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When you think about healthy omega fats, you probably think of omega-3, omega-6 and maybe omega-9 fatty acids. And while they are essential for you, there’s another type that also should not be ignored. Palmitoleic acid is an omega-7 fatty acid with a wide range of skin benefits, yet it’s often overlooked.
As a fatty acid, omega-7 helps protect the skin’s barrier due to its antimicrobial action, decreases inflammation, accelerates wound healing due to its anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties, and combats signs of ageing by promoting collagen regeneration.
Wildly researched for its health benefits, omega-7 fatty acid can do a lot for your skin too! In this post, I’ll discuss in more detail what palmitoleic acid is, why it’s vital for your skin – and the natural sources that hold it.
Table of Contents
- What is Omega-7 (Palmitoleic Acid)?
- Palmitoleic Acid Skin Benefits
- Primary Natural Sources of Omega-7 Fatty Acids
- How to Incorporate Omega 7 Into Your Skincare Routine?
What is Omega-7 (Palmitoleic Acid)?
Palmitoleic fatty acid, also known as (9Z)-hexadecenoic acid, is an omega-7 monounsaturated fatty acid. It contains a sixteen-carbon chain with one double bond. Present in all human tissues, it’s usually found in higher amounts in the liver. However, as our body can produce it, it is not classed as essential.
Palmitoleic Acid Skin Benefits
The beneficial effect of omega 7 in topical applications are wide-ranging and include repairing damaged skin and reducing signs of ageing. So let’s take a look at them in detail.
Toxins, heat and UVB radiation are major skin ageing factors that can generate oxidative stress in the skin. However, a 2018 study (1) has shown that palmitoleic acid can prevent inflammation and promote collagen regeneration, making it an excellent ingredient to combat visible signs of ageing. In addition, it can reduce the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines by improving the elasticity of the skin.
“Excessive ROS production during oxidative stress interrupts the maintenance of normal skin functions by increasing inflammation and inhibiting collagen synthesis, ultimately promoting skin ageing”. (3)
Improves wound healing
Open cuts and wounds can leave you vulnerable to infections; this is where fatty acids come in. Palmitoleic acid is a natural mediator that decreases inflammation and accelerates healing while also preventing infection, according to a 2018 study (2). In addition, the anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial (3) properties of sea buckthorn oil make it an excellent alternative to treat cuts and wounds.
Potentially skin lightening
Various factors can cause hyperpigmentation: overproduction of melanin, a brown pigment produced by your skin, chemotherapy drugs, excessive sun exposure, or hormonal imbalances, to name just a few.
A 2010 study (4) suggests that palmitoleic acid is a potential anti-melanogenic agent and may effectively treat hyperpigmentation disorders.
Can protect the skin from sun damage
When exposed to sunlight, UVB light causes oxidative stress in the skin leading to wrinkles, pigmentation, roughness and laxity. Sea buckthorn oil may help reduce inflammation and protect the skin from free radical-induced damage, as the 2012 study shows (5).
A promising bactericidal agent
A red, painful lump, sores, crust and blisters are symptoms of staph skin infection caused by Staphylococcus aureus bacteria. In addition, harmless on the skin can create havoc if it gets into the skin through a cut or bite. In combination with calcium salt, Palmitoleic acid has shown (6) to be a promising bactericidal agent effective against Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) and Propionibacterium acnes (P. acnes), promising potential applications in cleansing and cosmetic products.
Primary Natural Sources of Omega-7 Fatty Acids
When it comes to the plant kingdom, palmitoleic acid is found in small amounts in many oils. However, sea buckthorn oil (32% – 42%), macadamia nut oil (14% – 23%) and avocado oil (2% – 8%) are particularly rich in palmitoleic acid. And as these oils are often used in skincare products, topical application of palmitoleic acid plays an important role in nourishing your skin.
Sea buckthorn oil
Sea buckthorn berries are packed with nutrients. Abundant in beta-carotene, vitamin C, E and essential amino acids, they’re a nutritious powerhouse. There are two types of oil that can be derived from sea buckthorn. One is from the fleshy red pulp, and the other is from the seeds. Both the oils vary in composition, appearance and viscosity.
Fruit oil is dark orange to red and has a thick consistency. While the fruit oil is very rich in omega-7 fatty acids, it also contains omega 3 and omega 6 essential fatty acids. Furthermore, it is high in carotenoids (about 350mg per 100g).
On the other hand, the seed oil is yellow to light orange and much thinner with fewer carotenoids (about 67.5mg per 100g).
Nevertheless, topical application of sea buckthorn oil offers numerous skin benefits. Thanks to its radical scavenging and regenerative actions, it is used in skin care formulations to combat signs of ageing, inflammation, and hyperpigmentation and to soothe the skin. Plus, it is also highly beneficial in treating cuts and wounds due to its anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial activity.
Native to Australia, macadamia nuts are cherished worldwide for their sweet, nutty taste and as a natural source of palmitoleic acid, with omega-7 fatty acids making up to 23% of it. It is also exceptionally high in palmitic acid (up to 10%) and oleic acid (up to 67%), making it ideal for dry, chapped skin.
It is a powerful antioxidant and may help boost skin cell regeneration and accelerate wound healing. Once applied, it forms a protective layer on the skin that seals moisture and prevents moisture loss.
While it is well known as a skin-nourishing ingredient, most people do not realise that avocado oil is actually very high in palmitoleic acid, containing up to 8%. Abundant in antioxidants and vitamin E, avocado oil is an excellent moisturiser that helps nourish and hydrate your skin. In addition, its balanced ratio of fatty acids makes it perfect for treating dry, damaged skin, healing brittle nails, and reviving dull hair.
How to Incorporate Omega 7 Into Your Skincare Routine?
A little goes a long way. To make the most out of omega 7, you can incorporate oils rich in this amazing fatty acid, such as sea buckthorn oil, into your skincare by:
- Applying it on the skin after cleansing to soothe inflammation and reduce redness, aid skin repair and regeneration.
- Adding it to anti-ageing formulations helps reduce the appearance of fine lines by improving the skin’s elasticity.
- Mix it with other oil-based serum or a moisturiser to soothe irritated skin.
- Using it in after-sun care to reduce inflammation and protect the skin from free radical-induced damage.
Palmitoleic acid is an omega-7 monounsaturated fatty acid that is present in all human tissues. Found in sea buckthorn oil, macadamia oil and avocado oil, it can help to improve the appearance of your skin due to its anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial and bactericidal properties. If you are looking for a high-quality, natural source of palmitoleic acid, check out NAISSANCE’s lineup of premium oils.
- Omega-7 inhibits inflammation and promotes collagen synthesis through SIRT1 activation.
- Topical anti-inflammatory activity of palmitoleic acid improves wound healing.
- Palmitoleic acid isomer (C16:1delta6) in human skin sebum is effective against gram-positive bacteria.
- Effect of palmitoleic acid on melanogenic protein expression in murine b16 melanoma
- UV radiation-induced skin aging in hairless mice is effectively prevented by oral intake of sea buckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides L.) fruit blend for 6 weeks through MMP suppression and increase of SOD activity
- Palmitoleic acid calcium salt: a lubricant and bactericidal powder from natural lipids