How to Repair the Skin Lipid Barrier Naturally with Evening Primrose Oil capsules on glass & silver tray surrounded by blue bottles
Beauty,  DIY,  Health

How to Repair the Skin Lipid Barrier Naturally: Anti-Inflammatory Essential Fatty Acids for Youthful Skin

Repair Your Skin’s Lipid Barrier Naturally with Evening Primrose Oil & Other Essential Fatty Acids for Hydrated, Youthful Skin from Within

From lotions to oils, serums and creams, many promise the same elusive skin destination – the fountain of youth (or something that looks like it).  And what does it look like?  One thing is certain, youthful skin, at any age, starts with a healthy skin barrier, also known as a lipid barrier.  The lipid barrier is actually made up, in part, of your skin’s own natural fats.  This is the same skin barrier that, unfortunately, is also often subject to harsh, drying soaps, exfoliation and/or product overload, as well as weather extremes.  For a prime example of a healthy skin barrier, look no further than young skin, full of integrity and strength, both of which are essential for skin elasticity.  Of course, the most obvious solution to restore the skin’s lipid barrier is to give your skin a break from whatever it is you are doing to it.  Beyond that, however, what about the role of diet in supporting the skin’s own natural lipid barrier?

Let’s take a look at a couple of dietary essential fatty acid sources starting with an often recommended supplement, plus how a one-time staple of the Western diet may actually be an excellent source of essential fatty acid benefits…

After all, essential fatty acids are considered essential because they can only be obtained through diet.. with an important exception.

Keep reading to find out how essential fatty acids may actually help maintain or restore your skin’s lipid barrier from the inside out


I am not a doctor but I frequently read & follow medical research.  If I find research that may be beneficial, I often like to share these medical & scientific sources with readers.  The reader can then scrutinize, debate and draw conclusions using the links I have provided.  Please consult your licensed physician to discover what is best for you since we all have our own unique genetics & sensitivities.

**Can Sulforaphane in Broccoli Sprouts Fight the Effects of Aging, Inflammation & Progerin on Body & Skin Wrinkles?

Grow broccoli sprouts at home to fight inflammation, aging & the effects of progerin, like these freshly grown sprouts in an iridescent blue bowl
Click here to discover the anti-aging benefits of sulforaphane in broccoli sprouts, plus grow broccoli sprouts at home to fight inflammation, aging & the effects of progerin on your health, including your skin…

Essential Fatty Acids in A Supplement…  What Is Evening Primrose Oil?  A Folk Remedy for Skin Issues Rooted in Centuries of Tradition

Acne & Evening Primrose Oil

When I first began investigating this topic, I was initially intrigued by what I observed as the anti-acne, anti-inflammatory benefits of gamma-linolenic acid-rich evening primrose oil (“EPO”).  While EPO has many reported benefits as I discuss below, its anti-acnegenic effects certainly seem to result from unique properties of EPO that can affect hormonal balance.  For that reason, I personally would only recommend EPO for short-term use to treat hormonal acne and not for extended use so as not to disrupt with the delicate endocrine system.  For short-term acne treatment, EPO seems to work quite well, and its effectiveness may partly explain some of EPO’s popularity through the ages.

Evening primrose oil (“EPO”), Oenothera biennis, is a thick plant-based oil that has a long record of skin and medicinal uses throughout history.  As a flowering plant native to North America, evening primrose oil was used by Native American tribes, including Cherokees, Iroquois and Ojibwe, for its both its nutritive and medicinal benefits.   EPO oil was traditionally extracted from the plant’s seeds, while the plant’s roots and leaves were often boiled into a tea.  The therapeutic benefits of evening primrose were quite well-known and used to treat everything from digestive to reproductive ailments, including menstrual pain and, reportedly, even obesity.  In addition to its internal uses, the oil, along with its roots, was also often employed as a warm poultice to topically treat inflammation in wounds, boils and even hemorrhoids.

Evening Primrose Oil in Germany

The primrose plant was later brought to Europe where the gamma-linolenic acid-rich oil extracted from the plant’s seeds became quite prized for its unique benefits.  In Germany, in particular, EPO’s anti-inflammatory and endocrine effects made it a popular remedy to treat menstrual issues, as well as to relieve eczema and acne-related inflammation.

To find out how essential fatty acids may improve your skin barrier function & elasticity, as well as overall health, just keep reading

Did You Know…? A Remedy Fit for a King

In 17th century Europe, evening primrose oil became such a popular folk remedy that it was soon known as the “King’s Cure-All…”  Let’s discover more about the special properties of evening primrose oil that made it such a prized remedy of the middle ages…

A gorgeous assortment of different colored orchids growing on trees
Few can compete with the unblemished beauty of these orchids, but eseential fatty acid’s anti-inflammatory action may promote a blemish-free complexion by combating acne & inflammation.  To grow a gorgeous assortment of different colored orchids on trees or hanging in baskets, as seen here, just follow these links

The Importance of EFA’s for Good Health

GLA is an omega-6 polyunsaturated essential fatty acid mainly found in plant seeds.  As the name implies, omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids (“PUFAs”), as well as omega-3 PUFAs, are essential because they are necessary for good health yet cannot be manufactured by the body itself.   Unfortunately, omega-6 fats, are the type of  essential fatty acids  that are already found in high amounts in the typical diet.  They are also the more inflammatory of the two types of EFA’s compared to omega-3 EFA’s.  The good news is that, more than other omega-6 fats,  evening primrose oil contains up to 10-15% gamma-linolenic acid (“GLA”), which happens to be a very powerful anti-inflammatory.

Low fat diets of the 1980’s notwithstanding, I think we all know by now that fat consumption in the diet is a necessity for proper growth and brain functioning.  EFAs, also known as exogenous fatty acids, have also been found vital to stimulate hair and skin growth, maintain bone health, regulate metabolism and maintain the reproductive system.

**Did You Know…? The Importance of Essential Fatty Acids for Normal Brain Function & Behavior

EFAs are actually critical for normal functioning of the brain as well as behavior.  Studies suggest that children with attention deficit disorder (“ADHD”) often have lower levels of essential fatty acids of both the omega-6 and omega-3 variety.

Read on for more inflammatory conditions that may benefit from increasing your intake of essential fatty acids…

The Importance of Essential Fatty Acids for Healthy Skin

But, back to EFAs & their critical role in skin health, function & appearance….

EFAs have documented roles in the functioning of both the dermal and epidermal layers of skin.  Of course, the skin’s appearance is linked to its functional health.  EFAs are so important to the body, and the skin in particular, that there is actually a name for when you don’t get enough EFAs, Essential fatty acid deficiency or “EFAD”.

How to Repair the Skin Lipid Barrier Naturally with Evening Primrose Oil_Essential Fatty Acids for Youthful Skin_three pretty, happy ladies smiling at the beach
Stay cool & protect your skin by blocking some of the strong summer sun rays with a wide-brimmed hat or a sun visor…

How Does an Essential Fatty Acid Deficiency Affect Skin?

Essential fatty acid deficiency is a condition that has been shown to manifest itself in humans as dermatitis (scaling and dryness of skin) and increased trans-epidermal water loss (“TEWL”).  Chronic dryness and TEWL can open the door to a host of other skin conditions that can accelerate skin aging and loss of elasticity.

The Importance of Omega-6 Essential Fatty Acids for Skin Barrier Function

Studies have shown that consuming oils rich in omega-6 or omega-3 EFAs can alter the skin’s fatty acid composition and inflammatory response.  EFAs are incorporated into lipids in the epidermis which then combine with proteins to provide the all-important skin lipid barrier.  As the referenced studies have demonstrated, Omega-6 EFAs in particular, play an important role in the structural integrity and barrier function of the skin. 

Omega-6 Vs. Omega-3 EFAs Impact on Skin Barrier Function

The specific role of omega-6 EFAs in skin barrier function was observed in several experiments where EFA deficiency was induced in animal subjects.  This was accomplished by feeding the animal subjects a hydrogenated coconut oil diet (which is completely lacking in EFAs).  Thereafter, the ability of supplemented EFAs to correct the deficiency was assessed.  It turns out, supplementation with omega-6 rich safflower or primrose oil was observed to correct the effects of the EFA deficiency, while omega-3 rich fish oil had no such effect. 

These findings appear to confirm the special role of omega-6 EFAs in restoring skin barrier function versus omega-3s.

Of course, omega-3 EFAs are good for other things, and you want to ensure that you get a balance of both in your diet, as we discuss below…

More Scientific Evidence on Evening Primrose Oil’s Effects on the Skin Barrier

Let’s look at more studies documenting how EFAs in evening primrose oil affect skin integrity.  A 2005 double-blind, placebo-controlled National Institutes of Health (“NIH”) study tested the effect of Efamol Evening Primrose oil oral supplementation on skin moisture, trans-epidermal water loss (“TEWL”), redness, firmness, elasticity, fatigue resistance and roughness.  These are all considered biophysical skin parameters, which help measure age-related changes in skin tissue.

After 12 weeks, the results of the study indicated that all measured variables, with the exception of skin redness, were improved in the group that was administered daily oral supplementation of evening primrose oil capsules versus those who received a placebo.

In other words, skin moisture, trans-epidermal water loss (“TEWL”), elasticity, firmness, fatigue resistance and roughness had all significantly improved in the EPO subjects over the 12-week period.  This lends support to the notion that optimal skin structure and function depends on supplementation with gamma-linolenic (“GLA”)-rich essential fatty acids (“EFAs”), such as evening primrose oil. 

As we now know, the human body cannot make EFAs on its own…

DIY Liquid Hand Soap_How To Turn Bar Soap Into Luxurious Hand Soap, Save Money & Never Run Out Of Soap_ Add a citrus scent to your homemade soap
Find out why you should avoid sulfates (SLS, SLES) in soaps & learn easy DIY Liquid Hand Soap Recipes to Save Money $$…

The Importance of Balance in EFA Consumption

Needless to say, since the body cannot manufacture them, essential fatty acids must be obtained through diet or supplementation.  However, it is vital that a balance of the right kind of omega-6 and omega-3 essential fatty acids are ingested.  Getting the correct type of EFAs is what leads to good health.

There is plenty of debate even amongst nutritionists as to what constitutes the correct ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids in one’s diet.  One thing is certain, however.  The typical Western diet, unfortunately, does not provide the best PUFAs.  If anything, the typical diet usually supplies far too many omega-6 fats of a particular type….

So, you are probably wondering, if our diet already provides more omega-6’s than omega-3’s, why supplement with EPO or another omega-6 oil such as Borage oil…?

Best Healthy Homemade Coffee Creamer Made Naturally_Easy, Delicious, No Trans Fats_On Tray To Be Served Outside Looking At View
Make your own DIY Healthy & Natural Homemade Coffee Creamer for a delicious, easy option that contains no trans fats or partially hydrogenated vegetable oils…

Not All Omega-6 Fatty Acids Behave the Same

The average American diet tends to be very high in certain vegetable oils, such as soybean, corn, cottonseed and canola oil, which are all omega-6 PUFAs, but of the pro-inflammatory variety.  These omega-6 oils are high in linoleic acid (“LA”), and linoleic acid is often metabolized by the body into more pro-inflammatory substances.

While some of the “good” omega-6 PUFAs, including EPO, also contain LA, they also contain the all-important GLA which promotes anti-inflammatory action and conversion into GLA, as we discover below…

Linoleic Acid Is Not All Bad When Paired with Gamma Linolenic Acid

Linoleic acid (“LA”) is actually the most abundant PUFA present in the epidermis.  According to research, the presence of linoleic acid in the all-important ceramide lipids comprising the top layer of skin directly correlates with permeability barrier function of the skin.

Why are evening primrose oil, borage oil, blackcurrant seed oil, and hemp oil, all omega-6 PUFAs, considered anti-inflammatory, while other omega-6 PUFAs are not? 

The Role of Gamma Linolenic Acid in Combatting Inflammation

GLA happens to be the most therapeutic of the omega-6 oil family and is an exceptionally powerful anti-inflammatory fatty acid.  It is also relatively rare and is found in very few plants.  As noted above, in addition to evening primrose oil, borage oil, blackcurrant seed oil, and hemp oil also contain anti-inflammatory GLA.  Spirulina, also known as blue-green algae, is another source of GLA.

Gamma Linolenic Acid Combats Inflammatory Conditions & May Benefit Endocrine Heath

In addition to its skin benefits, GLA’s anti-inflammatory powers have been known to treat various inflammatory conditions, including rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, and even asthma.  The anti-inflammatory properties also benefit the female reproductive system and female hormones, especially if you are menopausal.

Gamma Linolenic Acid Promotes Heart Health

GLA is even recommended to treat inflammation of the arteries caused by cardiovascular disease and corresponding high blood pressure, showing promise for maintaining optimal heart health.

**TIP! Consume Healthy Omega-3 EFAs Along with Omega-6 EFAs

Add some omega-3 healthy fish oils, chia seeds, flax seeds, walnuts, or egg yolks to your diet for additional omega-3 heart health benefits. 

More Studies on Evening Primrose Oil’s Effect on Skin: Evening Primrose Oil & Atopic Dermatitis

Another NIH study conducted in 2014 found that oral supplementation of EPO may be effective in treating atopic dermatitis (“AD”).  Some authors have proposed that patients with AD may have certain enzyme activity that is defective in converting EFAs in the body, causing lower concentrations of the all-important GLA.  Sure enough, in this study, we see how AD is correlated with a deficiency in a particular enzyme responsible for converting pro-inflammatory LA to GLA, and how supplementation with EPO resulted in a significant increase in blood levels of GLA.  This increase in GLA was also associated with an improvement of symptoms in patients with AD.

Evening Primrose Oil Supplementation to Combat Atopic Dermatitis, Acne & Eczema

As we have seen, the relatively high concentration of anti-inflammatory GLA has been shown to be beneficial for acne, eczema, atopic dermatitis and psoriasis by helping to reduce inflammation known to trigger those conditions.  Patients with these conditions have often been found to have imbalances in their EFA levels, whether due to genetics or other factors.

Did You Know?  Factors That Could Cause Low GLA

Certain things that may interfere with your body’s ability to convert LA to anti-inflammatory GLA include:

Genetics, aging, dietary deficiencies, disease and viral infections could actually interfere with your body’s ability to produce GLA from LA.

What Makes GLA Anti-Inflammatory?

GLA is ultimately converted by the body to a group of anti-inflammatory prostaglandins (hormone-like substances used throughout the body).  It is this final conversion that is exceptionally therapeutic.

It appears the higher concentration of GLA in omega-6 PUFAs like EPO aids in the conversion of LA to beneficial anti-inflammatory “series 1” prostaglandins.

So, as we can see, not all omega-6 fatty acids behave the same.  With other types of omega-6 EFAs that lack GLA, the enzymatic conversion of linoleic acid to arachidonic acid (“AA”) may form pro-inflammatory compounds, including “series 2” prostaglandins.

Grow orchids attached to trees for magnificent growth & vitality
Grow orchids attached to trees for magnificent growth & vitality here…

Supplementation with Evening Primrose Oil EFAs May Help Combat Pro-Inflammatory Lifestyles

Whether inflammation results from diet, aging, or from too many harsh, dehydrating products, supplemental EFAs may offer multiple beneficial anti-inflammatory effects when taken in accordance with directions.

Use & Safety of Evening Primrose Oil

EPO is generally considered safe for use in the short-term.  The safety of long-term use has not been studied.  Consult with your physician to find out if EPO is right for you, and always research the company brand to ensure you purchase a quality product.  Remember that supplements are not monitored for quality by the Food & Drug Administration (“FDA”).  Side effects are considered mild and can include upset stomach, stomach pain, loose stools or a mild headache.  Any of these side effects may indicate the dosage is too high.  Take the least amount possible to prevent side effects.

Conclusion: Repair the Skin Lipid Barrier Naturally with Evening Primrose Oil Essential Fatty Acids for Youthful Skin

From heart health to joint health to women’s health, as we have seen, GLA-rich evening primrose oil is a promising remedy for many types of inflammatory ailments.  Backed by scientific studies and rooted in centuries of tradition here and abroad, evening primrose oil’s rich concentration of essential fatty acids offers many holistic health benefits, including potentially boosting your skin’s fragile lipid barrier.  And, of course, a healthy skin lipid barrier is the first step to stronger, more youthful skin from the inside out.

Have you ever tried evening primrose oil or any essential fatty acids for skin health or any other conditions?  Share your experience & results in the comments!