Can Fish Oil Cause Acne? Sorting Out the Truth

April 4, 2024

Featured image for “Can Fish Oil Cause Acne? Sorting Out the Truth”

Fish oil, a popular dietary supplement rich in omega-3 fatty acids, has been touted for its potential health benefits, including support for heart health, brain function, and even skin health. However, some people have raised concerns about whether fish oil can actually cause or worsen acne. In this comprehensive article, we’ll explore the connection between fish oil and acne, examining the current research, individual factors that may influence the relationship, and important considerations for those interested in taking fish oil supplements.

Does fish oil directly cause acne breakouts?

The relationship between fish oil and acne is not straightforward, and research findings have been mixed. Some studies suggest that high doses of omega-3 fatty acids, like those found in fish oil supplements, may contribute to acne breakouts in certain individuals. However, other studies have found no direct link between fish oil intake and increased acne severity.

It’s important to note that much of the research on fish oil and acne has been limited to small-scale studies or anecdotal reports, making it difficult to draw definitive conclusions. More large-scale, well-controlled studies are needed to fully understand the potential impact of fish oil on acne development.

How could fish oil potentially contribute to acne, according to some studies?

One theory is that fish oil’s potential influence on acne may be related to its effects on inflammation in the body. Acne is often associated with increased inflammation in the skin, and some studies have suggested that high doses of omega-3 fatty acids could potentially contribute to this inflammatory response.

In one study, researchers found that high levels of omega-3 fatty acids in the blood were associated with increased levels of inflammatory markers, which could theoretically worsen acne symptoms. However, it’s important to note that this study did not directly examine the effects of fish oil supplements on acne severity.

Are there studies showing fish oil benefits for acne?

While some research suggests a potential link between high-dose fish oil and acne, other studies have highlighted the possible benefits of omega-3 fatty acids for skin health. Omega-3s are known for their anti-inflammatory properties, which could help reduce inflammation associated with acne.

In fact, some studies have found that people with acne tend to have lower levels of omega-3 fatty acids in their skin compared to those without acne. This suggests that increasing omega-3 intake, either through diet or supplements, could potentially help support clearer skin.

However, it’s important to approach these findings with caution, as more research is needed to fully understand the complex relationship between fish oil, inflammation, and acne development.

Artboard 1 copy 2 13

Individual Factors Influencing How Fish Oil Affects Your Skin

Can my skin type influence how fish oil affects my acne?

Individual factors, such as skin type, can play a significant role in how fish oil supplements may impact your acne. People with oily or acne-prone skin may be more susceptible to potential breakouts associated with high-dose fish oil supplementation.

If you have a history of sensitive skin or are prone to inflammatory acne, it’s essential to be cautious when considering fish oil supplements. Consulting with a dermatologist can help you assess your individual risk factors and determine whether fish oil is appropriate for your specific skin concerns.

Does my overall diet play a role in how fish oil impacts my skin?

Your overall diet can also influence how fish oil affects your skin health. Consuming a diet high in inflammatory foods, such as processed snacks, sugary beverages, and high-fat dairy products, may exacerbate acne symptoms and reduce the potential benefits of fish oil supplementation.

On the other hand, following a balanced diet rich in anti-inflammatory foods, like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins, can support overall skin health and potentially enhance the positive effects of omega-3 fatty acids.

It’s crucial to remember that fish oil supplements should not be viewed as a standalone solution for acne management. Incorporating them into a holistic approach that includes a healthy diet, consistent skincare routine, and other lifestyle factors is more likely to yield positive results.

Should I consider consulting a dermatologist about fish oil and acne?

If you’re considering taking fish oil supplements for acne or are concerned about how they may affect your skin, it’s always a good idea to consult with a dermatologist. A skincare professional can provide personalized advice based on your individual skin type, acne severity, and overall health status.

A dermatologist can also help you weigh the potential risks and benefits of fish oil supplementation, as well as recommend the most appropriate dosage and form of omega-3 fatty acids for your specific needs. They may also suggest alternative acne treatments or dietary modifications that can help manage your symptoms without the need for supplements.

Taking Fish Oil for Acne: Dosage, Quality, and Potential Side Effects

Currently, there is no standardized dosage recommendation for fish oil specifically for acne treatment. The optimal dosage may vary depending on individual factors, such as age, gender, and overall health status.

Most studies that have investigated the effects of fish oil on acne have used a wide range of dosages, making it challenging to determine a universally effective amount. Some studies have used doses as high as 3 grams of omega-3 fatty acids per day, while others have used lower doses of around 1 gram per day.

It’s essential to follow the dosage instructions provided on the fish oil supplement label or to consult with a healthcare professional to determine the most appropriate dosage for your individual needs. Taking excessive amounts of fish oil can lead to potential side effects and may not provide additional benefits for acne management.

What are some factors to consider when choosing a fish oil supplement for acne?

When selecting a fish oil supplement for acne, there are several key factors to consider to ensure you’re getting a high-quality product that is safe and effective. Some important considerations include:

  1. Purity: Look for fish oil supplements that are molecularly distilled or undergo other purification processes to remove contaminants, such as mercury, dioxins, and PCBs. Choose brands that provide third-party testing results to verify the purity of their products.
  2. Freshness: Fish oil supplements can oxidize and become rancid over time, which can negatively impact their taste, smell, and potential health benefits. Look for supplements that are stored in dark, airtight containers and have a clear expiration date. Some brands may also include antioxidants, such as vitamin E, to help preserve freshness.
  3. EPA and DHA content: EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) are the two main types of omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil that are associated with potential health benefits. Look for supplements that provide a combined total of at least 500 mg of EPA and DHA per serving.
  4. Sustainability: Consider choosing fish oil supplements that are sourced from sustainably caught fish or eco-friendly aquaculture practices. Look for brands that are certified by organizations like the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) or the Global Aquaculture Alliance (GAA).
  5. Form: Fish oil supplements come in various forms, including softgels, liquids, and gummies. Consider your personal preferences and any dietary restrictions when selecting a form that is most convenient and palatable for you.

By taking these factors into account, you can select a high-quality fish oil supplement that is more likely to provide potential benefits for your skin health and overall well-being.

Are there any potential side effects of taking fish oil supplements?

While fish oil supplements are generally considered safe for most people when taken in recommended doses, they can cause some potential side effects. Common side effects of fish oil supplements include:

  1. Digestive discomfort: Some people may experience digestive issues, such as bloating, gas, diarrhea, or stomach pain, when taking fish oil supplements. These side effects are often mild and can be minimized by taking the supplements with food or dividing the dosage throughout the day.
  2. Fishy aftertaste or burps: Fish oil supplements can sometimes cause a fishy aftertaste or odor, especially if the product is of lower quality or has oxidized. Choosing a reputable brand and storing the supplements properly can help minimize this issue.
  3. Allergic reactions: In rare cases, some people may experience an allergic reaction to fish oil supplements, especially if they have a known allergy to fish or shellfish. Symptoms can include itching, rash, difficulty breathing, or swelling of the face, tongue, or throat. If you experience any signs of an allergic reaction, discontinue use immediately and seek medical attention.

  4. Blood thinning: High doses of fish oil can have a blood-thinning effect, which may increase the risk of bleeding, especially in people taking blood-thinning medications or with bleeding disorders. If you have a history of bleeding issues or are taking anticoagulant medications, consult your healthcare provider before starting fish oil supplements.

  5. Interactions with medications: Fish oil supplements can potentially interact with certain medications, such as blood pressure drugs, anticoagulants, and diabetes medications. Always inform your healthcare provider about any supplements you are taking to avoid potential drug interactions.

It’s important to note that most side effects associated with fish oil supplements are mild and can often be managed by adjusting the dosage or taking the supplements with food. However, if you experience persistent or severe side effects, discontinue use and consult your healthcare provider.


Alternative Strategies for Managing Acne

What other dietary changes can help manage acne, besides fish oil?

While fish oil supplements may offer potential benefits for some individuals, they are not the only dietary strategy for managing acne. A well-balanced, anti-inflammatory diet can play a significant role in supporting clear, healthy skin. Some dietary changes that may help manage acne include:

  1. Reducing sugar and high-glycemic foods: Foods high in sugar and refined carbohydrates can cause rapid spikes in blood sugar, which may trigger inflammation and increase sebum production. Limiting these foods and opting for low-glycemic alternatives, such as whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, can help support clearer skin.
  2. Increasing antioxidant-rich foods: Antioxidants help combat oxidative stress and inflammation in the body, which can contribute to acne. Incorporating a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables, such as berries, leafy greens, and sweet potatoes, can provide a range of antioxidants to support skin health.
  3. Choosing anti-inflammatory fats: In addition to omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil, other anti-inflammatory fats, such as monounsaturated fats found in avocados, nuts, and olive oil, can help reduce inflammation and support clear skin. Avoiding pro-inflammatory fats, like trans fats and excessive saturated fats, is also important for overall skin health.
  4. Staying hydrated: Drinking adequate water throughout the day helps flush toxins from the body, supports skin hydration, and promotes overall skin health. Aim for at least 8 glasses of water per day, and more if you are physically active or live in a hot, humid climate.
  5. Considering probiotic-rich foods: Emerging research suggests a link between gut health and skin health. Incorporating probiotic-rich foods, such as yogurt, kefir, and fermented vegetables, may help support a healthy gut microbiome and potentially reduce inflammation associated with acne.

Remember, while dietary changes can be helpful in managing acne, they should be part of a comprehensive approach that includes a consistent skincare routine, stress management, and guidance from a healthcare professional when needed.


How can a proper skincare routine contribute to clearer skin?

In addition to dietary strategies, a consistent and appropriate skincare routine is crucial for managing acne and maintaining clear, healthy skin. A proper skincare routine should focus on gentle cleansing, hydration, and sun protection. Some key elements of an effective skincare routine for acne-prone skin include:

  1. Cleansing: Use a gentle, non-comedogenic cleanser twice daily to remove dirt, oil, and makeup without stripping the skin of its natural moisture. Look for cleansers containing salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide, which can help unclog pores and reduce acne-causing bacteria.
  2. Exfoliating: Incorporate a gentle exfoliant, such as a chemical exfoliant containing alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs) or beta-hydroxy acids (BHAs), once or twice a week to help remove dead skin cells and prevent clogged pores. Be cautious not to over-exfoliate, as this can irritate the skin and worsen acne.
  3. Moisturizing: Even oily, acne-prone skin needs hydration. Choose a lightweight, oil-free moisturizer to help balance the skin’s moisture levels and support a healthy skin barrier. Look for non-comedogenic formulas that won’t clog pores.
  4. Sun protection: Protect your skin from UV damage by applying a broad-spectrum sunscreen with at least SPF 30 daily. Sun exposure can cause inflammation and hyperpigmentation, which can exacerbate acne and lead to post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (dark spots) after breakouts heal.
  5. Spot treatments: For targeted treatment of active breakouts, use a spot treatment containing benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, or tea tree oil to help reduce inflammation and speed up healing.
  6. Avoid touching your face: Minimize the transfer of bacteria and oil from your hands to your face by avoiding touching your face throughout the day. Also, be sure to clean your phone screen, pillowcases, and any other items that come into contact with your face regularly.

Remember, consistency is key when it comes to skincare. It may take several weeks to see noticeable improvements in your skin, so be patient and stick with your routine. If you continue to struggle with acne despite a consistent skincare regimen, consider consulting a dermatologist for personalized advice and treatment options.

Artboard 1 copy 28

When should I see a dermatologist for my acne concerns?

While a balanced diet and consistent skincare routine can help manage mild to moderate acne, there are times when seeking the advice of a dermatologist is necessary. A dermatologist is a medical doctor who specializes in diagnosing and treating skin conditions, including various types of acne. Consider making an appointment with a dermatologist if:

  1. Your acne is severe or painful: If your acne consists of deep, inflamed cysts or nodules that are painful to the touch, a dermatologist can provide stronger prescription medications or in-office treatments to help clear your skin and prevent scarring.
  2. Your acne persists despite over-the-counter treatments: If you’ve been using over-the-counter acne products consistently for several weeks without improvement, a dermatologist can assess your skin and recommend prescription-strength topical or oral medications that may be more effective.
  3. Your acne is causing scarring or dark spots: Severe acne can lead to scarring or post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, which can be difficult to treat with over-the-counter products. A dermatologist can recommend treatments for acne scars and dark spots, such as chemical peels, laser therapy, or prescription lightening creams.
  4. Your acne is affecting your self-esteem: If your acne is causing significant emotional distress or impacting your self-confidence, a dermatologist can provide support and guidance in addition to medical treatment. They can also refer you to a mental health professional if needed.
  5. You suspect your acne may be related to an underlying health condition: In some cases, acne may be a symptom of an underlying hormonal disorder, such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) or a thyroid condition. A dermatologist can work with your primary care physician or endocrinologist to identify and address any underlying health issues that may be contributing to your acne.

Remember, seeking the advice of a dermatologist doesn’t mean you’ve failed in managing your acne on your own. A dermatologist can provide expert guidance and personalized treatment plans to help you achieve clearer, healthier skin.

Artboard 1 copy 2 14

The Importance of Consulting a Dermatologist for Personalized Advice

“A dermatologist can assess your individual situation and recommend the best course of action for managing your acne, including whether fish oil supplements might be beneficial in your specific case.”

When it comes to managing acne, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. A dermatologist can provide personalized guidance based on your unique skin type, acne severity, and overall health status. They can help you determine whether fish oil supplements may be beneficial for your specific case and recommend the most appropriate dosage and form.

Additionally, a dermatologist can identify any underlying health conditions that may be contributing to your acne, such as hormonal imbalances or nutrient deficiencies. By addressing these root causes, they can develop a comprehensive treatment plan tailored to your individual needs.


I’ve heard fish oil can help with acne. Should I start taking it right away?

While some studies suggest potential benefits, research is ongoing. It’s best to consult a dermatologist before starting any new supplements, especially if you have underlying health conditions. A dermatologist can assess your individual situation and provide personalized recommendations based on your specific needs and concerns.

Are there any alternative sources of omega-3s besides fish oil?

Yes, fatty fish like salmon and tuna are excellent sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Additionally, some plant-based options like flaxseeds and chia seeds contain ALA omega-3s, which the body can convert to EPA and DHA to some extent. However, the conversion rate is often limited, so fish and fish oil supplements remain the most efficient sources of EPA and DHA.

I take fish oil supplements, but my acne hasn’t improved. What else can I do?

Fish oil may not be the solution for everyone. Acne is a complex condition influenced by various factors, including genetics, hormones, and lifestyle habits. A dermatologist can help identify the underlying cause of your acne and recommend a personalized treatment plan, which may include topical or oral medications, dietary changes, and a tailored skincare routine.

Can high doses of fish oil make my acne worse?

While uncommon, some studies suggest a possible connection between high-dose fish oil intake and acne breakouts in certain individuals. This may be due to the potential pro-inflammatory effects of excessive omega-3 consumption. Consulting a dermatologist for proper guidance on dosage and monitoring is important to minimize the risk of adverse effects.

What if I don’t want to take fish oil supplements? Are there other ways to get omega-3s?

Absolutely! Including fatty fish like salmon and sardines in your diet is a great way to increase your omega-3 intake naturally. Plant-based sources, such as flaxseeds, chia seeds, and walnuts, also provide ALA omega-3s, although the conversion to EPA and DHA is less efficient. Incorporating a variety of these foods into a balanced, anti-inflammatory diet can support overall skin health and potentially help manage acne symptoms.

Key Takeaways

  • The relationship between fish oil and acne is complex, with research suggesting both potential benefits and drawbacks depending on individual factors.
  • Fish oil’s anti-inflammatory properties may help manage acne in some cases, but high doses could potentially worsen breakouts in certain individuals.
  • Consulting a dermatologist is crucial for personalized guidance on whether fish oil supplements are appropriate for your specific acne concerns and overall health status.
  • A balanced, anti-inflammatory diet that includes omega-3-rich foods like fatty fish, along with a consistent skincare routine, can support clearer, healthier skin.
  • If fish oil supplements don’t improve your acne or cause adverse effects, a dermatologist can help identify underlying causes and recommend alternative treatment options tailored to your individual needs.
5/5 - (1 vote)

Related articles


Cold Plasma System

The world's first handheld cold plasma device

Learn More

Made in USA