What is Linoleic Acid?
Linoleic acid is a polyunsaturated fatty acid that is required for our good health and is involved in healthy hair, skin and wound healing processes. Linoleic acid is literally essential to our health and is known as an essential fatty acid, which means that we must eat foods with it in order to have optimal health as we cannot produce it ourselves. Many people will know it by the more common name, Omega 6 fatty acid. It has a lipid number C18:2 which means that it has an 18 carbon chain and two double bonds. The implication of these two double bonds is that linoleic acid can go rancid more easily than other fatty acids with just one or no double bonds. That means that it will have a shorter shelf life than other fatty acids such as stearic acid or lauric acid.
How does Linoleic Acid Help Our Skin?
Linoleic acid is a wonderful addition to any skin care product because it is so essential to healthy skin. It is critical in the development and maintenance of a healthy skin barrier. The skin barrier function is a multitasked process that involves providing a first line of defense of the body to keep harmful chemicals out of our systems and keep in moisture and essential nutrients. These harmful elements can include toxins, germs, dirt, pathogens, bacteria and viruses. Anything foreign that makes its way into the body must be dealt with by the immune system, so the more that is kept outside the body, the more the immune system is freed up to tackle invading objects. In addition to keeping foreign bodies out, the skin barrier function must keep moisture and nutrients in. Moisture is a critical component in skin health and without it our skin quickly becomes dry and cracked. Dry and cracked skin is not only itchy and bothersome, it is also unable to protect us and keep out foreign intruders. A deficiency in linoleic acid can quickly lead to dry skin and poor wound healing.
Studies have shown that linoleic acid’s function in our skin can go beyond just helping to provide a healthy skin barrier. It is also can act as an acne reducer and anti-inflammatory. Studies found that people with acne and dermatitis have reduced levels of linoleic acid in their skin. The topical application of linoleic acid can therefore reduce acne as well as reduce scaling on the skin. Atopic dermatitis, a type of eczema, is characterized by red, inflamed, itchy and often scaly skin. It is a very uncomfortable and unsightly condition that plagues its victims. The ability of linoleic acid to act as both an anti-inflammatory and scale reducer holds great promise in the fight against eczema and dermatitis.
What Oils are High in Linoleic Acid?
The word linon in Greek means flax, although ironically flax seeds are more associated with another essential fatty acid, Omega 3 fatty acids. Luckily there a wide range of delicious nuts, seeds and oils which are high in linoleic acid. We can either put the oils on our skin or ingest the foods to reap the benefits of linoleic acid for our skin.
Some of the foods high in linoleic acid include:
- Safflower oil (78%) Has a shelf life of about 6 months
- Grapeseed oil (71%) Has a shelf life of about 3-6 months
- Evening primrose oil (70%) Has a shelf life of about 6 months
- Sunflower oil ( 67%) Has a shelf life of about 6 months
- Hempseed oil (57%) Has a shelf life of about 3-6 months
- Pumpkin seed oil (57%) Has a shelf life of about 6-12 months
- Soybean oil (53%) Has a shelf life of about 9 months
- Sesame oil (46%) Has a shelf life of about 9-12 months
There are of course many more sources of linoleic acid including not just other nuts and oils but also egg yolks, chicken fat, butter and lard.