If you are using skincare serums one ingredient that may pop up is ferulic acid. While ingredients such as the various forms of vitamin C, Vitamin A (Bakuchiol and Retinol) and other vitamins used in serums and skincare creams are regularly profiled, ferulic acid has relatively limited information, so we have decided to profile this ingredient.

WHAT IS FERULIC ACID?

Ferulic acid is an organic, plant-derived antioxidant that belongs to a group of chemicals called hydroxycinnamic acids. Manufacturers add it to certain skincare products to help reduce inflammation and signs of ageing and even the skin’s tone. Experts generally consider ferulic acid to be a safe skincare ingredient, however, people with sensitivities or skin conditions should test any product that contains it on a small area before applying it more widely. 

Ferulic acid is present in the cell walls of various plants, including:

Apples, artichokes, cereal grains, coffee, grapes, parsley, peanuts, rhubarb, spinach and tomatoes.  This acid acts as an antioxidant in foods.

In skincare, it was introduced as a stabiliser for products containing the antioxidant vitamins C and E. However, scientists have since discovered that ferulic acid is a powerful antioxidant and that it also boosts the antioxidant properties of other skincare ingredients.

Ferulic acid is also available as a sports supplement because it helps alleviate muscle fatigue. Researchers continue to investigate whether it has other health benefits.

What does it do for the skin?

Ferulic acid may benefit the skin in various ways, including:

  • Repairing and protecting damaged skin cells

 A 2018 review found that the compound acts as a “free radical scavenger,” seeking out these atoms and neutralising their damaging effects. The same review also found that ferulic acid can inhibit the creation of enzymes that speed up the generation of free radicals. This helps protect skin cells from further damage.

  • Protecting the skin from harmful UV rays

Ferulic acid may help reduce photo-ageing – sun-induced skin damage.

Another study found that adding ferulic acid to sunscreens can raise their SPF and may prevent inflammatory skin reactions. Therefore, combined with vitamins C and E it provides additional support against skin ageing when also supported with sunscreen.

  • Reducing skin inflammation

The 2018 review also found that ferulic acid may be an effective anti-inflammatory.  As such, it may calm inflammation and contribute to treating these skin conditions such as acne, hyperpigmentation, and seborrheic dermatitis.

  • Boosting the effects of other skincare ingredients and procedures

Ferulic acid has also been found to increase the effectiveness of other skincare ingredients and vitamins. It may also increase the effectiveness of microneedling, where the procedure involves injecting tiny, sterilised needles into the skin to stimulate collagen and elastin production. Collagen and elastin are proteins that help maintain the integrity of the skin. A 2020 study investigated the effectiveness of ferulic acid and microneedling as a treatment for photo-ageing. It discovered that a ferulic acid skin peel followed by microneedling led to significant improvements in skin elasticity, compared to the ferulic acid treatment alone.

  • Evening and brightening skin tone

Ferulic acid was also found to inhibit the production of enzymes that contribute to melanin creation and various types of hyperpigmentation including sunspots, melasma and hyperpigmentation acne.  As such, ferulic acid can also be used to assist in brightening the skin and inhibit hyperpigmentation.

Ferulic acid is an active ingredient in many skincare products. It is also available as a powder, for people who make their own products, and as an oral supplement.

Some products that may contain ferulic acid include:

  • Day serums or creams: Some, serums and creams for daytime use, also contain vitamins C or E, retinol, or resveratrol. An effective product might contain up to 3 per cent ferulic acid.
  • Night serums or creams: Some night serums and creams combine ferulic acid with other active ingredients, such as retinol.
  • Eye creams: These are usually a lighter version of the creams described above.
  • Sunscreens: A sunscreen with ferulic acid may help protect the skin more effectively from sun damage than one without it.
  • Brightening products: Ferulic acid can help reduce hyperpigmentation and even the skin’s tone. These products are available as creams, serums, exfoliant liquids, and scrubs. However, as some skin types may be sensitive to ferulic acid, it is important to carefully follow the instructions on the packaging.

SIDE EFFECTS AND PRECAUTIONS

Studies have reported that ferulic acid is relatively safe for skincare use, however sensitive skins or inflammatory conditions such as acne and eczema should always patch tested before use.

Special attention should also be considered who are allergic to foods containing ferulic acid and tested prior to its use for potential reactions.  

Ferulic acid is very low in toxicity, but it is still unclear how much is safe. People should only use skin care products from established brands that rigorously test their products.

A 2020 study into the effect of ferulic acid supplements found that there were too little data to confirm their safety. The researchers noted that supplements with high concentrations of ferulic acid could be toxic.

Precautions:  Ferulic acid is very sensitive to oxidation, so it is important that it comes in a dark, airtight bottle to protect its integrity and its antioxidant activity.

What about pregnancy?

Generally, ferulic acid isn’t considered to be safe for pregnancy or breastfeeding. This is because it is considered to be a powerful ingredient. Along with peels and retinol, ferulic acid usually gets put on hold while you grow a baby.

At the time of writing, there appears to be no evidence of a harmful interaction between ferulic acid and other skincare ingredients.

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