Have you heard of vitamin F, the powerhouse of nourishment?

Don’t sleep over the benefits of this low-key ingredient, which, by the way, can be quite a game changer.

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There is a never-ending ebb and flow between skincare aficionados and skincare trends. The moment you feel like you’re finally a walking skincare encyclopedia, boom, enters another newly-discovered ingredient that turns your research mode on, once again. This time, the newest fad is a relatively simple, mainstay ingredient—vitamin F. Even though it may sound ambiguous, vitamin F stands for ‘fat’. “Vitamin F, despite its name, is not a traditional vitamin. It’s a fat; actually, two fats—alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) and linoleic acid (LA),” explains Dr Niketa Sonavane, celebrity dermatologist and founder, Ambrosia Aesthetics. Fats, also recognised as lipids, are more of an essential than an option for enhanced holistic health. However, if we go by the assertions of the (Internet) skincare community, vitamin F can actually do wonders for your skin. Let us get you au fait with the sensation that the ingredient is. 

What exactly is vitamin F?

As mentioned earlier, it’s a double-duty fat (or lipid). But, as you dive deeper, you’ll get wary of the many benefits that it provides your skin (and body) with. The two polyunsaturated fatty acids that it contains make it a hardcore inside-out nourisher. Lucky for us, unlike any synthetically-developed compound, it’s found plentifully in many of the foods that we consume, albeit, isn’t produced sufficiently by our bodies. “It is available in foods such as avocado, sprouts, almonds, salmon, tuna, tofu and in oils such as argan, rosehip, sunflower as well as flax seeds and chia seeds,” shares Dr Madhuri Agarwal, celebrity dermatologist and founder, Yavana Aesthetics. In concurrence, Dr Sonavane also encourages one and all to consume fatty acids-rich foods in order to stay healthy and avoid the risk of chronic diseases. 

But, what does it do for the skin?

‘Barrier’ is the latest buzzword in the skincare landscape. In facile words, the skin barrier is the outermost layer on your skin that acts like a bulwark between your skin’s deeper layers and the external aggressors. Also called the epidermis or stratum corneum, it’s perpetually tormented by pollution, sun, humidity and other toxins that float in the environment, leaving its health compromised and how. However, to endure healthy skin, a fortified barrier is paramount. Enter vitamin F—it does exactly that…and so much more. “Lipids, especially linoleic acid, are a precursor for ceramides, a crucial ingredient for a functional skin barrier. It helps to calm down the skin and restricts the environmental damage,” affirms Dr Agarwal. On the other hand, Dr Sonavane gives us a slightly broad purview, “It hydrates, replenishes, has high antioxidant content, is anti-inflammatory and helps to restore the skin’s barrier. Additionally, it is also essential for cell structure. The fatty acids in vitamin F give your cells’ outer layer structure and flexibility.” Both of the skin experts propagate vitamin F’s propensity to be of service to dry, dehydrated and damaged skin that is prone to psoriasis, rosacea, atopic dermatitis, eczema and company. Due to its healing and repairing properties, “it also aids in the treatment of acne, dryness, and wrinkles,” says Dr Sonavane. Yes, even though a fat, vitamin F can subside acne since low levels of linoleic acid can catapult extra sebum production and thereby congested pores. TL;DR: vitamin F is a multi-action nourishing and soothing hero that goes above and beyond to defend your skin—particularly the barrier.

Well, what gives vitamin F an edge over others?

We’re pretty sure you must’ve drawn comparisons between vitamin F and other common hydrating and moisturising agents like hyaluronic acid and ceramides in your head by now. Wondering how vitamin F has an upper hand? Dr Agarwal explains that vitamin F is superior because it boasts more-cellular level action, thus, giving better, longer-lasting effects as compared to hyaluronic acid, shea and cocoa butter. “When applied to the skin, hyaluronic acid attracts moisture from the air, but in the absence of ceramides and vitamin F, the moisture evaporates,” mentions Dr Sonavane. And, as far as ceramides are concerned, our bodies can’t produce them in the absence of vitamin F in the very first place. Plus, “ceramides is partially made of linoleic acid,” adds Dr Agarwal, while vitamin F comprises alpha-linolenic acid, too. 

Cop a vitamin F product, ASAP

Vitamin F is widely available in skincare products like moisturisers, serums, toners, and face oils. Please note: buying vitamin F-infused cleaners (aka wash-away products) will not make a monumental difference. And, don’t fret over the absence of evidently visible ‘vitamin F’ on the label of your products; it is very much present in the product if it is sports ingredients like chia seeds, flax seeds, omega fatty acids, hemp, almond oil, argan oil, walnut oil and canola oil. Ascorbyl Tetraisopalmitate Solution 20% in Vitamin F from The Ordinary, F-Balm Electrolyte Waterfacial Mask from Drunk Elephant, Pure Radiance Oil from True Botanicals, Squalane + Omega Repair Deep Hydration Moisturizer from Biossance, ICE Ceramide Moisturizer with Vitamin F from Sunday Riley and Gutti Ka Tel from Pahadi Local are some of our most-recommended picks that will endow your skin with a gush of fats.