Did you have a ch-ch-ch-chia pet growing up? The same chia plant that grew like hair out of old-school terra-cotta figures is popular all over again. Get ready to fall in love with a new trendy friend: chia seed oil.
Chia seed oil 101
Chia seeds are about 30 percent oil, so it’s pretty easy to extract the glossy goodness that is chia seed oil. Thanks to its properties for moisturizing and for mature-looking skin, chia seed oil is popping up in more and more wellness and skin care products. Here’s what it can do.
Benefits for your skin
- moisturizes your skin
- protects against skin probs (like eczema and acne)
Benefits for your hair
- protects it from damage
- hydrates your locks
Benefits for your health
- might help your heart
- may support a healthy brain
- could reduce inflammation
Helps moisturize your skin
“Chia seed oil is derived from a desert plant, so it’s made to retain water and moisture in difficult environments,” explains board-certified dermatologist Dr. Scott Paviol.
“It has an abundance of essential fatty acids — omega-3 and omega-6 — that help to form a moisture barrier between your skin and the outside environment, minimizing transepidermal water loss (TEWL), which dehydrates the skin.”
Research has even shown that chia seed oil can help patients with end-stage renal disease keep their skin moisturized. (That’s a group that’s at higher risk of dealing with cracked, dry, or itchy skin.)
Protects against some skin probs
“Because chia seed oil contains antioxidants and polyphenols, it helps to prevent DNA damage from the sun and environment,” says Paviol.
About 68 percent of the oil in chia seeds is alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), an omega-3 fatty acid found in plant foods. ALA’s considered a “healing fat” for your skin. It shows promise as a safe treatment for many skin disorders, like eczema, psoriasis, and acne.
Oils also play an important role in protecting your hair from damage. “Similar to its benefits for your skin, chia seed oil can help to retain moisture and hydration of your locks,” says Dr. Laura DeCesaris, a functional medicine doctor and clinical nutritionist.
“The high fat and protein content are nourishing for hair, and topical use of the oil keeps the hair shaft healthy, preventing breakages.”
That’s why conditioners typically contain natural (plant-based) or synthetic (silicone) oils. Studies show they help minimize static electricity, increase shine and volume, and make your hair more manageable.
Chia seeds may be small, but they’re big on nutrients. “Chia seeds are packed with protein, fiber, and healthy fats,” says DeCesaris.
That means they also come with some pretty sweet benefits for your bod if you ingest chia seed oil.
But even though omega 3- and 6-fatty acids are essential to your body’s cell function, it doesn’t produce these compounds naturally. Organic chia seed oil is a great, plant-based way to get more of these important nutrients.
FYI: Just remember, chia seed oil has just one type of omega-3: ALA. Your body can use that to make the other forms (EPA and DHA) but it’s super inefficient. You’ll still need to eat plenty of EPA- and DHA-rich foods (like fish) or take an omega-3 supplement to get the biggest benefits for your heart.
The fatty acids in chia seed oil are also good for your noggin. Omega-3 and omega-6 are essential to your brain health, so you need to make sure you’re getting enough of them through your diet.
One study suggests that chia seeds can help improve your memory and even boost your intelligence. But this research focused solely on a group of young adults.
“More studies are needed to see if these results are applicable to the entire population,” says DeCesaris.
“Chia seed oil is one of the richest botanical sources of omega-3 fatty acids, known for their anti-inflammatory properties,” says DeCesaris.
“Omega-3 fats, such as the kind found in chia seed oil, have been shown in many studies to have positive, neuroprotective effects on the brain with supplemental use and as part of an anti-inflammatory diet.”
Studies have linked the nutrients in chia seed oil to lots of benefits. You might find it gives you happier skin and hair, as well as lower cholesterol and improved memory.