But there's actually a third one that you need to know about — and that's ferulic acid.
Ferulic acid is a mighty skincare ingredient that comes with all kinds of benefits, from helping your skincare products penetrate deeper to preventing dullness, acne, dark spots, fine lines and wrinkles. Let us introduce you to this powerful ingredient and reveal everything it can do for your skin.
What is ferulic acid?
Ferulic acid is a type of antioxidant that belongs to a group of chemical compounds called hydroxycinnamic acids, known for being some of the most important antioxidants for our health.
It's naturally found in the walls of plant cells and our bodies obtain it from a variety of plant-based dietary sources such as apples, grapes, parsley, spinach, tomatoes, and many types of whole grains.
How does ferulic acid work?
As an antioxidant, ferulic acid protects your cells from free radicals and the damage that they cause.
This antioxidant is often referred to as a 'free-radical scavenger' because it can seek out and neutralise free radicals. Thanks to its ability to interrupt the production of enzymes, it can even prevent some free radicals from being created in the first place — which explains why it is largely considered to be a superior antioxidant .
What are the benefits of ferulic acid for the skin?
Ferulic acid protects your skin cells from free radicals, prevents damage from occurring, and promotes smoother, brighter, and healthier skin. Here's how:
It reduces visible ageing signs
Ferulic acid is a potent anti-ageing ingredient that can effectively reduce fine lines and wrinkles.
It works to protect the main skin structures from free radical damage and prevent important proteins, like collagen and elastin, from degrading.
These proteins ensure that your skin stays smooth, firm, and youthful-looking, with ferulic acid being the surprising key to resilience and longevity (and, not so surprisingly, one of the hero ingredients in our Advanced Ageing Set).
It protects against UV radiation
Exposure to UV radiation can cause a multitude of skin issues — and it's not just skin cancer that you should be worrying about. Too much time spent in the sun can also lead to hyperpigmentation while seriously fast-tracking the ageing of the skin.
Fortunately, antioxidants like ferulic acid can protect your skin from dangerous UV rays and associated oxidative damage, which is why it is sometimes added to sunscreen to raise the SPF. Incorporate ferulic acid in your skincare routine, and you'll be less likely to experience premature ageing and pigmentary issues, such as sun spots and melasma .
It brightens your skin
Ferulic acid can brighten and even your skin tone. When the antioxidant inhibits tyrosinase activity, a process that brings melanin to the surface of your skin and creates brown spots, it not only prevents visible sun damage but also brightens any existing discolouration that your skin might have .
If you struggle with hyperpigmentation, we recommend giving ferulic acid a try. Our Glow Booster features this antioxidant to refresh dry, dull skin, and bring your complexion back to life.
It boosts the effectiveness of other ingredients
Ferulic acid was actually first added to skincare products because of its ability to stabilise ingredients like vitamins C and E.
Now valued for its antioxidant properties, ferulic acid is even more powerful when paired with other ingredients because it can make them work harder than they would on their own.
A perfect example of this is, ferulic acid effectively stabilises highly oxidative ingredients like vitamin C and increases their chance to fight free radicals. Not to mention, it can offer almost double the amount of photoprotection from UV rays when it's paired with vitamin C .
Does ferulic acid treat acne?
Yes, ferulic acid is an effective treatment for most types of acne. As an antioxidant, ferulic acid calms the inflammation associated with breakouts and prevents clogged pores by protecting your skin from environmental pollutants.
Plus, ferulic acid can help fade older acne scars, as it possesses powerful wound-healing abilities that can repair the damage left from previous breakouts.
What is the best way to use ferulic acid?
Before you start using ferulic acid, there are a few things that you should know.
Ferulic acid is best applied topically onto your skin because it maintains an exceptionally high local concentration and the ability to penetrate deeply into your skin.
When applied topically, ferulic acid also isn't affected by your skin's pH balance and can absorb into both acidic and neutral pH levels.
This means that your skin is more likely to get results from a topical treatment than, say, ferulic acid supplements or vitamins.
Find a good quality serum
Ferulic acid usually comes in liquid form and you can buy everything from ferulic acid serums and gels to moisturisers and masks.
But to get the most out of the antioxidant, a good quality serum enriched with ferulic acid is the way to go.
This is simply because serums are specifically designed to penetrate your skin and are usually made with a higher concentration of ingredients.
Powerhouse ingredient combinations
Considering the antioxidant's ability to boost the effectiveness of other skincare ingredients, we recommend looking for products that combine ferulic acid with other powerful ingredients.
While it's common to find ferulic acid paired with retinol, hyaluronic acid, and other antioxidants, we find that the best results are from the combination of ferulic acid and vitamin C. That's exactly why we created the Software Vitamin C + Ferulic Acid Serum, one of the most potent vitamin C serums on the market, with a dose of 15% vitamin C per formula.
The ferulic acid works with vitamin C to fight free radicals and the result is bright, smooth, and rejuvenated skin.
Best of all, this product packs all of the same ingredients as other well-known ferulic acid serums but at a fraction of the usual cost.
Where should you apply ferulic acid?
Ferulic acid should be applied to your face, neck, and decolletage area. Simply ensure that your skin is clean and dry, then apply 2 to 3 drops of your chosen serum. Once it is spread evenly, you can apply your moisturiser, sunscreen, and any additional products that you use.
If using our ferulic acid serum, it's best to apply it in the morning after cleanser and before moisturiser and SPF.
Starting your day with vitamin C, ferulic acid, and SPF means your skin will be protected from environmental pollutants and UV rays that you encounter during the day.
Can you use ferulic acid when breastfeeding?
Pregnancy and breastfeeding can bring up all sorts of annoying skin issues and to make matters worse, some of your usual products aren't safe to use during this stage in your life, because your skin might absorb the ingredients and transfer them to the baby.
The good news is that ferulic acid is completely safe to use when you're pregnant or breastfeeding. In fact, vitamin C and ferulic acid products are often recommended by dermatologists to mums-to-be and breastfeeding women .
However, every pregnancy is different and you should always speak to your healthcare provider about the ingredients you're planning to use during your pregnancy and the postpartum period.
Are there any side effects of ferulic acid?
Ferulic acid is very low in toxicity and is generally considered to be safe for most skin types . It also doesn't appear to have any particular negative reactions when used with other skincare ingredients. This means you can easily incorporate this antioxidant into your existing skincare routine.
There is, however, a small chance that some people may develop an allergic reaction to ferulic acid.
Since it is a plant-based antioxidant, someone with an allergy to the plant that ferulic acid has been obtained from may also find that they are allergic to the antioxidant itself.
While unlikely, some people with sensitive skin or inflammatory skin conditions such as eczema and rosacea may also experience some redness or mild irritation as well.
Whether you have allergies or skin sensitivities, you should always patch-test any new skincare products. If you experience any redness, swelling, rashes or hives then you should immediately stop using the product and seek medical attention.