The ABCs of Beauty: Skincare Experts Explain Vitamin F
If you’ve been on the pulse of the latest buzzy skincare ingredients, you may have heard of Vitamin F, which started to gain prominence earlier this year. But what exactly is this ‘vitamin’ and what does it do? We ask Dr Georgia Lee of TLC Lifestyle Practice and Dr SK Tan of IDS Clinic for some insights.
What is Vitamin F?
As it turns out, vitamin F isn’t really a vitamin.
“Vitamin F, which has been described in published medical journals as early as 1950, refers to the combination of two different types of essential fatty acids—linoleic acid (LA) and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA),” explains Dr Georgia Lee, medical director of TLC Lifestyle Practice and co-founder of A DrBrand.
These fatty acids are necessary to our body in order to supply calories, aid growth, vision, and brain development, provide cell structure and support other bodily functions. Common sources in our diet include plant oils like soybean, olive, corn, and flaxseed oils, as well as nuts and seeds such as sunflower seeds, pecans, almonds, and chia seeds.
And in case you didn’t get it, the ‘F’ in vitamin F stands for fat!
What does Vitamin F do for our skin?
If you’re wondering what skincare benefits essential fatty acids can offer, its effects actually go cell-deep.
“The ingredients act as building blocks of ceramides, which are a type of lipid that helps make up the skin cell membrane,” says Dr SK Tan, medical director and founder of IDS Clinic.
Ceramides are known to be anti-ageing “powerhouses”, helping to retain the moisture in our skin and strengthen its protective barrier against environmental aggressors.
“Both LA and ALA also affect immune responses and inflammation in our body; and because LA and ALA play a big role in our cell membranes and immune health, they also play an important part in maintaining the barrier integrity of our skin.”
Who should use it and who shouldn’t?
Because of its anti-inflammatory effects and ability to fortify the skin’s barrier, vitamin F is especially useful for sensitive or ageing skin.
“Vitamin F is great for those with very dry, sensitive skin, as well as those with eczema, dermatitis, or skin that has been exposed to harsh elements,” notes Dr Lee.
“Those prone to acne and clogged pores, however, should titrate the usage to certain times of the month—for the ladies—when the skin is drier and over needed areas only.”
(Related: New in Beauty: The Latest Skincare and Makeup You Should Try in April 2020)
What is the best way to use Vitamin F?
According to Dr Tan, vitamin F can be used with almost any product. This complex of essential fatty acids is often found in moisturising and hydrating products, as well as anti-ageing products.
Dr Lee advises using the lipophilic (fat-based) ingredient directly onto the affected area and before any lotion or cream-based products for better absorption.
Are there any side effects to Vitamin F?
While vitamin F can be used by anyone, Dr Lee warns that it may cause breakouts in some users.
“I would suggest testing it over a small area for a few days before extending the usage to the treatment areas."
Vitamin F is also generally compatible with all ingredients.
Read more from The ABCs of Beauty: Vitamin A | Vitamin B | Vitamin C | Vitamin D |