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Ingredient Explained: Ursolic Acid

If you’ve stumbled upon ursolic acid in your beauty products and are curious about what it does, you’ve come to the right place. Here we take a closer look at the science behind the skincare benefits of ursolic acid and explain everything in simple terms.

What is ursolic acid?

Ursolic acid is a naturally-derived compound found in fruits and plants (like apples, rosemary, oregano, and berries) that protects against pathogenic microbes. In the context of skin, ursolic acid packs quite a few benefits thanks to its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antibacterial properties.[1]

Ursolic acid benefits for skin

First of all, ursolic acid fights harmful free radicals. These unstable molecules come from external sources such as pollution, smoke, and UV exposure and can affect every cell and tissue in your skin. So how does it work? Well, ursolic acid is shown to stimulate the activity of antioxidants. Think of superoxide dismutase, glutathione, and vitamins C and E, which are like the body’s natural defense system against free radicals.[2]

By interfering with free radicals, ursolic acid not only has the potential to mitigate UV damage and photoaging but also to reduce the degradation of epidermal lipids.[3] These lipids have the role of maintaining the function of the skin’s barrier. By protecting them, ursolic acid can provide additional benefits in supporting skin recovery.[4]

Moreover, ursolic acid work as an anti-wrinkle and wound-healing treatment as it can preserve collagen levels. More collagen is necessary to accelerate tissue repair and maintain the elasticity and firmness of the skin. In fact, studies have shown ursolic acid can restore skin integrity and block specific enzymes from attacking structural proteins.[5]

The bottom line

As far as the list of benefits goes, the research into ursolic acid is far from conclusive. That being said, ursolic acid remains, at best, a questionable ingredient in the skincare scene. It might not be the most researched one, but it’s definitely good to have it in your products.


  1. Nighat Sultana (2011) Clinically useful anticancer, antitumor, and antiwrinkle agent, ursolic acid and related derivatives as medicinally important natural product, Journal of Enzyme Inhibition and Medicinal Chemistry, 26:5, 616-642, DOI: 10.3109/14756366.2010.546793
  2. Seo DY, Lee SR, Heo JW, et al. Ursolic acid in health and disease. Korean J Physiol Pharmacol. 2018;22(3):235-248. doi:10.4196/kjpp.2018.22.3.235
  3. Ramachandran Samivel, Rajendra Prasad Nagarajan, Umadevi Subramanian, Adnan Ali Khan, Ali Masmali, Turki Almubrad, Saeed Akhtar, “Inhibitory Effect of Ursolic Acid on Ultraviolet B Radiation-Induced Oxidative Stress and Proinflammatory Response-Mediated Senescence in Human Skin Dermal Fibroblasts“, https://doi.org/10.1155/2020/1246510
  4. Simultaneous effect of ursolic acid and oleanolic acid on epidermal permeability barrier function and epidermal keratinocyte differentiation via peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-α. The Journal of Dermatology, 34: 625-634. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1346-8138.2007.00344.x
  5. Yarosh DB, Both D, Brown D. Liposomal ursolic acid (merotaine) increases ceramides and collagen in human skin. Horm Res. 2000;54(5-6):318-21. doi: 10.1159/000053280. PMID: 11595826.
Who wrote this?
Picture of Ana Vasilescu
Ana Vasilescu
Ana Vasilescu is the founder of Women's Concepts and a certified skincare consultant. She has over five years of experience working in the beauty editorial industry and over a decade as an acne sufferer. With a background in dermatological research, Ana brings a wealth of expertise to a diverse range of topics, from buzzy ingredients to anti-aging and acne advice. She holds a BA in Sociology and Political Sciences. Find her on LinkedIn or Instagram.
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