Essential fatty acids (EFAs) are biological compounds that are required for the health of all cells. EFAs must be initially obtained from food sources, because the human body cannot manufacture them.1 Their importance is significant due to their contributions to the biological activities of every cell membrane; the skin barrier; brain activity and cognitive function; the central nervous system; mediation of inflammatory responses; and overall body health.
EFA deficiencies (EFAD) are linked to numerous illnesses and conditions, including arthritis, diabetes, behavioral disorders, cardiovascular risk factors, cornification disorders, poor skin barrier function, psoriasis and dermatitis.2 A primary focus for the skin care professional involves understanding the principal concepts encompassing the optimum function of biological cells and their relationship to successful outcomes of skin correction. Of paramount importance is the consideration of the histological nuances of the cell, especially within the epidermal/dermal regions and the functional relationship of essential fatty acids to cell membranes.
During the past two decades, further advancements with more precise laboratory instrumentation avail scientists the opportunity to provide a more detailed interpretation of how the skin functions, including cell-to-cell signaling, barrier role and function, mitochondrial activity, membrane electrical potential and function, immune response and suppression, and wound-healing. Included in this amalgam are factors that may affect this normal mode of functioning—including genetic, lifestyle, nutrition and environment. The good news is that this current information unlocks a new passageway for the skin care professional to explore the “whys” of a skin condition. Moreover, it elucidates to the stressors that lead to the dysfunction of biological components within the skin layers. This knowledge is paramount to shifting into newer paradigms that contribute to optimum skin correction and maintenance.