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Get To Know Ferulic Acid: The Most Underrated Anti-Aging Skincare Ingredient

Ukrolenochka/Adobe Stock Images

While you may have seen ferulic acid grouped in with antioxidant skincare ingredients (like vitamin C and vitamin E), there’s a reason why this potent anti-aging powerhouse deserves its moment in the sun. Sure, there’s no shortage of acids in skincare, but when it comes to combating fine lines and wrinkles caused by the sun and pollution, nothing is more powerful than ferulic acid, which acts like a suit of armor against the elements responsible for aging our complexions and leaving us with dull skin.

It’s never too early or too late in your skincare journey to achieve glowing, healthy skin, and ferulic acid helps by working to slow down skin’s aging processes, which is why it’s one of the most underrated skincare heroes you could have on your beauty shelf. Read on to find out how it works and check out some of our favorite products to try if you want to add ferulic acid to your daily routine (and trust us, you will!).

About the Experts:

Dafna Gershoony, PA-C, is the skincare lead at Ject, a destination for specialized medical-grade treatments with locations in Bridgehampton, West Village, and the Upper East Side of Manhattan.
Ron Robinson is a cosmetic chemist and the founder of BeautyStat.

So, what is ferulic acid anyway?

Hydroxycinnamic acid (or ferulic acid, for short) is a natural antioxidant that belongs to the phenolic acid group found in the cell wall of oats, fruits, plants, and peanuts. “Ferulic acid is a phytochemical, (a chemical created by plants to protect them),” says Ron Robinson, cosmetic chemist and founder of BeautyStat. The antioxidant works to neutralize free radical damage that accelerates the aging process, caused by exposure to the sun’s harmful UV rays and pollution. “Just as it works as a free radical scavenger in plant cells, it does the same when applied to our skin,” says Robinson. That's why the powerful antioxidant is commonly found in face serums, (like vitamin c serums and ferulic acid serums), but we’ll get to that later.

The many benefits of ferulic acid for skin

Ferulic acid is a powerhouse that, when applied as a topical serum or cream, protects skin against external aggressors responsible for early signs of aging—but it’s not Benjamin Button in a bottle, so it won’t repair damage that’s already done. It can, however, decrease signs of premature aging like fine lines and wrinkles, all while brightening your complexion and reducing the appearance of dark spots (AKA hyperpigmentation).

Another benefit? Fighting free radical damage. Our skin is susceptible to free radicals every time we step outside, due to ultraviolet UVA and UVB rays. “Because ferulic acid is both an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant, it helps protect the skin from oxidative stress caused by UV damage and pollution,” says Dafna Gershoony, PA-C, skincare lead at Ject. “Free radical damage is when environmental aggressors break down the DNA of skin cells,” says Robinson. Once free radical damage begins, it ricochets like the domino effect, damaging skin cells in its destructive path. “This can lead to wrinkles, sagging, and hyperpigmentation,” says Robinson.

That’s where ferulic acid comes in to protect your skin. “Ferulic acid absorbs harmful UV rays and prevents pollutants from breaking down collagen in the skin,” says Gershoony. Not only is it a powerful tool in anti-aging skincare, but it can also minimize the appearance of discoloration. “Because it also partially inhibits pigment producing cells, ferulic acid can brighten/reduce the appearance of sun damage and blemishes,” says Gershoony.

It’s even more powerful when combined with other antioxidant-rich active ingredients, like “L-Ascorbic Acid (pure vitamin C) which helps stabilize the ferulic acid,” says Robinson. It also increases vitamin C’s photoprotection (which is its ability to minimize sun damage). When ferulic acid comes in contact with vitamin A, vitamin C, and vitamin E, it boosts their effectiveness, making them even more beneficial in your beauty regimen, which is why many vitamin C serums contain a formulation with a combination of these ingredients (like the cult-favorite Skinceuticals C E Ferulic).

Who should use ferulic acid? Practically everyone.

The beauty of ferulic acid is that the majority of skin types can benefit from incorporating it into their skincare routine and will benefit from protection against environmental stressors, like the sun and pollution. By protecting your complexion with ferulic acid, you’re helping to keep your skin healthy, and according to Gershoony, “Healthy skin cells keep us looking brighter and younger.”

Side effects

Although there aren’t any side effects to using ferulic acid, if you have sensitive skin, it’s best to do a patch test before using any skincare products that contain the antioxidant. “People with sensitive skin may experience redness and peeling,” says Gershoony. A patch test will also ensure you aren’t allergic. “Those allergic to this acid can have redness, itching or hives and should discontinue use immediately,” says Gershoony.

While ferulic acid works well with vitamin C and vitamin E, it shouldn’t be mixed with alpha hydroxy acids or beta hydroxy acids, (like glycolic acid or salicylic acid). “When mixing these, it will alter the pH of ferulic acid and therefore decrease its effectiveness,” says Gershoony.

In order to maximize the benefits of incorporating ferulic acid in your skincare routine, use it on a daily basis in the morning after cleansing your skin, and before you apply moisturizer and sunscreen. Applying it as the first step in your skincare routine will help ensure your skin soaks it all up.

Ferulic acid can also can increase the effectiveness of retinol (and other vitamin A derivatives) but since retinol and vitamin C should not be mixed, it’s best to reach for a skincare product that already contains a combination of ferulic acid and retinol if you plan to use it during your evening skincare routine. Pro tip: use vitamin C in the morning and retinol at night.

Products we love

Ready to stop the clock on the aging process? Try one of these Ipster-approved products that’s packed with the skincare hero. 

1. GOLDFADEN MD Brightening Elixir Protect + Repair Brightening Serum

This antioxidant serum improves skin tone and brightness, all while protecting your skin against ultraviolet rays.

2. DERMADELI Nourishing Eye Serum

You’ve heard of eye cream, but this eye serum is specifically formulated for the delicate skin around the eyes and does so much more to reduce fine lines and fade dark circles, thanks to a potent combination of niacinamide, hyaluronic acid, and ferulic acid. 

3. PÜR 4-in-1 Pressed Mineral Makeup Broad Spectrum SPF 15 in Light

This multitasking powder works as a foundation, concealer, and SPF all in one, streamlining your makeup routine, all while protecting your skin thanks to a unique blend of ferulic acid, shea butter, and ceramides. 

4. DERMADOCTOR Kakadu C Intensive Vitamin C Peel Pad with Ferulic Acid & Vitamin E

Has your skin been feeling dry and dull? With just one application you can peel your way to a brighter complexion and even out your skin tone thanks to a winning blend of vitamin C, vitamin E, and ferulic acid.

Want in on all the IPSY Glam Bag fun? Take our Beauty Quiz now to get started. Already an Ipster? Refer your friends to earn points, which you can use toward products. Either way, don’t forget to check us out on Instagram and Twitter @IPSY.

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About the author
Katrina Mitzeliotis Lanza
Katrina is a freelance writer and on-air correspondent with over a decade of experience covering beauty, fashion, and entertainment. When she isn't freelancing, you can catch her on QVC or chasing after her two-year-old son.
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Article Last Updated January 11, 2021 12:00 AM