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You’re likely familiar with all of the (many) benefits of incorporating an antioxidant serum into your daily skincare routine, but just in case you’re not, allow us to refresh your memory. “Antioxidants neutralize free radicals—unstable molecules that cause damage to the skin cells, protein, and DNA, and can lead to inflammation, signs of aging, and even skin cancer,” explains Dr. Hadley King, a board-certified dermatologist in New York City.
Since free radicals are formed by exposure to unavoidable things like UV rays and pollution, using an antioxidant serum daily gives your skin another layer of defense. There’s no shortage of antioxidants to choose from, but, unlike the vitamin Cs and green teas of the world, ferulic acid flies somewhat under that radar. Still, it’s a great option, a highly potent antioxidant, and, according to King, it pairs nicely with many other popular antioxidants (specifically vitamin C and E). Regular use can leave your skin brighter, smoother, and more radiant.
Ahead—get involved with any of these standout ferulic acid serums, ASAP.
Best Overall: SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic
Appropriate packaging to protect ingredients
High price point
Smell, which some liken to hot dog water
There’s a good reason why both team Byrdie and dermatologists galore sing the praises of this cult classic time and time again. The unique combo and concentrations of vitamin C, vitamin E, and ferulic acid delivers potent protection against environmental free radicals, says King of one of her top picks. It’s pricey, yes, but a little goes a long way, and the efficacy really can’t be beaten.
Active Ingredients: Ferulic acid, vitamin C, vitamin E | Skin Type: All | Size: 1 oz. | Byrdie Clean?: No | Cruelty-Free?: No
Runner-Up, Best Overall: DERMAdoctor Kakadu C 20% Vitamin C Serum with Ferulic Acid & Vitamin E
Effective combination of ingredients
Appropriate packaging to protect ingredients
Plenty of product
Must be used within 1 year of opening
High concentration of vitamin C may be irritating
Broadly speaking, ferulic acid plays nice with a wide array of antioxidants, but King says it’s especially great when paired with vitamins C and E, helping to increase their efficacy, while offering its own benefits. This formula also relies on that magic trio, though rings in at a slightly more affordable price than the SkinCeuticals pick above, and one bottle is enough for about 150 uses.
Active Ingredients: Ferulic acid, vitamin C, vitamin E | Skin Type: All | Size: 1 oz | Byrdie Clean?: No | Cruelty-Free?: Yes
Best Budget: The Ordinary Resveratrol 3% + Ferulic Acid 3%
High concentration of active ingredients
Only contains 1 more antioxidant
Antioxidant serums can put a dent in your wallet in a hurry, which is why we appreciate this insanely wallet-friendly formula. And you know you’re getting some good bang for your buck since this contains just three ingredients, two of which are the namesake antioxidants. It’s another top choice for King, who lauds it for both the chosen antioxidants it contains and their high concentrations.
Active Ingredients: Ferulic acid, resveratrol | Skin Type: All | Size: 1 oz. | Byrdie Clean?: Yes | Cruelty-Free?: Yes
Runner-Up, Best Budget: Versed Auto-Save Skin Restoring Serum
Contains several antioxidants
Only meant for morning use
Another option that won’t max out your skincare budget, this newbie is not only affordable, it’s also an amazing multi-tasker. Apply it in the morning to yes, reap the benefits of ferulic acid (which is combined with other antioxidants, phloretin, and vitamin C), but also to give your skin an instant lift, thanks to a unique microalgae ingredient. Just don’t forget to slather on the sunscreen afterward.
Active Ingredients: Ferulic acid, vitamin C, phloretin, microalgae | Skin Type: All, especially great for aging skin | Size: 1 oz | Byrdie Clean?: Yes | Cruelty-Free?: Yes
Best for Sensitive Skin: Typology Antioxidant Serum 3% Ferulic Acid + 3% Resveratrol
Good for sensitive skin
Only contains one more antioxidant
We like this pick for sensitive skin for several reasons. Unlike many other ferulic acid serums that pair the ingredient with vitamin C (which, FYI, can be irritating, especially in higher concentrations), this instead combines it with resveratrol, a much more well-tolerated option. On top of that, it’s fragrance-free and touts a very minimal ingredient list, always a plus for those with sensitive skin. (The fewer the ingredients, the less likely there is to be one that’s irritating in there.)
Active Ingredients: Ferulic acid, resveratrol | Skin Type: All, especially sensitive | Size: 1 oz | Byrdie Clean?: Yes | Cruelty-Free?: Yes
Best Exfoliating: Kiehl’s Ferulic Brew Facial Treatment Acid with Lactic Acid
Formulated to also exfoliate
Hydrating and not drying
No antioxidants other than Ferulic
As a general rule of thumb, it’s not a great idea to pair ferulic acid with exfoliating ingredients such as lactic acid, says King. The latter can lower the pH, which can decrease ferulic acid’s efficacy, she cautions. But that’s not a concern here, because this has been specially formulated to ensure you get the exfoliating benefits of the ferulic acid and the lightly-exfoliating benefits of the lactic acid.
Active Ingredients: Ferulic acid, lactic acid, squalane | Skin Type: All, except sensitive | Size: 6.8 oz | Byrdie Clean?: Yes | Cruelty-Free?: No
Best Anti-Aging: Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare Ferulic Acid + Retinol Brightening Solution
Great for anti-aging benefits
Fast-absorbing and lightweight
Retinol can be irritating
Antioxidants, ferulic acid included, are most definitely an anti-aging ingredient, but that benefit really gets kicked up a notch when they’re paired with the king of all youth-boosting ingredients, retinol. Lightweight and fast-absorbing, there isn’t much this serum can’t do, combining the two namesake ingredients with other skin brighteners for an extra hit of spot fading, specifically. It can be used morning and night, but with any retinol product, it’s always a good idea to start slow and gradually work your way up.
Active Ingredients: Ferulic acid, retinol | Skin Type: All, but can be irritating for sensitive | Size: 1 oz | Byrdie Clean?: Yes | Cruelty-Free?: Yes
Best Clean: Acure Brightening Vitamin C & Ferulic Acid Oil-Free Serum
Clean ingredient list
Gentle on skin
This choice combines ferulic acid with vitamin C, plus matcha green tea (another great antioxidant) plus brightening pineapple extract. And despite that powerful list of ingredients, it’s still gentle enough to use twice a day, and/or if you have sensitive skin.
Active Ingredients: Ferulic acid, vitamin C | Skin Type: All | Size: 1 oz | Byrdie Clean?: Yes | Cruelty-Free?: Yes
Best for Acne-Prone Skin: SkinCeuticals Silymarin CF
Effective combo of ingredients
Great for oily skin
The C E Ferulic may be the OG antioxidant serum from Skinceuticals, but this newbie is poised to give it a run for its money, especially for those with oily or acne-prone skin. It has that same level of efficacy, thanks to a carefully formulated combo of ferulic acid and vitamin C, but throws a new antioxidant into the mix. Silymarin, which comes from the milk thistle plant, also plays nice with these guys, and this trio not only provides antioxidant benefits, it also reduces oil oxidation that can lead to breakouts. Speaking of, there’s also some zit-zapping salicylic acid in the formula.
Active Ingredients: Ferulic acid, vitamin C, silymarin | Skin Type: Oily, combination | Size: 1 oz | Byrdie Clean?: No | Cruelty-Free?: No
Best Overnight: Alpha-H Liquid Gold Midnight Reboot Serum
Delivers anti-aging benefits
Not meant for AM use
Not for all skin types
Traditionally, antioxidants serums are a good option for daytime use, but they can also be used overnight as a way to help undo the day’s damage. “This contains potent antioxidants ferulic acid and coenzyme Q10 to help protect the skin from free radicals, along with a type of retinoid and glycolic acid to also help resurface the skin overnight,” says King. It’s a combo that she says helps improve dullness, fine lines, and pigmentation. We’re here for it.
Active Ingredients: Ferulic acid, granactive retinoid, glycolic acid | Skin Type: Normal to dry | Size: 1.69 oz | Byrdie Clean?: No | Cruelty-Free?: No
Best for Dark Spots: Peter Thomas Roth Potent C Targeted Spot Brightener
Targets dark spots
Uses potent form of vitamin C
Not for allover use
Ferulic acid can be great for brightening your complexion overall, but if you’re looking to really knock out super stubborn, target dark spots, you’ll want it in this formula. It touts a unique (and super powerful) form of vitamin C for spot-fading benefits, and ferulic acid and vitamin E to help ensure it works even better and evening out skin tone.
Active Ingredients: Ferulic acid, vitamin C, vitamin E | Skin Type: All | Size: 0.5 oz | Byrdie Clean?: No | Cruelty-Free?: No
Best for Easy Application: Paula's Choice C15 Super Booster
Easy to work into routine
Combines ferulic acid, vitamin C, and vitamin E
Not for sensitive skin
Don’t really feel like having to work another skincare product into your routine? This makes it easier than ever. You can definitely use it on its own, but we like it because, per the name, you can also mix in a drop or two into any serum or moisturizer you’re already using. Either way, you’re getting plenty of good stuff, namely a powerful concentration of vitamin C, along with vitamin E and ferulic acid, the top-notch trifecta that we keep referencing time and time again.
Active Ingredients: Ferulic acid, vitamin C, vitamin E | Skin Type: All, except sensitive | Size: 0.67 oz. | Byrdie Clean?: No | Cruelty-Free?: No
Ferulic acid is a superstar antioxidant worth knowing. It’s especially good when combined with vitamins C and E since it increases their efficacy and all three work synergistically, which is part of the reason why SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic is such a fan favorite. There are some more affordable picks that boast the same trio, such as DERMAdoctor Kakadu C 20% Vitamin C Serum with Ferulic Acid & Vitamin E and Versed Auto-Save Skin Restoring Serum. Speaking of, the The Ordinary Resveratrol 3% + Ferulic Acid 3% comes in as the most wallet-friendly choice on this list, combining ferulic acid with resveratrol, another choice antioxidant.
Meet the Expert
Dr. Hadley King is a board-certified dermatologist in New York City. She is also a Clinical Instructor of Dermatology at the Weill Medical College of Cornell University and specializes in both medical and cosmetic dermatology.
What To Look For In a Ferulic Acid Serum
Ideally, packaging that protects the product from exposure to light and air (both of which can decrease ferulic acid’s stability) is best, says King. Look for dark, opaque bottles, preferably with a dropper or pump-top applicators.
As mentioned, ferulic acid works well with so many other antioxidants, but vitamin C and vitamin E are really its best buddies. Choosing a formula that combines these three is one way to make sure you’re getting even more efficacy from each of the ingredients on its own.
What does ferulic acid do?
Ferulic acid is a potent antioxidant that helps to neutralize the skin-damaging and aging free radicals formed when skin is exposed to pollution and UV rays, says King.
What ingredients should you avoid combining with ferulic acid?
According to King, unless the product has been specifically formulated to blend ferulic acid with exfoliating acids (glycolic, lactic, and salicylic), don’t mix the two. They can lower ferulic acid’s pH and make it less effective, she says.
Is it safe to use ferulic acid during pregnancy?
“There is limited data on this,” says King. Check with your doctor, but many ferulic acid products will specify that they shouldn’t be used during pregnancy.
Why Trust Byrdie
Byrdie contributor Melanie Rud has over a decade of experience in the beauty industry, writing for some of the biggest magazines and websites out there. A skincare junkie, she’s all about antioxidant and ferulic acid serums and applies one every single AM (under sunscreen, of course). Fun fact: The SkinCeuticals one featured on this list was one of the first serums she ever used, and she still uses it to this day.