Ingestion of selected nutrients modulates dermal properties. In the present study, two groups of women ingested flaxseed or borage oil for 12 weeks. The control group received a placebo containing medium-chain fatty acids. Dose was 2·2 g total fatty acids/d with α-linolenic acid and linoleic acid as major constituents in the flaxseed oil group; in the borage oil group linoleic and γ-linolenic acid were predominant. In the flaxseed oil group, the contribution of α-linolenic acid to total fatty acids in plasma was significantly increased on weeks 6 and 12, whereas there was an increase in γ-linolenic acid in the borage oil group (P < 0·05). Skin irritation was performed by nicotinate treatment, and changes in skin reddening and blood flow were monitored. Compared to week 0, skin reddening was diminished in both groups; blood flow was also lowered. Skin hydration was significantly increased after 12 weeks of treatment compared to week 0, with flaxseed or borage oil (P < 0·05). Transepidermal water loss was decreased in both oil groups by about 10 % after 6 weeks of supplementation. A further decrease was determined after 12 weeks in the flaxseed oil group. Surface evaluation of living skin revealed that roughness and scaling of the skin were significantly decreased with flaxseed and borage oil comparing week 0 and week 12 (P < 0·05). Except for hydration, none of the parameters was affected in the placebo group. The present data provide evidence that skin properties can be modulated by an intervention with dietary lipids.