Vitamin F: The Skin Care Ingredient For Dry Skin, Aging & More
There's a slew of skin care vitamins that remain tried and true, from vitamin C's brightening properties and vitamin A's ability to exfoliate and slow down signs of aging to vitamin D's power to fight inflammation. But what if we told you there's a lesser-known vitamin to add to your trusty list, but even though it's called a vitamin, it's not exactly a vitamin after all. Introducing, vitamin F the non-vitamin vitamin.
"Vitamin F is not a vitamin in the traditional sense of the word," says board-certified dermatologist Hadley King, M.D. "It's actually a term for two fats, alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) and linoleic acid (LA)." The two acids that come together to create vitamin F are naturally occurring healthy fatty acids that are your newest answer to plump, glowing skin. Keep reading to learn more.
What is vitamin F?
Not to be repetitive, but just to make it clear, vitamin F is not an actual vitamin. The letter F stands for fat, but vitamin fat would be, well, weird. But weirdness aside, this fatty acid combo is super underrated. ALA is an omega-4 fatty acid, and LA is an omega-6 fatty acid. And just as fatty acids like salmon and avocado do wonders for our bodies, they also transform our skin. "Typically, a product with an active level of vitamin F can improve skin vibrancy with a single use," says board-certified dermatologist Loretta Ciraldo, M.D., FAAD. Move over, highlighter; there's a new skin luminizer in town.
Vitamin F can be found in various foods like almonds, chia seed, and even egg yolks. And if you're an oil lover, you'll find this fatty acid combo in rosehip, sunflower, chia, and argan oils. But when it comes to applying topically, vitamin F helps to strengthen and protect the skin barrier. "These fatty acids are part of the seal that sits in cracks between cells in the outer skin layer," says board-certified dermatologist Joshua Zeichner, M.D. In simpler terms, he explains that vitamin F is similar to the grout that sits between your bathroom tiles. "Natural fats maintain the integrity of the outer skin layer," he says. Essentially, these fats seal in moisture and keep environmental aggressors out.
What are the benefits?
Now that we know what vitamin F is, let's talk about what it does and why you need it:
Keeps moisture in.
One of the main benefits of vitamin F is its ability to lock moisture into the skin instead of leaking out. "Vitamin F helps to lessen transepidermal water loss (TEWL), which is the escape of water from the skin, which makes it super hydrating," says Ciraldo. This type of water loss is common in dry skin types and aging skin, but vitamin F acts as a moisturizing seal to keep water in.
Repairs the skin barrier.
Zeichner says that skin conditions like eczema, rosacea, and even acne are associated with a defective skin barrier with decreases in fatty acids. When applied topically, vitamin F performs like a ceramide and protects the outer layer of the skin.
Boosts skin luminosity.
Naturally, a boost in moisture plus a strong skin barrier is a recipe for glowing skin. And since skin cracking, peeling, and inflammation are out the window with this acid combo, you can expect to see a glowing difference when incorporating these fatty acids into your skin care routine.
Can help banish acne.
According to Ciraldo, acne is associated with low levels of linoleic acid, one of the acids that make up vitamin F. "If you have acne-prone skin, applying vitamin F can help minimize redness and dryness that can come as a side effect from acne products," Ciraldo says. And according to one study, when linoleic acid is applied to the skin topically, it can help reduce acne flare-ups1.
Are there any cautions?
Generally, the experts agree that vitamin F doesn't come with many warnings. Like all skin care, it's always best to apply to a small area to test for sensitivities, though it's not common that you'll have one.
Who should use it?
Vitamin F is more commonly recommended for dry or aging skin, but it can work with all skin types. Board-certified dermatologist Suneel Chilukuri, M.D., says he suggest it to patients with dry, mature, or sensitive skin and to those who are newly starting retinols. "I recommend applying vitamin F in the morning and retinol at night," he suggests.
The final takeaway.
Vitamin F isn't actually a vitamin at all but is becoming a popular ingredient for locking in moisture and protecting the outer layer of the skin. It's generally safe for all skin types and concerns and is even linked to reducing acne. And since it doesn't come with any cautions, it's certainly worth slathering all over your face for a brighter, smoother, and more moisturized complexion.
Andrea Jordan is a beauty and lifestyle freelance writer covering topics from hair and skincare to family and home. She received her bachelor's in Magazine Journalism from Temple University and you can find her work at top publications like InStyle, PopSugar, StyleCaster, Business Insider, PureWow and OprahMag. When she's not writing, you can find Andrea tackling new recipes in the kitchen or babysitting one of her many nieces and nephews. She currently resides in New Jersey with her husband and cat, Silas.