Linoleic acid is an omega 6 fatty acid found naturally in the skin barrier.
Linoleic acid has many benefits for your skin when applied topically. It softens your skin, strengthens your skin barrier and can relieve symptoms of dry skin.
This article will discuss:
- What is dry skin?
- What is the skin barrier?
- Beneficial fats in the skin barrier
- What is linoleic acid?
- Natural sources of linoleic acid
- Benefits of linoleic acid
- Linoleic acid softens your skin
- Linoleic acid strengthens your skin barrier
- Linoleic acid relieves symptoms of dry skin
What is dry skin?
Dry skin appears dry, rough, and may scale and flake. It may also show premature signs of aging, like fine line, surface wrinkles and loss of elasticity.
Dry skin is skin that is lacking water, humectants and fats. Humectants absorb and hold water, while fats coat the skin and seal in moisture. When there is not enough water, humectants or fats, skin barrier disruption can occur, further worsening symptoms of dry skin (Augustin et al, 2019).
Read more: What is Dry Skin?
Symptoms of dry skin include:
- Loss of skin elasticity.
- Skin feels tight, dehydrated.
- Skin appears dull, rough and blotchy.
- Slight to severe flaking, scaling or peeling.
- Fine lines and wrinkles are more pronounced.
- May have irritation and a burning sensation.
- May have itching.
Anyone can develop dry skin.
What is the skin barrier?
Your skin barrier protects you from physical, chemical, and microbial insults, and prevents the loss of water from your body.
The skin barrier includes the outermost layers of skin, called the stratum corneum.
Your skin barrier is essentially what you can see and touch on the surface of your body.
When your skin barrier is healthy, it feels and appears smooth, soft, and plump.
In contrast, a damaged skin barrier looks dry, rough, dull, and dehydrated, and may become irritated and inflamed.
The stratum corneum can be thought of as a brick wall that protects you.
The "bricks" are the skin cells, called corneocytes, and the "mortar" that holds the bricks together is the lipids or fats, that together create the outer barrier.
Learn More: What is The Skin Barrier?
Beneficial fats in your skin barrier
The surface of your skin is covered by a layer of protective lipids (fats), including epidermal lipids and sebum.
Epidermal lipids are released from keratinocytes (skin cells), and are a mixture of ceramides, free fatty acids and cholesterol. These lipids are released from skin cells and fill the spaces between the cells, like mortar or cement (Pappas, 2007).
Linoleic acid is the most abundant polyunsaturated fatty acid in the skin barrier (Ansari et al, 1970).
Most of the free fatty acids can by synthesized by the keratinocytes and are released into the stratum corneum.
However, linoleic acid is an essential fatty acid that must be provided externally through diet, supplements or topically through skincare products (Lin at al, 2017).
What is linoleic acid?
Linoleic acid is an essential fatty acid found naturally in healthy skin.
Linoleic acid is an essential nutrient, and your body must get linoleic acid through diet or supplements. Linoleic acid is essential for growth, reproduction, and skin function (Huang et al, 2018).
Linoleic acid belongs to the family of omega 6 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs).
PUFAs are fatty acids that contain more than one double bond in their backbone and are liquid at room temperature.
As the parent compound for the family of omega 6 PUFAs, linoleic acid can be elongated and desaturated to other bioactive omega 6 PUFAs, such as γ-linolenic acid (18:3ω6) and arachidonic acid (20:4ω6). Subsequently, arachidonic acid can be converted to a myriad of bioactive compounds called eicosanoids, such as prostaglandins and leukotrienes. These eicosanoids are important in normal metabolic function of cells and tissues (Whelan et al, 2013).
The eicosanoids derived from arachidonic acid are also involved in the inflammatory and allergic response of your skin (Horrobin et al, 2000; Liu et al, 2015).
Natural sources of linoleic acid
Linoleic acid occurs naturally in a wide variety of foods, but especially in many nuts, seeds, and seed oils including sunflower seed oil, apple seed oil and hemp seed oil.
Apple seed oil
Apple seed oil contains 60% linoleic acid.
Apple seed oil is rich in beneficial fatty acids, including n-6 linoleic acid, n-9 oleic acid and palmitic acid. These fatty acids act as emollients and can soften your skin and smooth your skin.
Learn more: 4 Benefits of Apple Seed Oil for Dry Skin
Hemp seed oil
Hemp seed oil contains 56% linoleic acid.
Hemp seed oil is rich in beneficial fatty acids, including linoleic acid (n-6), linolenic acid (n-3), and oleic acid (n-9) which act as emollients and can soften your skin.
Benefits of linoleic acid
Linoleic acid can be applied topically to your skin and has numerous benefits.
- Linoleic acid is an emollient and softens your skin
- Linoleic acid strengthens the skin barrier
- Linoleic acid improves dry skin symptoms
Linoleic acid softens your skin
In skincare products, linoleic acid functions as an emollient and softens your skin.
What are the benefits of emollients?
The function of emollients in skincare is to soften the skin, help the skin retain its moisture and to support the skin’s barrier function.
Skin that does not have sufficient lipid content on its surface can appear dull, dry and rough. Emollients "fill in the gaps" in the skin barrier and soften it along with giving it a healthier look
The role of emollients in the treatment of dry skin conditions is often underestimated. Emollients promote optimal skin health and prevent skin breakdown, and their use can improve quality of life (Moncrieff et al, 2013; Newton et al, 2021).
Emollients are skin conditioning – the give skin a soft and smooth appearance, restoring suppleness and improving elasticity (Brown et al, 2005).
- Make your skin feel soft and smooth.
- Help reduce flaking and roughness from dry skin.
- Help assist the skin barrier by filling in gaps between cells.
Learn more: What are Emollients? Benefits for Your Dry Skin
Linoleic acid strengthens the skin barrier
Linoleic acid is the richest polyunsaturated fatty acid in the epidermal layer. It is also the precursor to ceramide synthesis (Breiden et al, 2014).
As an essential component of ceramides, linoleic acid is involved in the maintenance of the transdermal water barrier of the epidermis (Whelan et al, 2013).
Linoleic acid can relieve dry skin symptoms
Linoleic acid can relieve symptoms of dry skin.
Linoleic acid can:
- Make your skin feel soft and smooth.
- Help reduce flaking and roughness from dry skin.
- Minimize the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
- Reduce irritation from dry skin.
- Relieve itching from dry skin.
Linoleic acid is an omega 6 polyunsaturated fatty acid found naturally in healthy skin.
Linoleic acid has many benefits for your skin when applied topically. It softens your skin and strengthens your skin barrier.
Linoleic acid is an essential nutrient and must be supplied through diet or supplements.
Dry Skin Love Wild Orange Oil to Milk Cleanser is made with sunflower seed oil, apple seed oil and hemp seed oil, which are all rich sources of linoleic acid.
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Horrobin D.F. Essential fatty acid metabolism and its modification in atopic eczema. Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 2000;71(Suppl. 1):367S–372S.
Huang TH, Wang PW, Yang SC, Chou WL, Fang JY. Cosmetic and Therapeutic Applications of Fish Oil's Fatty Acids on the Skin. 2018 Jul 30;16(8):256.
Lin TK, Zhong L, Santiago JL. Anti-Inflammatory and Skin Barrier Repair Effects of Topical Application of Some Plant Oils. Int J Mol Sci. 2017 Dec 27;19(1):70.
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Moncrieff G, Cork M, Lawton S, Kokiet S, Daly C, Clark C. Use of emollients in dry-skin conditions: consensus statement. Clin Exp Dermatol. 2013 Apr;38(3):231-8; quiz 238.
Newton H. Using emollients to promote safe and effective skin care for patients. Nurs Stand. 2021 Oct 6;36(10):77-82.
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Dr. Natasha Ryz is a scientist, skin care expert and an entrepreneur. She is the founder of Dry Skin Love Skincare, and she creates skincare products for beauty, dry skin and pain relief.
Dr. Ryz has a PhD in Experimental Medicine from the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, and she is a Vanier scholar. She also holds a Master of Science degree and a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg.
Natasha is the former Chief Science Officer of Zenabis Global, and she oversaw cannabis extraction, analytics, and product development. Her team brought 20 products to market including oils, sprays, vapes and softgels.