What Is Linoleic Acid? Here’s What You Should Know About the Skincare Ingredient

April 13, 2023
Jordan Julian
By: Jordan Julian | skincare.com by L'Oréal
Close-up of a person's face with cream swatched on their cheek

If you consider yourself a beauty enthusiast and you like to stay on top of popular skincare ingredients, you may have noticed linoleic acid popping up as an ingredient in skincare products recently. Often used in serums and oils, linoleic acid is a trending skincare ingredient we’re expecting to see more of this year. But what is it and what exactly does it do? We tapped board-certified dermatologists and Skincare.com consultants Dr. Melanie Palm and Dr. Ramya Garlapati to fill us in on the uses and benefits of linoleic acid. 

What Is Linoleic Acid?

According to Dr. Garlapati, “linoleic acid is a fatty acid that is a natural part of the skin’s lipid barrier and is essential in maintaining the skin barrier function.” It is found in many plant-based oils, “like grapeseed, argan, pumpkin seed and hemp oils, and it can also be found in your skin, specifically in sebum,” says Dr. Palm. You may have noticed some of these plant-based oils on the ingredient lists of your beauty products — that means you may already be using linoleic acid in your skincare routine. 

“Linoleic acid comes formulated in serums, creams and oils,” says Dr. Garlapati. “You can incorporate it into your skincare routine to provide moisturization.”   

What Is Linoleic Acid’s Role in the Skin?

The main function of linoleic acid in skincare is to support the skin’s natural moisture barrier. Like the name suggests, your skin’s moisture barrier is a barrier to water loss, so it locks in hydration, as detailed in an article from The Cleveland Clinic.

As described in a study in the National Library of Medicine, linoleic acid “has a direct role in maintaining the integrity of the water permeability barrier of the skin.”

“This helps to prevent transepidermal water loss and maintain hydration within the skin,” explains Dr. Garlapati. In addition to keeping water in, a strong barrier also protects against external aggressors. 

What Does Linoleic Acid Do in Skincare?

“Linoleic acid has impressive emollient properties, which means it’s helpful in boosting hydration and promoting a healthy skin barrier, which is critical for optimal skin health,” says Dr. Palm. “Because it prevents transepidermal water loss, applying linoleic acid to your skin can help achieve a plumper and more dewy appearance.”


While linoleic acid is a fairly gentle ingredient that can be incorporated into your skincare routine via serums or creams, it is a good idea to patch test first and always consult with a board-certified dermatologist before trying something new. 


Photo: Chaunte Vaughn

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