If you regularly read my articles or follow me on Instagram, you’ll know that I often recommend flaxseed as part of a skin-enhancing diet.
Flaxseed is true functional food. From soothing sensitivity to clearing breakouts, research suggests that this everyday seed can support your skin from the inside out.
This article covers the main benefits of flaxseed for your skin—as proved by science—and gives you tips on how to eat flaxseed to maximise those benefits.
Let’s look at flaxseed’s skin superpowers.
1. Soothes sensitivity
2. Boosts hydration
3. Strengthens barrier function
4. Enhances skin smoothness
5. Helps to clear skin
Bonus benefit: Supports gut health
How to eat flaxseed for skin
How much flaxseed should I eat?
Did you know that one in two people in the Western world feels they have ‘sensitive skin’ ? That means that every second person you meet deals with dry, rough, itching, burning or stinging skin that reacts to everything .
Flaxseed can help. One small study gave women 2g flaxseed oil or safflower oil daily for 12 weeks, then purposely irritated a patch of their skin with a chemical compound. The result? The women taking flaxseed oil had half as much redness after the irritation .
Translation: taking flaxseed oil made their skin less sensitive. In less than three months! This finding has been replicated in another study too .
The mechanism behind this is pretty cool. Flaxseed oil is rich in omega-3 fatty acids. These fatty acids travel to your skin cell membranes—making the membranes strong, flexible and capable of holding water within the cell .
That’s why when your skin is adequately hydrated, it not only looks and feels less dry, but it’s also visibly plumper.
These studies also found that taking flaxseed oil for 12 weeks reduced trans-epidermal water loss (TEWL) [3,4]. That’s a fancy scientific term to mean it strengthened the skin’s natural barrier function.
Why do you want a strong skin barrier? Well, not only does it help you maintain that newly improved hydration, but it also helps to ward off wrinkles and other signs of ageing .
Many common skincare ingredients—including lanolin, mineral oil and silicones—reduce TEWL by 20–30% [7,8]. One of these studies showed that flaxseed oil reduced TEWL by 31%. So, you could say it’s better than skincare.
Want to see a gnarly picture straight from the peer-reviewed research? I’m so glad you asked!
Skin from the inner forearm before (a) and after (b) 12 weeks of flaxseed oil supplementation 
As you can see, 12 weeks of flaxseed oil reduced both roughness and scaling by almost a third . But what does that mean for you? It means a smoother texture and a more even tone—kind of like you’re applying an Instagram filter to your skin in real life.
There are no studies on flaxseed and acne specifically—but there are interesting studies on flaxseed and the hormones involved in acne: testosterone and insulin.
In one case study, a 31-year-old woman with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) ate 30g ground flaxseed daily. After four months, the level of testosterone in her blood decreased by a whopping 70% . This effect has been demonstrated in another study too .
Another PCOS study compared 24 women taking 30g flaxseed daily with 24 women taking nothing. Those taking flaxseed experienced a significant reduction in insulin levels after 12 weeks .
As you know, excess testosterone and excess insulin can trigger acne. But if you balance levels of these hormones, you can help to clear your skin .
Now, it’s important to note that these studies looked at women with PCOS—so we can’t assume the results apply to people without PCOS. But if you’re suffering from breakouts, eating flaxseed is simple, safe and certainly worth a try.
Flaxseed is also a great functional food for your gut, for two main reasons:
1) It’s full of soluble fibre, which both promotes regular bowel movements and feeds the friendly bacteria in your gut .
But what does this have to do with your skin? Well, everything. More and more research is showing that a healthy gut is essential for healthy skin—and this is especially relevant if you suffer from acne, rosacea, psoriasis and eczema [15,16,17].
Head to this article for more tips on looking after your gut (and your skin).
If you have a keen eye, you’ll notice that these studies either use flaxseed oil or ground flaxseed. But which is best?
a) Flaxseed oil delivers a hefty dose of omega-3 fats. You can find flaxseed oil as supplements, or as culinary oil that can be enjoyed as a salad dressing.
Choose flaxseed oil if… you have sensitive or dry skin. Just make sure you keep the flaxseed oil in a cool, dark place, as it oxidises easily.
b) Ground flaxseed gives you fewer omega-3 fats per dose, but it also gives you a good serving of fibre and other phytonutrients such as lignans .
Choose ground flaxseed if…you have problem skin, and especially if you have skin issues associated with PCOS.
Note: it’s important to grind the seeds (you can either buy pre-ground flaxseed, or use a coffee grinder to grind whole flaxseeds yourself) as this helps your body and your skin use all the nutrients .
How much flaxseed should I eat?
The studies suggest that 30g ground flaxseed daily is a safe and effective serving [9,11]. That’s equivalent to two heaped dessert spoons. To avoid digestive discomfort, you may wish to work up to that dose over a few days.
If you’re opting for flaxseed oil, around 2g daily is a sensible amount [3,4]. That’s about four typical supplement capsules, or just less than a teaspoon of culinary flaxseed oil.The great thing about flaxseed oil and ground flaxseed is that you can add them to almost anything. Here are some ideas to get you started:
– Serve ground flaxseed with yoghurt and blueberries
– Blend flaxseed oil up into a smoothie
– Stir ground flaxseed into porridge or oatmeal at the very end of cooking (you may need to add a little extra water)
– Sprinkle ground flaxseed over salads
– Swirl flaxseed oil into soups
– Use ground flaxseed in baking (banana bread with flaxseed works especially well)
– Stir ground flaxseed into stews (it helps to thicken them)
– Use ground flaxseed as a binding agent for meat or veggie burgers
– Serve ground flaxseed with unsweetened applesauce for a healthy dessert
– Eating flaxseed has multiple benefits for your skin. These include:
a) Soothing sensitivity
b) Boosting hydration
c) Strengthening the natural barrier function
d) Enhancing smoothness
e) Clearing up breakouts
– Eating flaxseed regularly can also support good gut health, which has a knock-on effect on your skin.
– You can either eat flaxseed oil or ground flaxseeds. Flaxseed oil is better for helping sensitive or dry skin, while ground flaxseed is better for problem skin.
– A sensible dose is 2g flaxseed oil daily, or 30g ground flaxseed daily.
– You can add ground flaxseed to a range of meals, including soups, salads and stews.
Fiona Lawson is a former national magazine editor turned registered nutritionist and skin specialist. She holds an MSc in Nutritional Medicine and a BANT-registered post-graduate qualification in Nutritional Therapy.