As a skin-care writer, I rarely hear about vitamin F — which technically isn't a vitamin at all, it turns out. But just because it's lesser-known doesn't mean it's not a powerhouse ingredient, and if there's one skin-care brand that can put it on the map, Drunk Elephant is it. The beloved line, recently sold to Shiseido, is launching another high-performing skin-care product just in time for winter (aka parched-skin season). And just as you'd expect from the brand, it's got a cheeky name: F-Balm, which refers to vitamin F in the formula.
As I mentioned, vitamin F is not really a vitamin, like vitamin C or B. In the skin-care world, it actually refers to two essential fatty acids, linolenic and lenoleic acid, with the "F" literally standing for fat or fatty. Both of these acids are essential to the body for various reasons, "but the body cannot create them and relies on us to provide them via food or topically," explains cosmetic chemist Ni’Kita Wilson, who is not affiliated with Drunk Elephant. "In skin care, vitamin F is used for a nourishing and repairing effect to improve the condition of the skin. You'll likely find vitamin F in products that address dry to severely dry skin and scalp."
Board-certified dermatologist Dhaval Bhanusali, also unaffiliated with the brand, agrees with Wilson, explaining that both acids "help maintain the integrity of your superficial skin layers" by "maintaining healthy, plump skin." And that is exactly what F-Balm promises, courtesy of tiny beads of vitamin F that are said to explode during application to quench parched skin.
The idea for the F-Balm — full name: F-Balm Electrolyte Waterfacial — came about as a sort of sister, albeit oppositely intended, mask to the brand's fan-favorite T.L.C. Sukari Babyfacial. "We definitely had room in our line for a mask that focused on hydration, moisture, and repair, and customers were beginning to ask for one," explains Drunk Elephant founder Tiffany Masterson, who says it took her and team 12 different versions to nail the final formula. "I wanted to develop a hardworking, intensive repair treatment for when skin is extra-parched, stressed, or just needs a little extra love. F-Balm is a much more concentrated mix of reparative ingredients that is specifically designed to layer on as a last step."
Aside from vitamin F, the rest of the ingredients in F-Balm read like a laundry list of the most hydrating, restorative, and all-around good-for-your-skin names to know: niacinamide, squalane, ceramides (five forms of them, in fact), omega fatty acids, prickly pear extract, antioxidants, and sodium PCA. That last ingredient, sodium PCA, is another one you may not have heard of that boasts some serious benefits. "[It] functions to hold and maintain hydration levels in the skin," Bhanusali says.
"The combination of the ceramides with the vitamin F really reinforces the lipid barrier of the skin to help hold onto moisture and improve the overall appearance of the skin," Wilson explains. The short-term benefits, per Masterson, include soothed and immediately hydrated skin; when used longer-term, the ingredients build on themselves, and the promised result is plump, deeply hydrated skin with its barrier strong and intact.
This may come as no surprise, but just like many other Drunk Elephant launches, in my opinion, this one also lives up to its promises — and it could very well be my favorite Drunk Elephant moisturizing product yet. I was fortunate enough to be able to test it out for an entire week, during which I applied the mask as directed as the very last step in my nighttime skin-care routine. The directions say to apply four or five pumps, but that seemed like quite a lot for me, so I went with about three, which I spread evenly over my face and neck. The formula feels cooling and luxuriously hydrating when it goes on. I woke up with a soft, supple complexion and a nice, dewy glow. I tried it every night for a consecutive six nights in a row, and I liked it more each time I swiped it on.
Similarly to other Drunk Elephant products, the scent is barely there at all, and the formula somehow feels neither heavy nor greasy, yet it manages to moisturize on what feels like a very deep level. I love to layer products, especially before heading to bed, but one thing I usually experience with these final-step, super-moisturizing products is pilling. And is there anything worse than going diligently through a multi-step routine only to find that your carefully curated lineup of products has not, as it should've, soaked evenly into your skin and instead has pilled up into tiny ball-like clumps that won't go away? Fortunately, with F-Balm, I experienced nothing of the sort — even after layering it on top of my toner, essence, serum, and regular moisturizer.
My only complaint: Since the product is in pump form, it's not the easiest to travel with. I happened to be testing this out during a period of traveling, so I needed to classily put some duct tape over the pump to prevent it from squirting out mid-flight. But that's a small price to pay for dewy, hydrated skin.
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Now, more skin-care launches to check out:
- The Best New K-Beauty Skin Care and Makeup Coming in November
- Victoria Beckham Collaborates With Augustinus Bader to Launch Her First Skin-Care Product
- Sand & Sky’s New Serum and a Face Mask Had a 10,000-Person Wait List
Done reading? Now, watch a video on the history of face masks:
Originally Appeared on Allure