Ferulic Acid: the Sun-Protective Antioxidant

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The sun’s out and I can see people out and about in Central Park, which is located right across the street from my dermatology practice. Spring has finally arrived, and despite all the warnings about sun exposure, even incidental sun exposure (the kind you get from walking outside your office to grab lunch)—many of these people are not wearing their daily dose of SPF.
Daily sun protection is a must! Sun exposure—even in just the smallest amounts—is a proven carcinogen, meaning it’s been proven to cause cancer. Avoiding the sun or protecting yourself from it drastically reduces your risk of cancer.

A quick science lesson:Solar, or ultraviolet (UV), radiation causes something called oxidative stress on the skin, which is triggered by something called free radicals. Free radicals are small, very unstable molecules that are generated by sunlight, pollution and even cigarette smoke and car exhaust. These free radicals cause oxidation (think of a cut apple that’s been left out on the counter; it turns brown because of the process of oxidation). Over time, oxidation on the skin can trigger premature aging (fine lines and wrinkles, rough skin, brown spots, etc.)—and damage, or mutations, to our DNA (our body’s blueprint for how to stay healthy), which is what causes cancer.
Antioxidants are stored in our skin which help stabilize free radicals and prevent damage. Since our bodies can only do so much, applying a sunscreen every day is critical to prevent ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) radiation and minimize potential sun damage.


Enter ferulic acid: ferulic acid is a powerful antioxidant naturally found in the plant cell walls—and in foods like oats, brown rice, whole wheat, peanuts, coffee, apples, and pineapples (to name just a few). It helps these plants protect themselves from oxidation (which could destroy the plant), and particularly from oxidation that occurs from sunlight. Consider it nature’s sun protection.
One recent study found that ferulic acid, when used topically on the skin, had some pretty dramatic results.* The study, published in the International Journal of Nutrition, Pharmacology, Neurological Diseases, found that topical application of ferulic acid to dermal fibroblasts (skin cells essential for wound healing; without dermal fibroblasts, the skin cannot properly recover from injury) restored the viability of these cells.
The study found that one-time exposure to UV rays significantly decreased these cells’ viability (ability to do their job protecting and healing the skin) to 28%—but after application of ferulic acid, the skin cells’ viability was restored to 98%.
These researchers found that ferulic acid actually scavenged the free radicals generated by the sun, destroying them before they could damage the skin cells and the DNA. In fact, topical application of ferulic acid actually reduced DNA mutations and damage—which would significantly reduce the risk of skin cancer.


So with all this research, I’m a strong advocate of daily topical application of an antioxidant, like ferulic acid, under a sunscreen. You’re guaranteed to get even more protection from the sun than just sunscreen alone. And your risk of skin cancer could be reduced, too.
Be well—and stay sun smart.
Article by
New York Dermatologist