What Is Ferulic Acid?

An Antioxidant Found In Anti-Aging Skin Care Products

Ferulic Acid powder, skin serum, and tablets

Verywell / Anastasia Tretiak

Ferulic acid is an organic compound often used in anti-aging skin creams and serums, in addition to a dietary supplement. It's believed to neutralize free radicals, unstable molecules that damage and age cells.

Used topically (on the skin), ferulic acid is often used to protect the skin from aging, sun damage, and skin cancer. As a supplement, it's had some attention from researchers as a potential treatment for Alzheimer's disease, diabetes, and other health conditions.

However, all research on ferulic acid is in its early stages. It will take much more study before its safety and effectiveness—for any use—can be assured.

This article looks at the purported benefits of ferulic acid, its side effects, and precautions you should consider before using it. It also covers proper dosages, possible interactions with medications or other supplements, how to store ferulic acid, and what to look for when buying it.

Dietary supplements are not regulated in the United States, meaning the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not approve them for safety and effectiveness before products are marketed. When possible, choose a supplement that has been tested by a trusted third party, such as USP, ConsumerLabs, or NSF. However, even if supplements are third-party tested, that doesn't mean they are necessarily safe for all or effective in general. It is important to talk to your healthcare provider about any supplements you plan to take and to check in about any potential interactions with other supplements or medications.

Supplement Facts


  • Active ingredient(s): Ferulic acid
  • Alternate Name(s): Ferulate, propanoic acid, coniferic acid, trans ferulic acid
  • Suggested Dose: Not enough data to provide a proper dosage recommendation
  • Safety Considerations: Generally considered safe used topically; not enough safety data when used orally

Ferulic Acid Uses

Ferulic acid is believed to have multiple effects that could be beneficial to your health. It's considered to be an:

  • Antioxidant
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Antimicrobial

In skincare products, it's commonly used to:

  • Minimize or reverse signs of aging
  • Protect the skin from sun damage
  • Prevent skin cancer

As a supplement, it may have benefits for some medical conditions.

Supplement use should be individualized and vetted by a healthcare professional, such as a registered dietitian, pharmacist, or healthcare provider. No supplement is intended to treat, cure, or prevent disease.

Forms Aren't Interchangeable

Taking ferulic acid supplements is not believed to have an effect on your skin, and topical use is not believed to have the same possible effects as dietary supplements.

Anti-Aging Benefits

Ferulic acid is best known for its purported anti-aging properties. As an antioxidant, it fights free radicals and may slow the aging process at the cellular level.

Free radicals are suspected of playing a role in wrinkles, age spots, and other visible signs of aging in your skin. It's believed to do this by protecting important structures such as collagen and elastin.

Ferulic acid has its own antioxidant properties and has also been shown to make other antioxidants more effective. For that reason, it's often used alongside common antioxidants like:

Ferulic acid may lighten age spots because it inhibits your cells' ability to produce melanin (pigment).

Sun Exposure and Skin Cancer

Most studies of ferulic acid and sun damage have used it along with vitamins C and E, not by itself. Even so, it's believed to have protective properties on its own along with boosting the effects of other skin protectants.

Studies suggest that the antioxidant activity of ferulic acid protects your skin from the sun's damaging UV rays. However, to get this benefit, you need to use it before sun exposure.

Researchers have demonstrated that prior use of ferulic acid blocks the changes caused by UV radiation exposure. It doesn't appear to reverse damage once it's occurred.

Sun damage is known to contribute to skin cancer's development. Because ferulic acid and vitamins C and E can reduce the damage, they may help prevent skin cancer.

While these are small, preliminary studies, researchers have suggested that if the results are proven by further research, it may be beneficial to add these ingredients to sunscreens.

Avoiding Sun Damage

The best skin protection is to stay out of the sun and use sunblock when necessary. If you have concerns about your skin or how to best protect it from sun damage, talk to a dermatologist.

Other Uses

As a dietary supplement, ferulic acid has been studied for possible benefits in:

However, current research support for oral supplementation with ferulic acid is weak and most studies were done on animals.

Ferulic Acid Side Effects

Ferulic acid serums and creams are generally safe for most skin types. However, it's not safe for everyone.

Sensitive Skin

If you have sensitive skin, you may not tolerate products containing ferulic acid. This can cause:

  • Mild redness
  • Irritation

When trying a ferulic acid product (or any skincare product) for the first time, test it on a small patch of skin to see if you have a reaction.

Allergic Reactions

If you're allergic to bran or oatmeal, you may also have an allergy to ferulic acid serums derived from bran or oats. Symptoms tend to be mild and may include:

  • Redness
  • Swelling
  • Itching
  • Rash
  • Peeling

Stop using the product right away if you have any of these symptoms.

Before using a ferulic acid serum, test some on a small patch of skin and wait 24 hours to see if a rash or other allergy symptoms appear.

Precautions

Ferulic acid skincare products should never be taken internally (eaten).

Little is known about the long-term safety of ferulic acid supplements. Since it's derived from food, ferulic acid is presumed safe. Still, the amount it takes to overdose isn't established.

The safety of ferulic acid in children and pregnant or nursing people is unknown.

Given the lack of research, talk to your healthcare provider before taking it. They may want to monitor you for side effects or drug interactions.

Ferulic acid tablets
Verywell / Anastasia Tretiak

Dosage: How Much Ferulic Acid Should I Take?

For ferulic acid skincare products, follow the instructions on the label or those given to you by a dermatologist.

No guidelines are in place for the dosage of ferulic acid supplements. Most are sold as 250-milligram (mg) tablets intended to be taken once daily with or without food.

As a rule of thumb, never exceed the recommended dose on the product label. There's no evidence that higher doses lead to better results.

Ferulic acid should never be used as a substitute for the drugs standardly used to treat chronic medical conditions. If you are considering supplementation, discuss with your healthcare provider.

What Happens If I Take Too Much Ferulic Acid?

Very little data is available on dosing ferulic acid; therefore, it is uncertain what will happen in cases of an overdose or at what point an overdose can occur. Generally, if you are using ferulic acid cream or oral supplements, you should follow the instructions on the packing,

Interactions

Very little is known about drug interactions with ferulic acid. Studies have shown that ferulic acid combined with the anticoagulant Plavix (clopidogrel) can increase the absorption of ferulic acid in rats.

How to Store Ferulic Acid

Follow manufacturer suggestions on how to best store ferulic acid serums, creams, or supplements. Always keep supplements out of reach of children and pets.

Sources of Ferulic Acid & What to Look For

Ferulic acid is found in several plant-based foods. It comes from the cell walls of:

  • Rice
  • Wheat
  • Oats
  • Pineapple
  • Grasses
  • Grains
  • Vegetables

Commercial ferulic acid is generally derived from cereal grains.

Ferulic acid skin care products are found online as well as at many drugstores and higher-end cosmetic counters. Some are sold as luxury skincare products at a hefty price despite the lack firm evidence that it's effective.

Food Sources of Ferulic Acid

Ferulic acid is found in some grains, seeds, legumes, fruits, and vegetables. Cooking can often increase the amount of ferulic acid in foods by breaking down the cellular compartments where it is stored; this is particularly true of grains.

Some ferulic acid-rich foods are:

  • Apple seeds
  • Barley
  • Bran
  • Citrus fruits
  • Corn
  • Eggplant
  • Flaxseed bread
  • Navy beans
  • Oatmeal
  • Popcorn
  • Rice
  • Rice bran oil
  • Rye bread

Ferulic Acid Supplements

Ferulic acid supplements can be found online and in certain drugstores and shops specializing in dietary supplements.

You can also get high concentrations of ferulic acid in some herbal products used in traditional Chinese medicine, including dong quai (Angelica sinesis), sheng ma (Cimicifuga heracleifolia), and chuan xiong (Ligusticum chuangxiong).

Because dietary supplements are not strictly regulated in the United States, the quality can vary from one brand to the next. Opt for brands independently tested by a recognized certifying body like the U.S. Pharmacopeia (USP), ConsumerLab, or NSF International to ensure quality.

Ferulic acid may come as its own supplement or in a combination product that contains several other ingredients. Always read the product label to check for additional ingredients you may be allergic to or don't need.

Summary

Ferulic acid has antioxidant properties. It is often used in skincare products to prevent or reverse signs of aging and to prevent sun damage and skin cancer. More recently, it has garnered interest as an oral supplement for various conditions, but there's not enough research to support its use.

Discuss health concerns and treatment plans for medical conditions with your healthcare provider. Be sure to review the risks of benefits of supplements in addition to traditional therapies with your healthcare provider is suggested.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Can ferulic acid supplementation prevent Alzheimer's disease?

    There is not enough evidence to support ferulic acid use to prevent or treat Alzheimer's disease. Preliminary studies have shown that ferulic acid may improve memory in animal models but there is no human research on this.

    Since ferulic acid is found in plant-based foods, it would be prudent to incorporate whole grains, fruits, and vegetables into your diet as a way to improve your overall health.

  • What are the best food sources of ferulic acid?

    Barley and oat are excellent sources of ferulic acid. In fact, many of the supplements are made from those two food items. Several fruits and vegetables also provide ferulic acid.

  • Are food sources of ferulic acid better than supplements?


    Compared to ferulic acid supplements, ferulic acid derived from food has greater bioavailability as more is readily absorbed in the intestine. By contrast, free ferulic acid (unbound to the plant cells) is largely insoluble and poorly absorbed.

  • Is ferulic acid the same as hyaluronic acid?

    No. Where ferulic acid helps fight free radicals that cause lines and wrinkles, hyaluronic acid hydrates the skin and improves its appearance.

  • Is ferulic acid the same as retinol?

    No. Ferulic acid and retinol are different ingredients, but they both have anti-aging skin benefits.

  • Does vitamin C need ferulic acid?

    No. Vitamin C has benefits on its own. However, these effects can be boosted with vitamin C is paired with ferulic acid.

11 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Kumar N, Pruthi V. Potential applications of ferulic acid from natural sources. Biotechnol Rep (Amst). 2014;4:86-93. doi:10.1016/j.btre.2014.09.002

  2. Poljšak B, Dahmane R. Free radicals and extrinsic skin agingDermatol Res Pract. 2012;2012:135206. doi:10.1155/2012/135206

  3. Oresajo C, Stephens T, Hino PD, et al. Protective effects of a topical antioxidant mixture containing vitamin C, ferulic acid, and phloretin against ultraviolet-induced photodamage in human skinJ Cosmet Dermatol. 2008;7(4):290-297. doi:10.1111/j.1473-2165.2008.00408.x

  4. Murray JC, Burch JA, Streilein RD, et al. A topical antioxidant solution containing vitamins C and E stabilized by ferulic acid provides protection for human skin against damage caused by ultraviolet irradiationJ Am Acad Dermatol. 2008;59(3):418-425. doi:10.1016/j.jaad.2008.05.004

  5. Wang EJ, Wu MY, Lu JH. Ferulic acid in animal models of Alzheimer's disease: a systematic review of preclinical studiesCells. 2021;10(10):2653. doi:10.3390/cells10102653

  6. Bumrungpert A, Lilitchan S, Tuntipopipat S, et al. Ferulic acid supplementation improves lipid profiles, oxidative stress, and inflammatory status in hyperlipidemic subjects: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trialNutrients. 2018;10(6):713. doi:10.3390/nu10060713

  7. Wang ZY, Chen M, Zhu LL, et al. Pharmacokinetic drug interactions with clopidogrel: updated review and risk management in combination therapy. Ther Clin Risk Manag. 2015;11:449-467. doi:10.2147/TCRM.S80437

  8. Li Y, Liu C, Zhang Y, Mi S, Wang N. Pharmacokinetics of ferulic acid and potential interactions with Honghua and clopidogrel in rats. J Ethnopharmacol. 2011;137(1):562-567. doi:10.1016/j.jep.2011.06.011

  9. National Institutes of Health, U.S. National Library of Medicine: Drugs and Lactation Database (LactMed). Dong quai.

  10. Zhao XH, Chen DH, Si JY, Pan RL, Shen LG. [Studies on the phenolic acid constituents from Chinese medicine "sheng-ma", rhizome of Cimicifuga foetida L]. Yao Xue Xue Bao. 2002;37(7):535-538.

  11. Srinivasan M, Sudheer AR, Menon VP. Ferulic acid: therapeutic potential through its antioxidant property. J Clin Biochem Nutr. 2007;40(2):92-100. doi:10.3164/jcbn.40.92

Additional Reading

By Jennifer Lefton, MS, RD/N, CNSC, FAND
Jennifer Lefton, MS, RD/N-AP, CNSC, FAND is a Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist and writer with over 20 years of experience in clinical nutrition. Her experience ranges from counseling cardiac rehabilitation clients to managing the nutrition needs of complex surgical patients.

Originally written by Cathy Wong
Cathy Wong

Cathy Wong is a nutritionist and wellness expert. Her work is regularly featured in media such as First For Women, Woman's World, and Natural Health.

Learn about our editorial process