You might have come across skincare products, mainly anti-aging ones, with some hotshot acid accompanied by ferulic acid on the side. Because ferulic acid is an amazing antioxidant that prevents damage to the skin caused by oxidative stress. But skincare products that contain ferulic acid as the main active ingredient are hard to come by.
If active ingredients were in a movie, ferulic acid wouldn’t make it as the star. If it’s such a big deal, why does ferulic acid never get to have its own moment? Why is ferulic acid always the sidekick and never the lead? We’ve found out! Below is an in-depth guide on ferulic acid, how it works, and its many benefits for the skin.
What is Ferulic Acid?
Ferulic acid is a natural antioxidant found in the cell walls of several plants and fruits such as rice, oat, wheat, apple, and orange.
And it belongs to a large group of plant-derived compounds called polyphenols under the sub-group of cinnamic acid derivatives (1).
As an antioxidant, ferulic acid neutralizes free radicals and prevents oxidative damage to the skin (2). It also doubles the effects of other antioxidants (3). In sum, ferulic acid is both an antioxidant and an antioxidant-booster.
How Does Ferulic Acid Work in Skincare?
Some antioxidants work by reversing skin damage. And some work by preventing them. Ferulic acid is more about prevention.
Ferulic acid prevents the formation of free radicals, which end up damaging your skin’s integrity. By interfering in the process, ferulic acid stops a cascade of events that end up hurting your skin’s texture and tone.
Additionally, you must have heard that ingredients like vitamin C or retinol are unstable. It means that your products go bad easily or become useless when they’re exposed to air or light.
As an antioxidant booster, ferulic acid is an exceptional wingman. It stabilizes other antioxidants. In fact, ferulic acid provides 90% stability for vitamin C and 100% for vitamin E (4).
What Are The Benefits of Ferulic Acid For Skin?
1. It protects the skin.
As an antioxidant, ferulic acid not only neutralizes free radicals but also prevents their formation. Free radicals form when your skin’s exposed to UV irradiation, pollution, or blue light.
They start a whole cycle of events, which results in damage to your healthy collagen, elastin, and the integrity of your skin. Ferulic acid stops this cycle and prevents premature signs of aging like fine lines and wrinkles.
2. It boosts other antioxidants.
Ferulic acid stabilizes other antioxidants like vitamin C and E. As you might have heard, ascorbic acid, aka vitamin C, is a handful. When it’s not stable in your products, it won’t give you any benefit.
But ferulic acid stabilizes vitamin C and makes it work better and last longer. That way, ferulic acid helps you get the most of your products by enhancing the benefits.
3. It brightens the skin.
The brightening effects of ferulic acid are due to its antioxidant capacity. Because free radicals can trigger excess melanin production. This will give you unwanted hyperpigmentation and dark spots all over the skin.
By preventing the formation of free radicals, ferulic acid prevents and reduces dark spots as well, which results in a brighter and more even skin tone.
What Are Some Side Effects of Ferulic Acid?
Ferulic acid has no known side effects on your skin. But here’s the thing. There’s an irony attached to this antioxidant. Ferulic acid is difficult to stabilize in skin care formulations.
And it easily oxidizes, meaning that it’ll lose potency and efficiency when exposed to air or light. That’s why we don’t see a lot of pure, isolated ferulic acid products. Ferulic acid usually comes in serums that contain other antioxidants.
To continue with the movie analogy, ferulic acid is usually the best friend and rarely the lead. Think of vitamin C as the lead and ferulic acid as the supporting role. Supporting roles serve two main purposes in movies; give the lead a sense of security and support and give her a perspective.
Similarly, ferulic acid supports and stabilizes vitamin C and pushes it to be the best version of itself. Also, ferulic acid gives vitamin C a perspective -a clear direction to do what it’s supposed to do.
In summary, even though ferulic acid is a safe, potent antioxidant, it’s still too unstable to make it as a standalone active ingredient in products.
How To Use Ferulic Acid?
Depending on your choice of product, you can use ferulic acid twice daily in the form of a daily moisturizer or once/twice daily in the form of a face serum.
Apply your product on your dry, clean face. As active ingredients absorb better when your skin is damp/wet, they can irritate your skin more.
Can You Use Ferulic Acid Together With Other Active Ingredients?
As we’ve established, pure ferulic acid products are pretty much non-existent. If you’re interested in ferulic acid, you’ll end up buying an antioxidant serum, probably a vitamin C serum.
So it’s more important to pay attention to other ingredients in your product. For example, if you’re using a vitamin C serum that has ferulic acid, avoid using any ingredients you’d normally avoid when using vitamin C.
So to get the most out of your products, avoid using your ferulic acid serum or cream together with other actives like retinoids or exfoliants.
Ferulic acid works both on neutral and acidic pH. However, combining it with other potent actives with different products will make it difficult to observe your results and may even cause irritation.
So this is how ferulic acid works in skincare and how it benefits your skin. You might be disappointed that you won’t see this ingredient alone in your products.
But know that antioxidants, in general, become more effective when combined with other antioxidants. So just like the relationship between the lead and the under-appreciated best friend in movies, ferulic acid’s got your back. And it’s the ferulic to your ascorbic.
If you’re ready to give ferulic acid a try and browse some products, check out our round-up of the best ferulic acid serums for major antioxidant benefits.
- Zduńska, K., Dana, A., Kolodziejczak, A., & Rotsztejn, H. (2018). Antioxidant Properties of Ferulic Acid and Its Possible Application. Skin pharmacology and physiology, 31(6), 332–336. https://doi.org/10.1159/000491755
- Soto, M.L.; Falqué, E.; Domínguez, H. Relevance of Natural Phenolics from Grape and Derivative Products in the Formulation of Cosmetics. Cosmetics 2015, 2, 259-276. https://doi.org/10.3390/cosmetics2030259
- Murray, J. C., Burch, J. A., Streilein, R. D., Iannacchione, M. A., Hall, R. P., & Pinnell, S. R. (2008). A topical antioxidant solution containing vitamins C and E stabilized by ferulic acid provides protection for human skin against damage caused by ultraviolet irradiation. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, 59(3), 418–425. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jaad.2008.05.004
- Lin, F. H., Lin, J. Y., Gupta, R. D., Tournas, J. A., Burch, J. A., Selim, M. A., Monteiro-Riviere, N. A., Grichnik, J. M., Zielinski, J., & Pinnell, S. R. (2005). Ferulic acid stabilizes a solution of vitamins C and E and doubles its photoprotection of skin. The Journal of investigative dermatology, 125(4), 826–832. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.0022-202X.2005.23768.x
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