Essential fatty acids (EFAs) are known to be beneficial for, amongst other things, skin health. And when it comes to EFAs, omega-3 and omega-6 are usually top of mind. You may even know about omega-9. But most people have never heard of omega-7, let alone know how good it is for the skin!
Omega-7 (also called ‘palmitoleic acid’ in most scientific and clinical publications) is a rare but powerful monounsaturated fat (MUFA) that can be found in animal and plant sources, including macadamia nuts, cold-water fish and sea buckthorn seeds and berries.
Sea buckthorn contains the highest concentration of this valuable fatty acid, up to 40% as compared to 17% in macadamia nuts. And whilst I’m going to touch on some of the numerous skin and health benefits, it is also known for its ability to support a healthy weight, as well as cardiovascular and gastro-intestinal health.
What makes sea buckthorn so intriguing is its unique composition of numerous nutrients, including omega-7. It’s a rich source of vitamins, minerals, amino acids, vitamin C, vitamin E, and carotenoids. Several sources have placed its combined bioactive substances at 190 for the berries, of which 106 of these are found in the oil alone.
Although the fruits of sea buckthorn have been used as a remedy by traditional Tibetan and Mongolian medicine since ancient times, according to Oriental history, the Chinese were the first culture to utilise this berry as a drug. In 1977 this plant was formally listed in the Chinese pharmacopoeia by the Ministry of Public Health.
Sea buckthorn’s pharmacological effects were recorded in some 1000-year old medicinal classics, such as the Yue Wang Yao and Sibu Yidian from the Tang Dynasty and Jing Zhu Ben Cao from the Qing Dynasty. For those uninitiated in Oriental medicine, Sibu Yidian is the classical Tibetan medical book comprising four bulky volumes and consisting of a total of 158 chapters. 30 chapters deal with Sea Buckthorn medicinal products!
Sea buckthorn oil has been reported to have a number of health applications including atopic eczema, other skin problems related to deficient regeneration, UV-radiation stressed skin, mouth dryness, mouth ulcers, gastric ulcers, urinary tract inflammation, cervicitis, genital ulcers, sinus inflammation and eye dryness.
The ageing process considerably alters both the structure and mechanical properties of skin. Omega-7, found in sea buckthorn, is a powerful nutrient for regulating moisture and sensitivity of skin and, as sea buckthorn provides other key building blocks for skin, it helps combat wrinkles, dryness, loss of skin elasticity, and other symptoms of malnourished or ageing skin.
It benefits skin health by supporting numerous functions, including:
- boosting collagen production
- protecting against oxidative damage
- restoring youthful resilience and plumpness to ageing skin cells
- rejuvenating skin cell membranes
- enhancing the skin’s ability to retain moisture
- repairing sun-damaged skin
- protecting against sun damage, toxins and environmental stress
The aim of this particular study was to evaluate the efficacy of omega-7 (sea buckthorn oil) to reduce the signs of ageing through measurements of skin hydration, elasticity and skin roughness.
30 women, whose average age was 61 years, took 2 capsules of a sea buckthorn supplement twice a day for three months and measurements were performed on the forehead at the beginning, after 1 month, and after 3 months of treatment.
A highly significant increase in skin hydration status and in overall skin elasticity was recorded.
The treatment also resulted in decreases in both the average and maximum roughness of the skin surface, indicating anti-wrinkle efficacy of the product.
How + Why It Works
Sea buckthorn has an incredible array of skin-specific nutrients but the EFA component (omega-3, -6, -7,and -9) is particularly important when it comes to soothing dry skin:
- High levels of unsaturated C18 fatty acids, omega-3 – alpha linolenic (±38%) and 0mega-6 – linoleic (±34%) in a perfect 1:1 ratio are what characterise the oil from the seed of the sea buckthorn berry
- Acylceramides rich in linoleic acid (18:2n-6) are essential components of the epidermal barrier
- The rich red oil from the flesh of the berry is predominantly monounsaturated; the major fatty acids are the C16 acids – omega-7 (palmitoleic) ±35% and palmitic ±30%
The most abundant phytonutrient in the berry oil are the carotenoids – of which 18 have been identified so far. The berry oil is a valuable source of tocopherols, tocotrienols and plant sterols. Add to this omega-9, Vitamin K, B12, tocopherols, tocotrienols, phospholipids and over 17 phytosterols and you have a potent nutritional mix.
This unique profile delivers anti-inflammatory and regenerative activity has proven effective in the treatment of skin problems and it is a premium ingredient in skincare products.
Further evidence[2,3] actually highlights how efficiently sea buckthorn was able to improve skin when it was tested on people with atopic dermatitis.
A placebo-controlled, double-blind study showed that 5g of sea buckthorn pulp (palmitic (33%), oleic (26%), and palmitoleic (25%) acids) was able to significantly improve the dermatitis and:
- pulp oil increased the proportion of palmitoleic acid in plasma phospholipids
- positive correlations were found between symptom improvement and the increase in proportions of alpha-linolenic acid in plasma phospholipids
Interestingly, no changes in the levels of triacylglycerols was detected which makes this ideal for aneic/congested skin as well.
All in all, Sea buckthorn appears to be the ultimate skin supplement for all skin types and conditions – but it is especially beneficial in dry and dehydrated skin making it the perfect winter companion!
PS: if you’re on the lookout for some spring skinspiration, you can find some hot tips including mine over here.
- Yang B, Bonfigli A, Pagani V, et al. Effects of oral supplementation and topical application of supercritical CO2 extracted sea buckthorn oil on skin ageing of female subjects. J. Appl. Cosmetic 2009; 27: 1-13.
- Yang B, Kalimo K, Mattila L, et al. Effects of dietary supplementation with sea buckthorn (Hippophaë rhamnoides) seed and pulp oils on atopic dermatitis. J. Nutr. Biochem 1999; 10: 622-630.
- Yang B, et al. Effect of dietary supplementation with sea buckthorn seed and pulp oils on the fatty composition of skin glycerophospholipids of patients with Atopic Dermatitis. Jour Nutr BioChem 2000; Vol. 11, 338-340.
- Ganju, L et al. Anti-inflammatory activity of sea buckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides) leaves. Intr Immunopharm 2005 Vol. 5, 1675-1684.
- Yang B, et al. Composition and physiological effects of sea buckthorn (Hippophae) lipids. Trends Food Science Tech 2002 Vol. 13, 160-167.