Ferulic acid is an antioxidant compound in plant cells. Manufacturers add it to certain skin care products to help reduce inflammation and signs of aging and even the skin’s tone.

Experts generally consider ferulic acid to be a safe skin care ingredient. However, people with sensitivities or skin conditions should test any product that contains it on a small area before applying it more widely.

This article describes what ferulic acid is and outlines some potential benefits. It then lists some skin care products that may contain the acid and considers its side effects and interactions.

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Ferulic acid is an organic compound derived from plant cells. It belongs to a group of chemicals called hydroxycinnamic acids.

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

This acid acts as an antioxidant in foods.

Some skin care manufacturers incorporate ferulic acid as an active ingredient in products such as serums and creams. It started out as a stabilizer for products containing the antioxidant vitamins C and E.

However, scientists have since discovered that ferulic acid is a powerful antioxidant in its own right and that it boosts antioxidant properties of other skin care 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.

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

Repairing and protecting damaged skin cells

Ferulic acid may help neutralize atoms called free radicals that break down the body’s cells and contribute to aging.

A 2018 review found that the compound acts as a “free radical scavenger,” seeking out these atoms and neutralizing 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 photoaging, the medical term for sun-induced skin damage.

A 2018 study found that adding ferulic acid to sunscreens can raise their SPF and may prevent inflammatory skin reactions.

Reducing skin inflammation

The 2018 review found that ferulic acid may be an effective anti-inflammatory.

As such, it may calm inflammation and contribute to treating these skin conditions:

Boosting the effects of other skin care ingredients and procedures

Ferulic acid can increase the effectiveness of other skin care ingredients, such as the antioxidant vitamins C and E.

It may also increase the effectiveness of microneedling, a cosmetic procedure that involves injecting tiny, sterilized 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 photoaging. It found 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

Hyperpigmentation refers to certain areas of skin being darker than surrounding areas. It stems from an overproduction of the pigment melanin.

Types of hyperpigmentation include:

Ferulic acid may inhibit the production of enzymes that contribute to melanin creation. This may brighten the skin.

Ferulic acid is an active ingredient in many skin care 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: A person applies this after cleansing and before moisturizing during the day. Some day serums and creams also contain vitamins C or E, retinol, or resveratrol. An effective product might contain around 3% 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. To avoid tugging the delicate skin around the eyes, a person can use their ring finger to gently press the product into the skin.
  • Sunscreens: A sunscreen with ferulic acid may help protect the skin more effectively than one without it. Experts recommend using a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 every day.
  • 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. A person should carefully follow the instructions on the packaging.

Experts generally consider ferulic acid safe. But always test a new skin care product on a small area before applying it more liberally. This is particularly important for people with sensitive skin or inflammatory conditions such as acne or eczema.

People who are allergic to foods containing ferulic acid should also perform a patch test to check for any skin reaction to the ingredient. This reaction often involves an itchy rash. Anyone who has a reaction should consult a healthcare professional, as a sensitivity can become more severe over time.

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.

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

Ferulic acid is a natural compound in plant cells. Its antioxidant properties may help fight the effects of free radicals, even the skin’s tone, and reduce signs of aging.

Experts generally consider ferulic acid to be safe. However, a person should test any new skin care product on a small area and check for signs of irritation before applying it more widely. This is especially important for people with sensitive skin, any skin condition, or any allergy to a food that contains ferulic acid.