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In our pursuit for a flawless skin tone, skin issues like acne and hyperpigmentation never makes the goal easy, and this may occur as a result of our diet, hormonal changes, stress, environmental aggressors or stressors etc. But nevertheless there is definitely a remedy for every skin issue and when it comes to skin with flaws this star ingredient called azelaic acid can come to the rescue.
Azelaic acid is an underdog skincare ingredient that many people aren’t aware of. (Just like niacinamide). The potentials of azelaic acid for skin is second to none and therefore should be given credit in the skincare world. If you’re new to this ingredient or you’re just knowing about it for the first time, then you’ve got to be happy because in this content, you’re about to know an ingredient with so much potentials and benefits to fix wide range of skin imperfections.
What Is Azelaic Acid?
Azelaic acid is a naturally occurring acid found in grains such as barley, wheat, and rye. It’s rich in anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory properties which makes it an effective treatment for acne and rosacea. Similar to retinol, azelaic acid puts a stop to future outbreaks and clean bacteria from your pores that causes acne. It also mildly exfoliates the skin, curtails redness and reduces the appearance of hyperpigmentations.
According to NYC-based board certified dermatologist Francesa Fusco, MD, “Azelaic acid is produced naturally on your own skin by your own yeast, but you can also make it in a laboratory, and it can come from grains and cereals,”. Fusco further says azelaic acid gently exfoliates deep within the skin pores to prevent comedones.
It’s also keratolytic (decreases keratin), anti-inflammatory, and has antioxidant properties.
Infact azelaic acid is a multifunctional skincare ingredient, as it tackles different kinds of skin issues and fix imperfections such as acne, rosacea, redness, hyperpigmentation, melasma and shrink large pores.
This content won’t be in-depth if we don’t disclose in detail the full potentials of this wonder-ingredient to the skin, so having said that, we’re going to reveal the full skin benefits of azelaic acid and why it deserves a spot in your skincare routine especially if you have an oily and acne-prone skin type.
Skin Benefits Of Azelaic Acid.
- Fights Acne: Due to its anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial and exfoliating potentials, azelaic acid gets rid of acne and pimples. It’s more milder and less aggressive on the skin unlike retinoids to sensitive skin. Individuals with sensitive skin are likely going to enjoy the full potentials of azelaic acid for treating acne and rosacea. In a single-blind research study of 289 patients with comedonal acne, the topical azelaic acid preparation was compared with 0.05% tretinoin cream over a period of 6 months. In both controlled studies, 20% azelaic acid cream significantly reduced the number of acne lesions and yielded clinically relevant improvement rates. In the study of comedonal acne, 20% azelaic acid cream was equally effective as 0.05% tretinoin cream in reducing the number of comedones with lesser side effects.
- Mildly Exfoliates The Skin: With the continuous rate of natural cell turnover and regeneration process the pores can get congested of dead skin cells. Azelaic acid deeply but mildly exfoliates the skin pores and unclog the pores of pore-clogging impurities.
- Reduces Inflammation: Azelaic acid soothes Irritations and calms down redness which makes this wonderful skincare ingredient a holy grail for individuals with sensitive skin and rosacea.
- Improves Skin Tone: Have you ever wondered why azelaic acid is called a “multi-functional skincare ingredient?” It’s simply because it exfoliates, soothes, delivers anti-bacterial potentials and above all evens the skin tone by enhancing skin radiance just like vitamin C does. Azelaic acid tackles hyperpigmentation, discoloration, pigmentations and melasma and also improve overall skin tone and radiance. A combination of azelaic acid and alpha arbutin will definitely add a massive boost to dramatically fade discolorations.
- Fades Hyperpigmentation & Melasma: Azelaic acid has proven to reduce the looks of hyperpigmentation and melasma. Azelaic acid was initially developed as a topical anti-acne agent but because of its effect on tyrosinase, it has also been used to treat hyper-pigmentary disorders like melasma. Its mechanisms of action include the inhibition of DNA synthesis and mitochondrial enzymes, thereby inducing direct cytotoxic effects toward the melanocyte. . A double-blind randomized study has shown that a 20% concentration of azelaic acid was equivalent to 4% hydroquinone in the treatment of melasma, but without its side effects. Another controlled study has found azelaic acid to be superior to 2% hydroquinone. A combination of azelaic acid with 0.05% tretinoin or 15-20% glycolic acid may produce earlier, more pronounced skin lightening. 
- Azelaic Acid Is Safe For Pregnant Women: When it comes to pregnancy-safe skincare ingredients azelaic acid made the list. Unlike some skincare ingredients which aren’t safe for pregnant women and the growing fetus, azelaic acid is completely safe to use during pregnancy. Fusco says “azelaic acid is one of the few treatment options for acne, rosacea, clogged pores, or pigmentation that is generally safe for pregnant women”. 
- It Treats Rosacea: Azelaic acid is in a class of medications called dicarboxylic acids. It works to treat rosacea by decreasing the swelling and redness of the skin. Just the same way It works to treat acne by killing the bacteria that infect pores and by decreasing production of keratin, a natural substance that can lead to the development of inflammatory acne. Clinical studies demonstrates that azelaic acid gel or cream can continually improve the appearance of swelling and visible blood vessels caused by rosacea.
- It Can Treat Alopecia: Azelaic acid has been linked to treating alopecia in some previous studies.
As an anti-bacterial, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory substance, azelaic acid can combat many of the other contributing factors for hair loss. Furthermore, recent research suggests that it can help with alopecia areata, a genetic form of hair loss. In a comparison research study azelaic acid and anthralin was compared on effectiveness towards treating hair loss. The study proved that azelaic acid gave similar results to anthralin with regard to hair regrowth and that it can be an effective topical therapy for patchy alopecia.
Does Azelaic Acid Have The Same Similarities With Alpha & Beta Hydroxy Acids?
The benefits of azelaic acid for skin also extends to mild exfoliation, just like AHAs and BHA does. But the major difference is, it doesn’t exfoliate the same way as or with the same level of effectiveness as ingredients like glycolic acid and lactic acid (AHAs) or salicylic acid (BHA).
AHA’s & BHA offers intense exfoliation as they penetrate deeply into the skin to unclog pore of impurities and congestion, so if you’re hoping to get the same result with just using azelaic acid then I’m sorry.
But on the other hand, azelaic acid offers additional benefits that AHA and BHA ingredients don’t provide. In addition that azelaic acid mildly exfoliates the skin (but not as effective as AHAs & BHA) it also remarkably improves the appearance of hyperpigmentation and uneven skin tone for a brighter-looking skin.
Azelaic Acid For Skin – How To Get Started.
Don’t let the word “Acid” intimate you, as azelaic acid is a naturally occurring acid that’s milder than some more popular acids used to treat acne. But nevertheless when it comes to acids one need to take extra caution. Acidic ingredients can be drying on the skin (especially to individuals with sensitive & dry skin) that’s why it’s always recommended to apply a small size amount then follow up with a moisture-rich moisturizer to revitalize the skin of moisture. But before that, as regards to skincare standards, we highly advice you should perform a patch test first prior to commencing any skincare treatment to check for allergic reactions.
Side Effects Of Azelaic Acid.
If you’re new to azelaic acid, you have to perform a patch test first. If you feel itchiness, burning and stinging that won’t go away, it’s time to back off. But if this feeling occured for some short time, it’s absolutely normal, just ensure you follow up with a moisture-rich moisturizer to keep the skin intensively hydrated and moisturized.
You can do this by following the best skincare routine by applying hyaluronic acid serum first (after you must have applied a pea size or small amount of azelaic acid) then lock in moisture with a lightweight moisturizer afterwards. Don’t forget to apply a sunscreen during the day to protect your skin from the dangerous UV rays of the sun.
In a nutshell, below is how to apply Azelaic acid cream or gel.
How To Apply Azelaic Acid For Skin.
- Step 1: Wash your face with an alcohol-free and non-abrasive (or harsh) facial cleanser. You wouldn’t want to combine acids with acids. Harsh facial cleansers strips the skin of its natural oil and exfoliates the top skin barrier making it sensitive and can trigger inflammation when other acids such as azelaic is applied on the skin. So, it’s best you opt for a mild facial cleanser while using acidic skincare topicals.
- Step 2: After washing your face. Dab the skin gently (rather than rubbing) with a paper towel or a clean face towel to dry excessive water on your face.
- Step 3: Apply a pea size or a small size amount of azelaic acid cream or gel on your face, gently massage treatment untill fully absorbed.
- Step 4: Then follow up with a humectant (hyaluronic acid serum) and seal off moisture with a light-weight moisturizer afterwards. If you seem not to have hyaluronic acid serum at your disposal, you can use a lightweight moisturizer which contains both humectants and emollients.
Best Products With Azelaic Acid.
1. Paula’s Choice BOOST 10% Azelaic Acid Booster.
Here’s a lightweight creamy-gel formula that contains 10% azelaic acid in combination with licorice extract & salicylic acid to even facilitate the product the more in fixing all basic skincare issues in all ramifications. This multi-action formula gets rid of acne, rosacea, blemishes, tackles the issue of hyperpigmentation (dark spots), wrinkles, fine lines, soothes redness, (calms inflammations) and gently exfoliates the skin thanks to its salicylic acid (BHA) content which makes exfoliation even more effective.
2. The Ordinary Azelaic Acid Suspension 10%.
If you rather want just azelaic acid with no combined therapies, then this formula is for you. Contains pure 10% azelaic acid in a lightweight creamy formula, easily absorbs into the skin to deliver its great potentials towards tackling signs of aging, inflammation, ensure mild exfoliation, reduces hyperpigmentations and improve overall skin tone and radiance.
3. PCA Skin Pigment Bar.
This is a facial cleansing formula that combines not only azelaic acid but also tannic, and kojic acid, to deliver their potentials benefits to the skin. For best and optimum result when applied on the skin leave it on for 1-2 minutes, then wash off. This formula lathers nicely and won’t literally dry out the skin but it’s still recommended you should follow up with a moisture-rich moisturizer afterwards to lock in moisture into the skin.
4. Eminence Organic Skin Care Clear Skin Willow Bark Exfoliating Peel.
An exfoliating peel formula which contains the combination of willow bark, azelaic acid, salicylic and lactic acid to deeply but mildly exfoliate the skin pores which addresses the issues of enlarged pores and acne. It also contains lilac extract to reduces redness and fruit acids to facilitate your skin’s moisture levels. This leave-on organic formula is your best bet when seeking for a great exfoliating peel for your skin.
Possible Question & Answers.
Q: How often should I use azelaic acid topicals?
A: First of all before commencing treatment ensure to perform a patch test, to test for allergies and if everything should perfectly go alright, then start up by applying a pea size amount twice or thrice weekly on a well cleansed skin. You can work your way up to everyday (if your skin can take it) but nevertheless azelaic acid is a mild ingredient and most likely ideal for sensitive skin unlike retinol. Azelaic acid can also be used in the day-time (AM) and night-time (PM) but we strongly advise you should follow up with a moisture-rich moisturizer afterwards and don’t forget to apply a sunscreen during the day to shield your skin against the UV rays of the sun.
Q: Can I use azelaic acid in combination with AHAs and BHA?
A: No. Azelaic acid for skin shouldn’t be used in combination with AHAs and BHA.
Due to their acidic nature both acids aren’t meant or recommended to be used together to avoid possible occurrence of sensitivity, Irritations, redness and dryness. However both therapies can still be combined in a routine but should be used on different intervals.
- Option 1: Use AHA or BHA in the morning (day-time) Azelaic acid at night-time.
- Option 2: Alternate nights, such as: Use azelaic acid one night, AHAs or BHA the next night.
- Option 3: Use AHAs or BHA one night, azelaic acid the next, then a night off with just a moisturizer.