When it comes to skincare, there are a handful of vitamins we all know, love and trust to transform our complexions. Experts champion vitamin C for its brightening effects and ability to protect against pollution; vitamin E for its intensely moisturising properties and power to shield from environmental damage; and vitamin A (from which wonder ingredient retinol is derived) for exfoliating skin and minimising issues such as acne, hyperpigmentation and fine lines. But there's another vitamin vying for a spot in your skincare arsenal, and while it's currently an unsung hero in the beauty sphere, it definitely shouldn't be. Enter: vitamin F. We know what you're thinking: vitamin F? Is that even a thing? Well, let the experts introduce you...
"Vitamin F is actually not new, but the conversation around it definitely is," explains Christopher Caires, chief scientist at Perricone MD. "Vitamin F is essentially a combination of different types of omegas which make up the barrier of your skin. The F stands for fat, but no one really likes to call it 'vitamin fat' because fat has got a bit of a bad rap. However, fats are critical for great skin, and in skincare, we're seeing more experts using these really important molecules, often referred to as lipids, which our bodies need for structure and function." Similarly to ceramides, these fats are pretty much essential for healthy, plump and glowing skin. When our skin isn't functioning properly, it can be prone to conditions like eczema and atopic dermatitis, usually characterised by dryness, rough texture, cracking and soreness.
"Without vitamin F the skin's barrier is compromised," continues Christopher. "As we get older especially, our barrier starts to become porous and if you look at the skin's barrier under a microscope, you’ll see small holes in it. It can become rough and cracked and that’s because you aren’t getting enough fats, so applying them topically is paramount in restoring that barrier function." This is important to note if you like to splash out on skincare. "If you don’t have a good skin barrier, you’re wasting your time with skincare, because if your skin isn’t functioning properly all the expensive ingredients you apply on top are less likely to work," adds Christopher.
Just don't let the word 'fat' put you off. As it's essential for healthy skin, Christopher explains that the ingredient won't leave an uncomfortable, suffocating 'film' on your skin or prevent any other ingredients from absorbing and working their magic. "Don’t think of vitamin F skincare as a barrier in the mechanical sense of the word," he says. "These fats actually penetrate into the skin and help fortify its own barrier. They are lipids that are repairing your skin’s lining."
So how can you incorporate vitamin F into your skincare routine? Perricone MD's Essential Fx Acyl-Glutathione range, including a non-greasy or pore-clogging serum, moisturiser and eye cream which can be used together or alongside other products, harnesses a vitamin F blend to nourish skin, as well as the 'defence molecule' glutathione – an antioxidant which bolsters skin against environmental stresses and general wear and tear.
If you're after something slightly lighter yet just as powerful, The Ordinary's Ascorbyl Tetraisopalmitate Solution 20% in Vitamin F, £15, is an oil-serum which boasts fatty acids for softening and repairing skin and a hit of vitamin C (which isn't as irritating as others) to even out skin tone, while beauty editors and skincare obsessives alike rate Embryolisse's Hydra Mask, £22, as a quenching and smoothing flash treatment thanks to vitamins F, A and E.
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