Protective Effects of a Topical Antioxidant Mixture Containing Vitamin C, Ferulic Acid, and Phloretin Against Ultraviolet-Induced Photodamage in Human Skin

J Cosmet Dermatol. 2008 Dec;7(4):290-7. doi: 10.1111/j.1473-2165.2008.00408.x.


Background: Ultraviolet (UV) irradiation of the skin leads to acute inflammatory reactions, such as erythema, sunburn, and chronic reactions, including premature skin aging and skin cancer.

Aim: In this study, the effects of a topical antioxidant mixture consisting of vitamin C, ferulic acid, and phloretin on attenuating the harmful effects of UV irradiation on normal healthy volunteers were studied using biomarkers of skin damage.

Subjects/methods: Ten subjects (age, 18-60 years; Fitzpatrick skin types II and III) were randomized and treated with antioxidant product or vehicle control on the lower back for four consecutive days. On day 3, the minimal erythema dose (MED) was determined for each subject at a different site on the back. On day 4, the two test sites received solar-simulated UV irradiation 1-5x MED at 1x MED intervals. On day 5, digital images were taken, and 4-mm punch biopsies were collected from the two 5x MED test sites and a control site from each subject for morphology and immunohistochemical studies.

Results: UV irradiation significantly increased the erythema of human skin in a linear manner from 1x to 5x MED. As early as 24 h after exposure to 5x MEDs of UV irradiation, there were significant increases in sunburn cell formation, thymine dimer formation, matrix metalloproteinase-9 expression, and p53 protein expression. All these changes were attenuated by the antioxidant composition. UV irradiation also suppressed the amount of CD1a-expressing Langerhans cells, indicating immunosuppressive effects of a single 5x MED dose of UV irradiation. Pretreatment of skin with the antioxidant composition blocked this effect.

Conclusion: This study confirms the protective role of a unique mixture of antioxidants containing vitamin C, ferulic acid, and phloretin on human skin from the harmful effects of UV irradiation. Phloretin, in addition to being a potent antioxidant, may stabilize and increase the skin availability of topically applied vitamin C and ferulic acid. We propose that antioxidant mixture will complement and synergize with sunscreens in providing photoprotection for human skin.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Cutaneous
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Antioxidants / administration & dosage
  • Antioxidants / pharmacology*
  • Ascorbic Acid / administration & dosage
  • Ascorbic Acid / pharmacology*
  • Coumaric Acids / administration & dosage
  • Coumaric Acids / pharmacology*
  • Drug Combinations
  • Erythema / drug therapy*
  • Erythema / etiology
  • Erythema / prevention & control
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Phloretin / administration & dosage
  • Phloretin / pharmacology*
  • Skin / drug effects*
  • Skin / radiation effects
  • Skin Aging / drug effects*
  • Skin Aging / radiation effects
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Ultraviolet Rays / adverse effects*


  • Antioxidants
  • Coumaric Acids
  • Drug Combinations
  • ferulic acid
  • Ascorbic Acid
  • Phloretin