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What is Azelaic Acid? Benefits and Uses in Skincare


Jun 28, 2023

Azelaic acid is a popular skincare ingredient that offers a range of benefits for various skin concerns. Derived from grains like wheat, rye, and barley, this naturally occurring acid has gained recognition for its effectiveness in addressing acne, hyperpigmentation, and rosacea. In this article, we will explore what azelaic acid is, its benefits, and how it can be used in skincare.

What is Azelaic Acid?

Azelaic acid is a dicarboxylic acid that belongs to the family of naturally occurring acids. It has antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and exfoliating properties, making it a versatile ingredient for improving skin health. Azelaic acid is available in topical formulations and is commonly found in concentrations ranging from 10% to 20%.

Benefits of Azelaic Acid:

  • Acne Treatment: One of the primary uses of azelaic acid is in the treatment of acne. It helps to regulate oil production, reduce the growth of acne-causing bacteria, and prevent the formation of comedones (clogged pores). Azelaic acid also has anti-inflammatory properties that can soothe redness and inflammation associated with acne breakouts.
  • Hyperpigmentation Reduction: Azelaic acid has been found to inhibit the production of melanin, the pigment responsible for dark spots and hyperpigmentation. By reducing melanin synthesis, it can help fade dark spots, melasma, and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, resulting in a more even skin tone.
  • Rosacea Management: Rosacea is a chronic skin condition characterized by facial redness, flushing, and the appearance of small blood vessels. Azelaic acid has shown effectiveness in managing rosacea symptoms by reducing redness and inflammation, and inhibiting the production of certain substances that contribute to the condition.
  • Mild Exfoliation: Azelaic acid possesses mild exfoliating properties, helping to remove dead skin cells and promote cell turnover. This can lead to smoother, brighter skin and a more refined skin texture.

How to Use Azelaic Acid:

When incorporating azelaic acid into your skincare routine, it’s important to start with a lower concentration and gradually increase it as your skin adjusts. Follow these steps for optimal use:

  • Cleanse your face with a gentle cleanser and pat it dry.
  • Apply a thin layer of azelaic acid product to the affected areas of your skin. This can include the entire face or specific areas prone to acne or hyperpigmentation.
  • Gently massage the product into the skin until it is fully absorbed. Allow it to dry before applying any additional skincare products.
  • Follow up with a moisturizer to provide hydration and seal in the benefits of the azelaic acid.
  • Use azelaic acid once or twice daily, as directed by the product instructions or as advised by a dermatologist.
  • Always wear sunscreen during the day when using azelaic acid, as it can increase skin sensitivity to the sun.

Precautions and Considerations:

While azelaic acid is generally well-tolerated by most skin types, it’s important to keep a few considerations in mind:

  • Patch Test: Before using azelaic acid for the first time, perform a patch test on a small area of skin to check for any adverse reactions or sensitivity.
  • Consult a Dermatologist: If you have any underlying skin conditions, such as eczema or sensitive skin, or if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, it’s best to consult with a dermatologist before incorporating azelaic acid into your routine.
  • Possible Side Effects: Some individuals may experience mild side effects, such as dryness, itching, or a slight stinging sensation. If these persist or worsen, discontinue use and consult a dermatologist.
  • Combination with Other Products: Azelaic acid can be used alongside other skincare ingredients, but it’s important to avoid combining it with products containing strong exfoliants or ingredients like benzoyl peroxide, as they may cause irritation.

Who should use azelaic acid and who should not?

Azelaic acid is a safe skin care ingredient that has widespread compatibility with all skin types and is typically well-tolerated, even by those with sensitive skin (11). Its multitasking abilities mean it’s sought after by those with varying skin concerns as well.

Who could benefit from azelaic acid?

Azelaic acid is particularly beneficial for those with blemished skin and/or those with uneven tone and bumpy texture due to the ingredient’s ability to help visibly reduce the appearance of dark spots and rough texture.

Those prone to redness and the discomfort of eczema can also reap the benefits of azelaic acid, since it can also be used to calm sensitivity. It’s even suitable for those struggling with rosacea.

Who should stay away from azelaic acid?

Adverse reactions and side effects to azelaic acid are not common, but as with any skin care ingredient, if you experience signs of irritation, stop use or experiment with applying less often (once every other day, for example).

How long does azelaic acid take to work?

Like other bioactive ingredients, you’ll see results from the first application of an azelaic acid product. A visible soothing of sensitivity is one of the benefits you’ll notice immediately. A more robust picture of azelaic acid’s benefits, like the visible reduction of dark spots and uneven tone, appear after one to three months of consistent usage. This assumes you’re also protecting your skin from UV light exposure by applying a broad-spectrum sunscreen rated SPF 30 or greater every day.

Can I use vitamin C and azelaic acid together?

Yes, you can use vitamin C and azelaic acid products together—these ingredients complement one another. Using them together may speed up the results for evening skin tone and fading marks by targeting the issue via multiple pathways.

Using them together is as simple as seeking out a product formulated with both instrumental skin care ingredients or layering separate products with each ingredient over one another. Just remember, if applying these ingredients during the day, always round out your skin care routine with the application of a broad-spectrum SPF 30+.

Can I use azelaic acid with retinol?

Implementing both azelaic acid and retinol into your skin care is a safe and viable option , especially if you’re looking to tackle a mix of skin concerns, like anti-aging, uneven tone and bumps.

Like vitamin C and azelaic acid, you can look for a product that contains both ingredients or can layer products that contain each over one another.

If you’re using a prescription azelaic acid or retinoid, consult with your dermatologist before layering and combining. Listen to your skin! If the application of both ingredients simultaneously isn’t working for your skin, consider using one ingredient within your morning routine and another during your nighttime routine.

In conclusion, azelaic acid is a versatile skincare ingredient known for its acne-fighting, hyperpigmentation-reducing, and rosacea-managing properties. With regular use and proper skincare routine, azelaic acid can help improve skin texture, tone, and overall appearance. Consider incorporating azelaic acid into your skincare regimen, and if in doubt, consult a dermatologist to determine the best approach for your skin’s specific needs.

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