Everything you need to know about vitamin F and its skincare benefits
This humble essential fatty acid is crucial in maintaining a healthy skin barrier and calming any nasty inflammation. We delve into the science behind this powerful anti-inflammatory.
Daniel Isaacs, director of research at Medik8, says, "Vitamin F is a term that refers to the combination of two essential fatty acids – linoleic acid (LA) and linolenic acid (ALA). Both are essential fatty acids. To synthesise them, they must be either orally or topically supplied to the body."
Why the hype?
Vitamin F is an unsung hero in skincare – an under-the-radar ingredient that helps to hydrate and replenish the skin. “Vitamin F is an essential fatty acid and essential fatty acids are vital for the function of normal, healthy cells,” explains Isaacs. “Deficiencies can lead to dry skin, decreased skin cell regeneration, and a compromised skin barrier.”
Vitamin F is an anti-inflammatory, high in antioxidants and works to restore the skin’s barrier, so it has a lot of benefits. “It is oil-soluble, meaning it slips into the natural skin barrier with ease to nourish, replenish and support its function in protecting the skin and retaining moisture,” explains Isaacs. “A healthy skin barrier also helps calm the appearance of inflammation and compromised skin, instead promoting a visibly radiant glow across the complexion. Blemish-prone skin also tends to be naturally lacking in omega 6, so vitamin F is ideal to rebalance for a clearer-looking complexion.”
How does vitamin F work?
Let’s delve into the science a bit deeper because how this vitamin works isn’t as clear cut as the others that have been covered in this series so far. Vitamin F is not a traditional vitamin but a term that was given by scientists to cover the group of essential fatty acids (EFA) – “notably alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) and linoleic acid (LA),” explains Dr Emma Craythorne, dermatologist and key opinion leader at professional skincare range Skinceuticals.
LA is an essential fatty acid and an omega-6 fatty acid, while ALA is an omega 3 fatty acid. “In science we use EFAs by their names, but in skincare the term ‘vitamin F’ is used to cover all EFAs, or the most common – LA. EFAs play a huge role in hydration and elasticity of the skin. In terms of wound healing, topical application has been shown to shorten ulcer healing time.” Vitamin F is a major component in ceramides, which make up about half of skin’s natural lipid barrier.
Are there any side effects to vitamin F?
Topical vitamin F is suitable for all skin types, including blemish-prone and sensitive skins. There are no common side effects of using it but do follow each manufacturer’s recommendations. “Anyone can use it; however, some people might initially find the oiliness of vitamin F off-putting – this is a fat-soluble group of molecules – but as it has been shown to be of benefit in acne, it should be pursued,” says Craythorne.
Start clients off small at first and then move them on from there. Isaacs advises starting clients with a vitamin F cleanser “as it’s the perfect way to try out a new active skincare ingredient due to the wash-off format.” The vitamin F group also works well with sunscreen and can easily become an important part of clients’ regular skincare routine, yet Craythorne suggests avoiding using it alongside benzoyl peroxide “as they would directly compete against each other”.
Where can vitamin F be sourced?
Since your body is unable to make LA and ALA, clients will need to get these fats from their diet as well as their beauty products for overall skin health. They both play crucial roles in the overall body function too, such as providing cell structure, aiding growth, and helping to make signalling compounds that aid in the regulation of blood pressure, immune system response, and more. The vitamin can be found in a multitude of foods including almonds, chia seeds, egg yolks, hemp seeds and avocado.
Read more about the effects of vitamins on the skin: