Essential fatty acids and acne

J Am Acad Dermatol. 1986 Feb;14(2 Pt 1):221-5. doi: 10.1016/s0190-9622(86)70025-x.


Acne is characterized by hyperkeratosis of the follicular epithelium, leading to horny impactions that may lie dormant as open or closed comedones or may cause inflammation of the follicle. Although persons with acne have consistently been observed to have elevated levels of sebum secretion, no mechanism relating sebum secretion rates to comedogenesis is known. Acne patients have also been shown to have low levels of linoleic acid in their skin surface lipids. To explain this observation, the hypothesis is advanced that the linoleate concentration in human sebum depends on the quantity of linoleic acid present in each sebaceous cell at the commencement of its differentiation and on the extent to which this initial charge is diluted by subsequent endogenous lipid synthesis in each sebaceous cell. A corollary hypothesis holds that low concentrations of linoleate in sebum impose a state of essential fatty acid deficiency on the cells of the follicular epithelium and induce the characteristic response of hyperkeratosis. Both hypotheses could hold, without there being a systemic deficiency of linoleic acid, simply as the result of elevated lipogenesis in individual sebaceous cells.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Acne Vulgaris / etiology
  • Acne Vulgaris / metabolism
  • Acne Vulgaris / physiopathology*
  • Fatty Acids, Essential / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / physiopathology
  • Linoleic Acids / metabolism
  • Linoleic Acids / physiology
  • Sebaceous Glands / metabolism
  • Sebum / analysis
  • Sebum / metabolism
  • Skin / metabolism


  • Fatty Acids, Essential
  • Linoleic Acids