This post may contain affiliate links meaning I earn money from companies mentioned in this post at no additional cost to you. Read full disclosure here
Azelaic acid is one of the most versatile active ingredients with lots of skin benefits. Most times, It is often overlooked in the treatment of acne or rosacea but it should be one to look out for. It comes in creams, gels and foams to treat several skin conditions.
Thanks to groundbreaking research, azelaic acid has pushed through the walls and it’s now making waves in the skincare industry. It is gentle, safe, versatile and works well with other active ingredients. To put it simply, azelaic acid is an overachiever.
This ingredient deserves a lot of recognition in the skincare world. Here is everything you need to know about azelaic acid.
What Is Azelaic Acid?
Azelaic acid is a plant-sourced dicarboxylic acid. The PH of Azelaic acid is between 4-5, making it an extremely weak acid which also means it’s close to the skin’s PH. This in effect will minimize the risk of skin irritation. It is found in whole grains such as wheat, rye and barley and in trace amounts in the human body produced by a yeast called Malassezia furfur.
Azelaic is considered very effective in 15% to 20% concentrations which are found in prescription-only topicals. However, incredible benefits are also seen in lower concentrations as seen in OTC.
When combined with other actives such as AHAs, retinol, and vitamin C, it works amazingly well. It is a safer option for those who cannot tolerate hydroquinone or retinoids. It is also considered safe to use in pregnancy.
Now let’s get to the benefits and how to use Azelaic acid in your skincare routine.
Azelaic Acid Benefits For Skin
People with rosacea tend to have highly sensitive skin that is characterized by skin redness, flushing, papules, pustules and the formation of blood vessels on the face. The addition of Azelaic Acid helps to lessen the inflammation seen in rosacea.
Also, azelaic acid is known to reduce bacteria that could flare up rosacea. Even though the presence of bacteria does not cause rosacea, the reduction in the number of bacteria on the skin will reduce inflammation and scavenge free radicals to reduce redness.
If your skin cannot tolerate Azelaic acid gel or cream, you can opt for the foam. People with rosacea tend to tolerate the foam a whole lot better than the gel or cream.
Azelaic acid has antibacterial effects meaning it inhibits the growth of bacteria causing acne. It also works by diving deep into your pores to decrease sebum production. It is recommended for mild to moderate forms of acne.
Studies have shown that applying 20% azelaic acid cream twice daily had excellent results. This was compared with 0.05% tretinoin cream, 5% benzoyl peroxide, and 2% erythromycin in the treatment of mild to moderate acne.
It generally takes about 1 to 2 months of consistent use of azelaic acid to start seeing improvement in acne. You can use it twice daily. However, to increase the penetration of the azelaic acid, you can increase your dosage to 3 to 4 times daily or use it with other actives.
For melasma, post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, dark spots or sun spots – Azelaic acid is very useful in this aspect. Azelaic acid has a strong affinity for abnormal melanocytes; pigments that are contributing to the dark spots. The beauty of azelaic acid is that it will ignore normal melanocytes to fight the abnormal melanocytes.
Which is unlike hydroquinone. Hydroquinone goes for normal and abnormal melanocytes. Most times hydroquinone can result in rebound hyperpigmentation when you stop using it.
A study from the Journal of Dermatology did a double-blinded study on 329 women for 24 weeks. The study used 20% Azelaic acid in some women and 4% Hydroquinone in others together with sunscreens. The results showed 65% good results in the azelaic acid group with fewer side effects.
For Dead Skin Cells
Since Azelaic acid is keratolytic in nature, it increase goes deep into pores to increase the turnover rate of dead skin cells. This improves skin tone, making it brighter and smoother.
How To Use Azelaic Acid
Whether you are using over-the-counter or prescription, apply pea size on your face and neck twice daily (morning and night). If you have really sensitive skin, you can use it every other day. Apply after cleansing, exfoliating and toning. You can then follow up with a moisturizer and sunscreen.
In order to boost its effectiveness, you may also apply azelaic acid with other active ingredients like your AHA (glycolic acid, lactic acid), BHA (Salicylic acid) or retinol first before applying azelaic acid. This will help azelaic acid penetrates deeply into the skin to work well. You can also mix it directly with your favourite serum or cream and apply it to every other part of your body.
NOTE: Before going over-the-counter to buy azelaic acid products for melasma, I will strongly encourage you to see your dermatologist. This is because Azelaic acid has a strong affinity for abnormal melanocytes and that includes cancerous melanocytes. There are certain types of melanoma you don’t want to tamper with.
Side Effects Of Azelaic Acid
If you are wondering whether your skin will purge when you start applying it, yes it will. Which may worsen acne at the beginning but with continuous usage, it tends to subside after 4 weeks. It can be irritating, stinging, drying and sometimes itchy. You might need about 4 weeks of continuous usage before you see any real changes in your skin.
Overall, Azelaic acid is very safe, effective, pretty easy to tolerate, gentle despite stinging and irritation that occurs when you start using it in the first 4 weeks, safe in pregnancy, can be combined with pretty much any other active ingredient.
Results will not happen overnight. Azelaic acid pretty much takes its time before you start seeing improvement on your skin. So be patient and continue
Best Azelaic Acid Products
This is a powerful combination of 3% glycolic and 12% azelaic acid and vitamin E for hyperpigmentation. You will notice an improvement in dull skin and skin tone
This product is great for rosacea, acne and mild melasma. It also contains salicylic acid and liquorice root for gentle exfoliation. It is non-greasy and moisturizing. Great for all skin types
If you are looking for a K-beauty product with azelaic acid, you got it here. This product comes with a powerful combination of azelaic acid, niacinamide, hyaluronic acid and Vit.B5 to reduce hyperpigmentation and acne. It is lightweight and non-greasy. However, it may not be suitable for sensitive skin types
A multi-functional cleanser that contains kojic acid, azelaic acid, niacinamide, liquorice root, safflower oil and coconut oil to give you that beautiful skin tone. It comes with a sponge for easy exfoliation. You may also use your hands to apply the product on your face to use as a mask for 3 minutes. It may not be suitable for dry skin.
Naturium is another great Azelaic acid product. Contains niacinamide, vitamin C and Coffee seed extracts to help minimize discolouration, dullness, redness and inflammation.
Azelaic acid is another great skincare ingredient that hasn’t that much recognition in the skincare world but it is definitely a product to look out for if you are treating hyperpigmentation, rosacea, and acne and exfoliating dead skin cells. Hope this post help you know more about the benefits and how to use azelaic acid for the skin.
Will you be trying azelaic acid? If you have, what is your best azelaic acid products? Let me know down in the comment box below