issue of Dermatologic Clinics focused on nutrition and hair found that fatty acid deprivation or deficiency can lead to hair color changes or loss. This is why Stenson is such a huge advocate for using hair care products like this that are enriched with fatty acids, in conjunction with consuming fish oil, to boost luminosity, as well as resistance to breakage.
Fish oil is best taken orally so your body can extract the omega-3s to achieve healthy, beautiful skin and hair.
"One of the most special things about omega-3s in fish oil is that it caters to the natural oils we produce in our body helping us to be maintained and balanced," says Pekar. "Topical use does not affect your skin like it would if your body would to digest it." This is largely in part because most people need more omega-3s in their diet.
While there are few recommended doses for fish oil, a study published in the 2012 Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology concluded that excess consumption of fish oil can lead to side effects, including fishy aftertaste, abdominal pain, diarrhea and easy bruising/bleeding. So consult a physician first and be sure to read supplement labels, opting for non-processed fish oil. And if you're vegan, try flax, chia or even walnuts.
Do you take fish oil supplements or have a fish rich diet? Have you noticed a difference in the condition of your hair and skin? Tell us in the comments section.