Human essential fatty acid deficiency: treatment by topical application of linoleic acid

Arch Dermatol. 1977 Jul;113(7):939-41.


An essential fatty acid (EFA) deficiency developed in a 19-year-old man who was being maintained on a long-term regimen of fat-free, intravenous hyperalimentation fluids. The EFA deficiency was reversed after 21 days by daily, topical application of linoleic acid to the patient's skin. The ratio of eicosatrienoic acid (20:3, n-9) to eicosatetraenoic acid (20:4, n-6) decreased to normal levels in the skin and serum with clinical improvement of the EFA deficiency syndrome. The cutaneous manifestations (scalp dermatitis, alopecia, and depigmentation of hair) were reversed with continued, topical application of safflower oil, which contains 60% to 70% linoleic acid.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Topical
  • Adult
  • Fatty Acids, Essential / deficiency*
  • Fatty Acids, Unsaturated / analysis
  • Humans
  • Linoleic Acids / administration & dosage
  • Linoleic Acids / therapeutic use*
  • Male
  • Parenteral Nutrition, Total / adverse effects
  • Safflower Oil / therapeutic use
  • Skin / analysis
  • Skin Manifestations*


  • Fatty Acids, Essential
  • Fatty Acids, Unsaturated
  • Linoleic Acids
  • Safflower Oil