Do you find your skin is sensitive?
Maybe you are suffering from acne inflammation.
Or are you concerned with premature ageing?
Or is your dry, flaky and dull?
Then chances are your skin is depleted in fatty acids, fatty alcohols and esters.
These are all vital players in the make-up of your skin.
But not a lot is known about these gorgeous skin-identical ingredients.
That is until now. So join us as we take a deep dive into gorgeous fatty acids and how they can benefit your skin:
They Boost your skins Protective Barrier
Fatty acids are the critical component of the stratum corneum, the outer layer of your skin; they are crucial for the healthy function of your skin. (1)
They play a significant role in supporting and boosting your barrier function, a more resilient first line of defence against environmental aggressors and an increased ability to retain moisture.
An impaired barrier function means a tendency toward dry, prematurely aged skin and, therefore, more wrinkles, a lack of skin tone and sagging.
We talk about the role of your barrier function a lot at the naked chemist.
Where we liken the stratum corneum, your outermost layer of skin as a brick wall: Your skin cells act like tiny bricks, and the mixture of cholesterol, ceramides, and—you guessed it—fatty acids make up this barrier.
The fatty acids in your skin do three essential things:
- They keep your skin hydrated, decreasing trans-epidermal water loss (TEWL).
- They are antimicrobial, keeping your skin healthy.
- They are anti-inflammatory, preventing your skin from becoming sensitised.
These all-important fatty acids help form an antibacterial, water-resistant barrier, which is basically how your skin protects itself from infection – it’s no wonder we call them the fountain of youth.
If any one of those functions is compromised, your skin barrier will be too.
A healthy barrier is essential to smooth, hydrated skin; studies have found that regularly applying plant oils that contain high amounts of essential fatty acids—like sunflower seed oil found in bio lipid skin shot—may help repair the barrier in those who had a history of poor skin due to EFA deficiency. (2)
The Journal of Investigative Dermatology published a study that looked at patients who’d previously been diagnosed with a fatty acid deficiency.
After regularly applying sunflower seed oil – which is rich in fatty acids – to their forearms for two weeks, they showed a significant reduction in TEWL. They had fewer scaly lesions, a symptom of fatty acid deficiency. (3)
Why are They so Important for my Skin?
If you have sensitive skin prone to irritation, dryness, and issues with your skin barrier, they are an essential topical ingredient.
The Essential fatty acids structure means they are not easily synthesised by your body – specifically omega-3 and omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids.
Linolenic acid is the most common omega-3, which you can read about here, while linoleic acid is the most common omega-6. We can get this through our diets from foods like fish, nuts, seeds, and oils.
But if you don’t get enough of those, your skin won’t do its job correctly.
Suppose you have a deficiency in your skin of this fatty acid deficiency. In that case, the condition often presents with visible skin conditions such as liking, dryness, eczema, irritation, and poor wound healing. (4)
Due to their skin-strengthening and restructuring properties, they are great for all skin types.
The levels of natural fatty acids in your skin decrease dramatically from thirty plus, so they are essential ingredients that you can incorporate into your skincare routine; this will help prepare and strengthen your barrier function before the levels start decreasing.
It’s important to note that the benefits of ingesting omega fatty acids—via a diet rich in healthy fats and supplementing—are recommended because good skin begins from the inside out.
Decoding Them on Your Skincare labels?
These ingredients come in several guises, so watch out for the following listed on your inci list.
The fatty acids’ structure makes them the perfect building block for your skin.
Fatty acids omega 3, 6 and 9 come up a lot.
Stearic acid: This ingredient is used as an emollient and thickener in skin creams; the fatty acid structure helps keep other ingredients stable.
Caprylic acid: Sourced from coconut oil, it is considered a great thickening agent.
Oleic acid is derived from vegetable and animal fats and works as a mild surfactant.
Myristic acid: This fatty acid comes from coconut oil, vegetable sources, and animal fat. This is a detergent cleansing agent that creates foam in a product; the downside with this ingredient is that it can be quite drying. You won’t find this in our formulas.
Palmitic acid: This is another ingredient used as a detergent cleansing agent – it too can also be quite drying on the skin. Another ingredient you won’t find in our formulas.
Lauric acid: This fatty acid essential emollient comes from laurel and coconut oil.
These are not ‘alcohols’ in the true sense of the word; what is meant by this term is that the fatty acids are exposed to hydrogen; a process that creates a slightly waxy texture.
In formulas, fatty alcohols are used as emollients and thickeners to improve your creams and lotions’ thickness.
The following Fatty Alcohols are commonly found in skincare products:
Cetyl Alcohol: Used as an emollient, emulsifier, thickener, and a carrying agent for other ingredients.
Lauryl Alcohol: Derived from coconut and palm oil, it is used as an emollient, spreading agent, and surfactant.
Stearyl Alcohol: Derived from stearic acid, it is used as an emollient to help keep other ingredients stable within a formulation.
Cetearyl Alcohol: A fatty alcohol mixture of cetyl and stearyl alcohols. It is used as an emollient, emulsifier, thickener, and carrying agent for other ingredients.
Oleyl alcohol comes from oleic acid and is fattier and greasier than other alcohols. This ingredient is ideal for dry skin emulsions or super fatted soaps.
Found in personal care products, they replenish fatty esters that deplete with age. They help to smooth the texture and act as a protecting agent. They are modified fatty substances often used as emollients and conditioning agents.
Esters are formed when an organic acid combines with alcohol. The great thing about esters is that they don’t feel as oily on the skin as other emollients and fatty ingredients.
A tip to spot fatty esters in your skincare products: see if they have the suffix ‘ate’ at the end of it.
Isopropyl Myristate: A unique synthetic emollient and thickener because it reduces the greasy skin feel caused by a high oil content in your formulas. It is a known comedogenic, and you won’t find it in our products.
Isopropyl palmitate: Used in cosmetics both as a thickening agent and emollient.
Glyceryl stearate: These fall under the family of glycerol esters. They are a vast group of ingredients with a mixture of fatty acids such as glycerides mixed with other non-volatile alcohols.
So how do you Incorporate Them into Your Skincare?
You can either use a product that incorporates fatty acids directly, like Bio lipid oil that adds omega fatty acids straight into the mix.
It is a rich yet fast-absorbing oil that contains omega-6, omega-9, and omega-3, giving you the full spectrum of options in one formula.
Or seek out products that contain plant-based oils that are rich in omega fatty acids.
Some of the most common to look out for are:
- safflower (omega-6)
- sunflower (omega-6 and -9)
- rosehip (omega-6 and -3)
- blackcurrant seed oil (omega-6)
Fatty acids are unique because they straddle the line between the health and beauty industry. Your skin will benefit whether you apply them topically or ingest them orally.
You can easily recognise that you have an essential fatty acid deficiency because your skin function is affected.
Your skin will be dry and dehydrated because a lack of these all-important fatty acids causes trans epidermal water loss (TEWL).
You will have a poor skin barrier, which usually shows formal sensitivity and even breakouts.
The topical application of oils with these fatty acids will help to improve both the hydration and barrier function of your skin.
In other words, fatty acids will help keep the outermost layer of your skin firm and healthy and prevent moisture from escaping while smoothing the surface of your skin.