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People often ask me why I love caffeic acid so much that I put it in our FutureDerm Vitamin CE Caffeic Silk Serum 16+2 ($89, FutureDerm.com/Shop). After having this blog for seven years, and working in labs (first university, then my own) for twelve years, I’ve seen a lot of research on skin care. And caffeic acid was truly a prize waiting to be discovered!
Is It Like Ferulic Acid?
Yes and no.
Like ferulic acid, caffeic acid is classified as a hydroxycinnamic acid, a group of acids from a class of micronutrient antioxidant compounds known as polyphenols. (If this word sounds familiar, it’s probably from Welch’s Grape Juice advertising, as grape seed is a great source of polyphenols. Other sources of polyphenols include green tea, red wine, coffee, and chocolate.)
Some companies use ferulic acid for two purposes: first, as an antioxidant; and second, in order to stabilize L-ascorbic acid. Our FutureDerm Vitamin CE Caffeic Silk Serum 16+2 uses caffeic acid instead, because caffeic acid has been shown to have higher antioxidant potential than ferulic acid (Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 1997; Cancer Research, 1988).
Also, our L-ascorbic acid is already stabilized: Unlike many other companies, FutureDerm uses microencapsulated L-ascorbic acid, which imparts greater stability to light and air (Journal of Microencapsulation, 2001; International Journal of Food Chemistry, 1991). Based on our testing, with regular use, FutureDerm Vitamin CE Caffeic Serum simply doesn’t need a stabilizing agent.
Where Does Caffeic Acid Come From?
Hundreds of plants naturally produce caffeic acid. As you might imagine from its “caffeinated” name, caffeic acid is found in coffee, but is also one of the major polyphenol sources in argan oil (American Journal of Food Technology, 1997). I’m really surprised other companies haven’t started to use it yet!
Is Caffeic Acid Safe?
The vast majority of studies show that caffeic acid is not only safe, but beneficial. A study from PNAS shows that caffeic acid can reduce levels of an inflammatory substance known as NF kappa B (NFkB) (PNAS, 1996) both in vitro (in cell culture) and in vivo (in the human body). Plant studies have also demonstrated caffeic acid to be a superior antioxidant, preventing 95% of oxidation-induced fungus formation (US ARS). Even the rather alarmist Environmental Working Group (EWG) ranks the risk level for caffeic acid as a 3/10, compared to ferulic acid’s 2/10. The reason for the difference? One study subjected rats to high doses of antioxidants, including the common skin care ingredient beta hydroxy acid (BHA) and caffeic acid (Carcinogenesis, 1997), and found that regular oral consumption of the antioxidants increased rats’ susceptibility to intestinal tumor development. Yet, this research does not apply to humans, as more recent studies suggest that bacteria exclusive to rats cause for rats to metabolize caffeic acid differently than humans do (Journal of Nutrition, 2003). This explains why rats can’t ingest high doses, but humans theoretically could. As such, with a strong safety profile and excellent antioxidant activity, I decided to definitely include caffeic acid in our FutureDerm Vitamin CE Caffeic Serum!
- Caffeic acid has been shown to have greater antioxidant capacity than ferulic acid.
- Unlike ferulic acid, caffeic acid is not able to stabilize vitamin C, which is probably why most companies choose to use ferulic acid instead. However, FutureDerm Vitamin CE Caffeic Serum contains already-stabilized, microencapsulated L-ascorbic acid. So we included caffeic acid as a potent antioxidant – not as a stabilizer!
- Caffeic acid is safe for human use, with no ill-effects of caffeic acid reported in humans. Instead, caffeic acid has been shown in in vitro and in vivo studies to have great antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anticarcinogenic potential.
What are your thoughts on caffeic acid? Let us know in Comments below!