Of late, many skin problems such as blemished, dull, dry, or sensitive skin have much to do with our diet. Chances are, especially if you’re a vegetarian or vegan, you may not be getting enough of omega-3 fatty acids in your diet. If you’re looking to increase your omega-3 intake (as well as skin care), there’s a great alternative if you want to avoid fish oil. It not only has anti-inflammatory properties to soothe skin but also can reduce sensitivity.
You surely have seen flaxseeds pop up in smoothies, mixed into morning breakfast cereals, or salad dressing with flaxseed oil. You can either eat it or apply it on your skin. Both ways offer its own set of benefits.
A little bit of background
Sometimes people call it flax or linseed. As the name hints on, linseed is cultivated to make fibre. The word flax not only means the plant itself but also refers to the fibres extracted from the bast of the stem.
The botanical name of flax is Linum Linum usitatissimum, belonging to the family of flowering plants (Linaceae). It’s a very useful plant, grown as food crops, fodder, for ornamental purposes, and for its fibres. This is why it got its species name “usitatissimum”, meaning “most useful” in Latin.
Flax is grown for its seed which itself is also very versatile. The seeds can be ground and used as a substitute for flour in baked goods. They can also be pressed or otherwise processed to obtain linseed or flax oil. Or they are processed into supplements.
The fibre made from the bast of the stem is soft and flexible with a beautiful sheen. It’s stronger but less elastic than cotton fibre. Traditionally, textiles made from this fibre were called linen and were used for bed sheets, undergarments, and table linen.
Flax has a long history. In a cave in the present-day Republic of Georgia, archaeologists found what can be labelled as the earliest evidence that it was used as textile. The spun and dyed fibres of wild flax found are dated to the Upper Paleolithic, 30,000 years ago.
The Egyptians spun the fibres and wove them into linen fabric. They used it not only to make garments but also to embalm the mummies.
A lot later, in the Middle Ages, Flanders became a major center of the European linen industry. The flax industry remained important even until 1960.
With the advent of modern fibres and cheap cotton, linseed is now first and foremost grown as food for us humans or as animal feed.
How does it help your skin
It doesn’t matter if you make a salad dressing with its linseed oil, add the oil to your smoothie or sprinkle flaxseeds on your pasta, you’ll get the same benefits. It’s great if you’re a vegetarian or vegan because it’s a good source of vegan protein.
In addition, flaxseeds or flax oil is known for being an important source for alpha linolenic acid (ALA), an omega-3 fatty acid. You probably already know how omega-3s are important for our body to function and that as essential fatty acids, our bodies can’t make them.
As our bodies can’t make omega-3s, we need to take them with our diets. They can be found in foods like nuts, seeds, fish, and soybeans. Linseed is the richest plant source of omega-3 essential fatty acids.
An important factor of healthy skin, skin that doesn’t throw tantrums just like a kindergartner, is your diet and omega-3s are part of it. Think of it like this: A cell has a membrane – like the skin of a cell – and this “skin” is made up partly of essential fats. Now, as the largest organ in your body, your skin is composed of many many countless cells. It’s only logical that having essential fats in your diet is vital.
The fatty acids keep your cells healthy: They keep cell membranes smooth and soft while helping them to do a better job of controlling what goes in and out of the cells.
If there are not enough fatty acids in your cell membranes, they are not able to retain water and they lose their plumpness and get all dry and shrivelled up.
Other phytochemicals present bolster your overall health as well. Flax contains lignans which are antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. They’re touted to have about 8000 times more antioxidant properties as other phytochemicals. It also contains vitamin A, a range of vitamin Bs, vitamin E, and minerals.
Calm down and lower sensitivity
Omega-3 fatty acids are anti-inflammatory and lignans may help subdue inflammatory reactions. A study even found that flax oil can also reduce skin sensitivity.
Counter fine lines and dark spots
As one of the richest plant sources of lignans, flax seeds are a good way to add antioxidants to your diet and skin care. It will help counter free radicals and so protect your skin from pollution or the sun. It can brighten and lighten as well as help stimulate the growth and repair of new skin cells.
Moisturise without jamming up your pores
First of all, it’s an excellent moisturiser. The high levels of omega-3s stabilises the lipid content in your skin and locks in moisture.
Because it is very similar to the natural oils of the skin it won’t block your pores. By moisturising, your skin doesn’t feel extreme dryness and needs to compensate by over-producing sebum. This in turn is good for spotty skin as it helps reduce oily zits.
Further, as it decreases inflammation in your skin, it helps with concerns like rashes, breakouts, sunburn, and excess.
How to use
There are two main types of flaxseeds: brown and golden. Both are of the same quality and have similar nutritional characteristics. Of course, you want to wash the seeds thoroughly before eating or grinding.
As one of the oldest commercial oils, it’s easy to find flax oil.
The easiest way to add flaxseeds to your diet is to pop some flaxseed or add a dash of linseed oil to your morning smoothie.
Since it’s so easy to find flax oil, you can add a few drops to your favourite moisturiser or use it as is, as a moisturiser.
In closing, I’ll leave you with a soothing scrub, that removes blemishes, AND, evens out skin tone. You need
Instead of yogurt, you can also use honey. Mix all ingredients except flaxseed oil well until you have a coarse paste. Add the flax oil and mix well. Apply to your face or where needed and let it sit for 10 – 15 minutes. Give yourself a gentle massage using your fingers in a circular motion. Do it for a minute then rinse well.
Tell me in the comments if you want more flaxseeds face pack recipes.