Oral supplementation with fish oil reduces dryness and pruritus in the acetone-induced dry skin rat model

J Dermatol Sci. 2015 Sep;79(3):298-304. doi: 10.1016/j.jdermsci.2015.06.015. Epub 2015 Jul 2.


Background: Pruritus and discomfort are often present in patients with xerosis and atopic dermatitis. Several studies suggest an important role of diet in skin pathophysiology.

Objective: This study evaluated the effect of dietary fatty acids in the skin physiology via an itch-related animal model with and without supplementation with fish oil (FO), a source of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA), especially omega 3 (n-3).

Methods: Male Wistar rats were divided into two groups-non-supplemented (control) and supplemented with FO (3g/kg/day) by gavage for 90 days. Every 30 days, scratching and skin parameters (transepidermal water loss (TEWL), hydration, and local blood flow) were evaluated before and after dorsal skin exposure to acetone to induce the itch-related dry skin. At the end of the study, animals were sacrificed, and skin samples collected for fatty acids composition analysis by GC-FID.

Results: FO supplementation reduced the TEWL and increased the skin hydration, with significant changes from day 60 on, while skin microcirculation registered no changes. It also alleviated the acetone induced skin barrier alteration, revealed by a faster resolution of TEWL and hydration, and elimination of itch-related scratching induced by dry skin. These changes were associated with the shift in the skin fatty acids incorporation pattern (richer in n-3 with n-6/n-3<5) resulting from the FO supplementation.

Conclusion: Skin barrier dynamics seem to be influenced by FO n-3 PUFA, with suppressive effects on the scratching behaviour induced by dry skin. Hence, long-term supplementation with n-3 PUFA rich nutrients might reinforce and restore cutaneous integrity and function.

Keywords: Dry skin; Fish oil; Omega-3; Polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA); Rat-itch model; Skin barrier.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acetone
  • Administration, Oral
  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal / drug effects
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / analysis
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / pharmacology
  • Fish Oils / pharmacology*
  • Male
  • Pruritus / chemically induced
  • Pruritus / drug therapy
  • Pruritus / physiopathology
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Skin / blood supply
  • Skin / chemistry*
  • Skin / drug effects
  • Skin Diseases / chemically induced
  • Skin Diseases / drug therapy*
  • Skin Diseases / physiopathology
  • Skin Physiological Phenomena / drug effects*
  • Water / analysis
  • Water Loss, Insensible


  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3
  • Fish Oils
  • Water
  • Acetone