Article by Donia Hilal, Holland & Barrett’s Senior Nutritionist, focusing on the benefits of vitamin F for the skin
What is vitamin F?
Vitamin F, more commonly known as linoleic acid, is an essential fatty acid from the omega-6 family.
You’ve probably heard a lot more about omega 3 than omega 6, but the latter fatty acid also plays plenty of crucial roles in the body; including maintaining healthy hair and skin.
More specifically, linoleic acid has a physiological role in maintaining the water permeability barrier of the skin, so it boosts hydrated and supple skin. There is also emerging evidence that those that experience acne have lower levels of linoleic acid in their skin surface lipids.
What’s the right amount of linoleic acid and what are the signs you’re not getting enough?
Our bodies can’t make this crucial compound, but there are plenty of foods that pack in vitamin F, so it’s relatively easy to get more linoleic acid simply by following a balanced diet – and there is no set recommended daily allowance.
Although vitamin F deficiency is rare, signs you are not getting enough include inflamed dry skin, dry hair, hair loss, and wounds that don’t heal well.
How can you get more?
Vitamin F foods that are rich in linoleic acid include vegetable oils, nuts, seeds and soybeans. It’s important you consider the ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 in your diet; recent research suggests most people are not getting enough omega 3 and too much omega 6.
Can you OD on linoleic acid?
As with any nutrient, it is all about balance – too much of a good thing can be detrimental when it comes to nutrition. Excessive consumption of this nutrient can affect the ratio of omega 3 to omega 6 in the body, which can increase inflammation in the body; leading to a variety of potential health problems. Luckily, this is easily avoided by consuming a varied diet rich in different sources of fats.
Anything else we need to know?
If you’re concerned about the ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 in your diet but would still like to reap the benefits of vitamin F for skin, then you can apply it topically. This also allows the skin to absorb vitamin F directly into its membranes, delivering more immediate health benefits.
Handpicked article: What is clean beauty?
Linoleic Acid: A Nutritional Quandary. Parthasarathy S, ed. Healthcare. 2017;5(2):25. doi:10.3390/healthcare5020025. Jandacek RJ.
Omega-3 fatty acids in brain and neurological health. Elsevier, 2014. Watson, Ronald Ross, ed.
Essential fatty acids and acne. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology 14.2 (1986): 221-225.
Downing, Donald T., et al
Correction of essential fatty-acid deficiency in man by the cutaneous application of sunflower-seed oil. The Lancet 303.7858 (1974): 597-599. Press, Martin, PeterJ Hartop, and Colin Prottey