The Under-The-Radar Ingredient You Need For Brighter, Healthier Skin

The environment has a lot to answer for when it comes to our skin. Thanks to elements such as pollution and UV rays, you might notice dullness, hyperpigmentation, fine lines, and other changes in appearance over time. Antioxidants can help combat all of that. You've heard of vitamins C and E, both of which work to shield skin from external factors, but there's another underrated free radical-fight worth knowing: ferulic acid.
Ferulic acid isn't new, and with brands like SkinCeuticals and The Ordinary incorporating it into some of their most famous formulas, it's probably already on your radar. And yet it's still something of an unsung hero — not least because it has the power to make your go-to skin-care products work even harder. So how exactly should you use ferulic acid in your routine, and is it right for you? Here's everything you need to know about the little ingredient doing big things in skin care.
What is ferulic acid in skin care?
"Ferulic acid is a plant-based antioxidant found in the cells of rice, oats, apples, and oranges," says Dr. Parisha Acharya, skin expert and aesthetic doctor at Waterhouse Young Clinic. "It protects against oxidative stress, a disturbance that occurs in the skin, by neutralizing free radicals," which is essentially pollution and UV rays that fill the environment. Ferulic acid is usually found in skin-care serums, which are a little more potent than moisturizers and tend to penetrate the skin better.
What does ferulic acid do for skin?
The main benefit of ferulic acid is its antioxidant properties, says Dr. Acharya. "It helps protect from environmental stressors that cause skin aging," she explains. "It works to reduce the signs of aging, such as fine lines and pigmentation, but it also improves firmness and illuminates the skin, helping to even out skin tone."
How should you use ferulic acid in skin care?
Like vitamin C and sunscreen, Dr. Acharya recommends using ferulic acid daily in the morning, as daytime is when you're more likely to come into contact with environmental aggressors. When exactly should it factor in? "Cleanse and tone as usual, then use your product containing ferulic acid and finish off with your SPF," says Dr. Acharya.
Skin expert and facialist Lisa Harris seconds that. "Ferulic acid works very well under SPF as it increases protection against UVA and UVB rays," she says. "I always advise my clients to apply an antioxidant serum, especially in hot sunny climates, as this will protect the skin of damage."
Dr. Acharya suggests investing in a ferulic acid serum in particular, as opposed to other preparations, but mentions it should be stored in a dark cupboard away from heat and moisture to prolong the potency. "To fully benefit from ferulic acid, I would recommend using a product that contains ferulic acid alongside other antioxidants such as vitamin C, E, and resveratrol," she adds.
Vitamin C is the most popular mixer, and ferulic acid works particularly well with it for a reason. "Vitamin C isn't very shelf-stable on its own and degrades quickly, especially when exposed to sunlight," says Harris. Ferulic acid actually helps stabilize vitamin C, prolonging your product. "It also improves the way it is absorbed into the skin and makes your vitamin C last longer on the skin," adds Dr. Acharya. In other words, ferulic acid and vitamin C are the dream team for glowing skin.
What are the best ferulic acid skin-care products?
Dr. Acharya recommends the cult-favorite SkinCeuticals CE Ferulic, which combines vitamin C, E, and ferulic acid for bolstered protection against the environment. Team that with a high-factor SPF, and you're good to go in the morning.
If that's a little out of your budget, The Ordinary Resveratrol 3% + Ferulic Acid 3% brings together antioxidant resveratrol, which is found in grapes, and ferulic acid. The texture is slightly heavier than your typical serum, but it absorbs well, hydrates, and sits perfectly under sunscreen and makeup.
Are there any side effects of ferulic acid?
Harris warns that some forms of ferulic acid are derived from oats, so if you're allergic to them, you could be sensitive to this particular source. "You should stop using any product containing ferulic acid if you develop any redness, rash, hives, itchiness, or skin peeling," she says.
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