Azelaic acid is like that new kid at school who you sort of notice at first, and you guess they seem nice, but the next thing you know they’re the most popular kid in the class. This skincare ingredient popped up seemingly out nowhere, when it was recently approved for use in over-the-counter products in the US, and suddenly any skincare addict worth their salt was using it in their skincare routine.
So don’t get left behind – learn what all the fuss is about, and maybe you’ll find yourself ordering a bottle of this stuff as well. In this post, we explain exactly what azelaic acid is, how it works, how to use azelaic acid for skin, and any potential side-effects.
In this article:
- What Is Azelaic Acid?
- Azelaic Acid Benefits for Skin
- How Does Azelaic Acid Work?
- Are There Any Side Effects to Using Azelaic Acid?
- How Should I Use Azelaic Acid?
What Is Azelaic Acid?
Azelaic acid is a dicarboxylic acid that occurs naturally in barley, rye, and wheat. This ingredient is becoming increasingly popular in skin care, especially for those with sensitive and acne-prone skin, thanks to its ability to improve the look of most skin types, with very little irritation and side effects.
Azelaic acid is normally a prescription-only product, but there are a few over-the-counter azelaic acid options that are starting to pop up.
Azelaic Acid Benefits for Skin
- Reducing acne and breakouts;
- Reducing and mitigating redness, sensitivity, and inflammation;
- Reducing the symptoms of rosacea;
- Fading hyperpigmentation, dark marks, and dull skin;
- Brightening the skin and improving its overall coloration.
How Does Azelaic Acid Work?
Azelaic acid works on multiple fronts. First, as an antibacterial agent, it prevents the proliferation of the acne bacteria. This means that it helps keep the acne bacteria away, which helps prevent acne breakouts from occurring in the first place.
These same antibacterial properties are very likely effective for dealing with rosacea, which is thought to be caused by bacteria. Unlike other antibacterial agents, azelaic acid is much milder so it won’t aggravate or irritate skin that is already sensitive due to rosacea.
Second, as an anti-inflammatory ingredient, azelaic acid is able to reduce the redness, pain, and swelling that are associated with acne, rosacea, and overall sensitivity. It immediately calms breakouts, while also working to keep new pimples from popping up.
Third, as a keratolytic agent, azelaic acid helps prevent pore-clogging build-up. Keratin is one of the protein components in our skin, and when it gets built up in the pore, it is one of the elements contributing to acne. Azelaic acid helps keep it from clogging the pore, making the skin overall clearer and helping to prevent both breakouts and closed comedones.
Fourth, azelaic acid is an effective tyrosinase inhibitor. Tyrosinase is an enzyme that is responsible for the production of melanin in the skin. One of the most effective ways skin care can improve hyperpigmentation, and brighten the skin in general, is by disrupting the action of this enzyme. Since azelaic acid is excellent at doing that, it is a great addition to a skincare routine meant to target dark spots and pigmentation.
Are There Any Side Effects to Using Azelaic Acid?
For the most part there aren’t any side effects to using azelaic acid. Very few people do report some mild stinging or burning, which tends to fade away quickly.
However, as with anything, an allergic reaction is possible! Stop using azelaic acid (and maybe find a doctor) if you react to it with a rash, severe burning or itching, extreme peeling or dryness, or if it gives you trouble breathing.
How Should I Use Azelaic Acid?
The way you use azelaic acid partially depends on what your desired results are. You may choose to combine it with different actives, in order to achieve various results. However, no matter what your desired effect is, you should generally stick to the following order when putting azelaic acid into your skincare routine:
- Apply Actives
Apply any serious active ingredients to your skin. If you choose to use an azelaic acid that is combined with actives like vitamin C, glycolic acid, or salicylic acid, apply it immediately after cleansing. Wait 15-20 minutes.
- Apply Serums
If you have any humectant serums in your routine, now is the time to pat them onto your skin!
- Apply Azelaic Acid
Next apply your azelaic acid treatment, assuming it isn’t paired with other actives. If it is in a moisturizing-enough solution, this can be the end of your routine! If it is not nourishing enough, layer a moisturizer on top of it.
Have you tried azelaic acid? What were the results? Share your experiences!
Photos via Sephora, Instagram