How to use ferulic acid in skincare
Ferulic acid is a skincare ingredient which is often found in products which aim to protect the skin from environmental damage and premature ageing.
We speak to skin experts to find out what it does to the skin and how it should be used for maximum benefit.
What is ferulic acid?
Ferulic acid is naturally found in a variety of plants, including bran and bamboo, and it’s often used as an antioxidant in skincare products.
Unlike other acids such as glycolic and salicylic, ferulic acid doesn’t exfoliate the skin. Instead, it protects the skin from environmental damage and free radicals – unstable atoms which damage cells by causing oxidative stress, which leads to visible signs of ageing like wrinkles and age spots.
Aside from its powerful ability to protect the skin, ferulic acid can actually bolster the effect of other skincare ingredients by stabilising them and boosting their benefits, which is why ferulic acid can often be found alongside notoriously unstable vitamin C.
“Vitamin C is a common ingredient in many anti-ageing skincare products, but vitamin C isn’t very shelf-stable on its own. It degrades quickly, especially when exposed to sunlight.,” explains Rebecca Jones, trainer and ambassador for Noon Aesthetics.
“That’s why vitamin C serums usually come in opaque or amber-coloured bottles. Ferulic acid is thought to help stabilise vitamin C while also increasing its photoprotection [ability to minimise sun damage].
“A 2005 study suggested that ferulic acid has the potential to offer twice the amount of photoprotection when combined with vitamins E and C. The study’s authors also note that such antioxidant combinations could reduce someone’s risk of future photoaging and, possibly, skin cancer.”
What can ferulic acid help with?
Due to its ability to protect against free radicals, ferulic acid is a great ingredient for tackling skin concerns like fine lines, sagging skin and brown spots.
It can also even skin tone by preventing blood vessel formation in the skin [a common cause of redness] and reducing melasma-related pigmentation by protecting the skin from photodamage. Jones says that ferulic acid “also protects collagen proteins to which can be beneficial to prevent scarring in a more problematic skin”.
“Some studies have also suggested that ferulic acid may have anti-inflammatory properties, which could be beneficial for people with inflammatory skin conditions such as acne and rosacea,” adds Kelly Saynor, clinical lead and director at Medica Forte (distributors of The Perfect Peel).
What ingredients can you use with ferulic acid?
As mentioned, ferulic acid can boost the effects of other ingredients, so it’s often found in combinations – “Ferulic acid pairs very well with L-ascorbic acid, vitamin E and resveratrol,” Jones says.
However, combining ferulic acid with other skincare acids might not be a good idea. Saynor comments, “If using a number of products, be careful of layering potent acids.” The combination of acids might deactivate ferulic acid, rendering it useless, or irritate the skin by overprocessing it.
How should you use ferulic acid?
Since ferulic acid is a stable ingredient with plenty of benefits for the skin, it can be found in both at-home products and in-salon professional treatments.
“Many clients should consider this as a homecare ingredient to be used within their skincare regime,” says Jon-Paul Hoy, lead educator at Lesielle UK.
“It can really impact the appearance of the skin and create a vibrantly healthy look.”
Ferulic acid can often be found in serums and moisturisers, both easy-to-use products for clients to introduce to their routines.
“Using a ferulic acid-containing skincare mask is a really good way to have ferulic linger on your skin and start doing its job,” adds Saynor.
“If you don't use a mask, then incorporating it in various creams and serums will ensure you start to fight those free radicals more effectively.”
As with any new product used on the skin, a patch test and gradual introduction may be advisable for some clients. Hoy says, “When considering ferulic acid, a person with more reactive or pink skin may need to slowly introduce this into their routine, which will allow the skin to acclimate to the application of the active ingredient.”
There are other opportunities for clients to reap the benefits of ferulic acid: “You can also boost your ferulic intake by incorporating into your diet,” explains Saynor.
“It’s found naturally in foods such as oats, rice and apples. Adding these foods into your diet may help to boost your skin's natural antioxidant defences; gut health is where good skin starts.”
In salons and clinics, ferulic acid can be used to support a variety of treatments. Jones says that it’s “particularly good when used with vitamin C in treatments for pigmentation and anti-ageing, such as IPL, laser and radiofrequency”.
Ferulic acid is also found in many skincare peels. Saynor explains, “In a clinic or salon, you are most likely to find that ferulic acid tends to work most effectively when applied topically via a serum or a peel.
“It's important when using peels and ferulic acid to apply a skin restorative barrier to really control transepidermal water loss. By replacing the skin barrier, you will ensure ferulic works deep within the dermis.”
Who shouldn’t use ferulic acid?
While ferulic acid is safe for most skin types, as with any skincare ingredient there is still the possibility that clients may have an allergy.
“This is due to the ingredient it’s derived from,” explains Jones. “For example, if you have an allergy to bran, then you might be sensitive to ferulic acid derived from this plant source.
“You should stop using any product containing ferulic acid if you develop redness, rash, hives, itchiness or skin peeling.”
“It is always a good idea to patch test a new product on a small area of skin before using it all over your face, especially if you have sensitive skin or are prone to allergies,” adds Saynor.
“If you experience any irritation or other adverse reactions after using a product containing ferulic acid, stop using it immediately and consult a dermatologist or other medical professional.”
Pregnant and breastfeeding clients may also want to consult a medical professional before using ferulic acid, as Saynor says that “there is not enough information available to determine whether ferulic acid is safe to use during pregnancy or while breastfeeding.”