The Truth About Ferulic Acid

Ferulic acid has been on my radar for years. It is a wonderful antioxidant that selflessly makes others more potent. It interests me so much that I was sure to add it to the Truth Vitality shampoo and conditioner. But truth be told, ferulic acid is an uncommon ingredient. One of the few lines to seem as excited by it as I am is Dr. Dennis Gross (you’ll be hearing more from me on this brand in the coming weeks). So I asked myself, why is ferulic acid such an unsung hero? It’s time to tell the truth about ferulic acid.

What is ferulic acid?

Ferulic acid is found in the cell walls of plants such as wheat, rice, peanuts, oranges and apples. It seems to be particularly abundant in coffee and amaranth (the name comes from the Greek word for "the one that does not wither," presumably as a result of all the ferulic acid). It is an antioxidant that can seek and destroy several different types of free radicals—‘superoxide’, ‘hydroxyl radical’, and ‘nitric oxide’—according to a 2002 Japanese study.

What are its powers?

A 2004 Italian study concluded that ferulic acid is a more powerful antioxidant than alpha-tocopherol (vitamin E), beta-carotene, and ascorbic acid (vitamic C). Ferulic acid has also been established as a free radical scavenger (source).

Meanwhile, Duke University researchers blended it with 15% vitamin C and 1% vitamin E and proclaimed it a "potent ubiquitous plant anti-oxidant." In fact, it was discovered to act synergistically with other antioxidants and, in this case, rendered the vitamins C and E more powerful.

But what was most exciting was that ferulic acid was found to be a sunscreen. The Duke Study found it particularly good for preventing sun damage, and studies elsewhere have demonstrated that exposure to ultraviolet light actually increases the antioxidant power of ferulic acid.

What’s the truth about CE Ferulic by Skinceuticals?

One of the doctors on the Duke Study was originally behind Skinceuticals, now owned by L’Oreal. The flagship serum Skinceuticals CE Ferulic ($142) was a bestseller until a copy cat came along called Cosmetic Skin Solutions at a mere cost of $39.95 (read more on these product twins). My personal theory is that L’Oreal’s attempts to protect itself from such flagrant plagiarism made other brands nervous about including ferulic acid in their formulas, especially if any vitamins were involved as well.

Where can I find ferulic acid?

Ferulic acid is beginning to show up more often. We added it to Truth In Aging True Volume Shampoo ($29 in the shop) where its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory powers aid healthy hair growth.

Since researchers have established vitamin C’s affinity with ferulic acid, I’m pleased to have discovered two products that feature it both in simple and powerful formulas. Skinfinite Advanced C20+ Serum ($65 in the shop) has 20% vitamin C, hyaluronic acid and phloretin, and is a great serum for evening out skin tone. Mad Hippie Vitamin C Serum ($29.99 in the shop) has a stable form of vitamin C and hyaluronic acid.

Your Best Face included ferulic acid in its Prep Microdermabrasion face mask and scrub ($80 in the shop). This skin brightener is packed with antioxidants and vitamins.

Argan oil is a rich source of ferulic acid and here are some of my favorite formulations: Trinite Organiques Forgiving Serum ($40), Amarte Hydrolift Cream ($70) and Tilvee Argan & Sea Buckthorn Age Defying Crème ($35).

One of the few lines to really embrace ferulic acid is Dr. Dennis Gross. His intelligent and unusual formulas combine ferulic with vitamin D in Active Vitamin D Serum Oil ($65) and a buffered retinol in Ferulic Acid and Retinol Brightening Solution ($85).