If you’re struggling with uneven skin tone or are looking for acne treatment, you may have heard some buzz around azelaic acid. As an antioxidant with antibacterial and skin-lightening properties, using azelaic acid is an excellent option for people who want to eliminate redness and inflammation from acne, rosacea, and hyperpigmentation.
In this article, we’ll cover the benefits of azelaic acid, products that pair well with it, and side effects to watch out for. With a little time, you’ll be on your way to a more brilliant complexion.
What is Azelaic Acid?
Azelaic acid is an effective medication for treating mild to moderate acne and other skin conditions like rosacea. You can find this dicarboxylic acid in barley, rye, and other grains in its naturally occurring state. Your skin also produces it and uses yeast for synthesis.
Thanks to its anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory lesions properties, azelaic acid topicals remove bacteria from your pores and prevent it from regrowing. For this reason, they often prevent future acne breakouts.
Aside from azelaic acid, active ingredients in azelaic acid cream typically include:
- Lactic acid
- Vitamin C
- Salicylic acid
- Kojic acid
Azelaic acid also contains minor ingredients, such as propylene glycol, to produce a user-friendly topical treatment.
Although it’s a highly effective medication, if you’re working with a dermatologist, they probably didn’t use prescription azelaic acid as your default skin treatment medication. The reason for this is that azelaic acid can take time to be effective, and people suffering from acne and other skin conditions are often looking for more immediate results.
Uses of Azelaic Acid Cream
Most people associate azelaic acid with treating acne. While it’s a great medication for such situations, it offers several other benefits for skin conditions. Let’s take a closer look at them.
When applied regularly, azelaic acid rids your pores of bacteria that cause redness and breakouts. It also reduces inflammatory papule, which helps reduce the visibility of your acne. It also promotes cell turnover, which reduces the appearance of scars and helps your skin recover quicker once your acne is under control.
Because of its antibacterial properties, skin-irritating yeast such as Pityrosporum ovale, which naturally occurs on human skin, doesn’t have the chance to flourish when azelaic acid is present.
Rosacea, formally called Papulopustular rosacea, is a condition that creates inflamed, red bumps on the forehead, nose, cheeks, and chin. Sometimes, it can be challenging to decipher moderate rosacea from acne, especially if you suffer from both, as redness and swelling are characteristics of both of them.
The good news is that azelaic acid can clear up both conditions. By controlling inflammation, azelaic acid shrinks blood vessels, thus reducing the redness from rosacea.
Clear Up Scarring
Whether you’ve just cleared up your acne or have been acne-free for years, there’s another hurdle you may have to overcome—scarring. By applying azelaic acid, your skin will jump into action by increasing its cell turnover, helping to shed the scar tissue.
Furthermore, scarring can cause melanin synthesis, which is when your skin has varying pigments. Azelaic acid blocks melanin synthesis from occurring, helping you to achieve a smooth complexion.
While we’re on the topic of scarring, azelaic acid can clear up melasma, which is a condition resulting from hormone changes in pregnant women. It can also result from too much sun exposure. These patches of brown or gray-brown pigment appear on the face.
Since azelaic acid encourages cell turnover, it reduces or eliminates melasma by shedding layers of the pigmented skin.
Azelaic acid can also help lessen the physical side effects of lentigo maligna, a form of early melanoma.
Hyperpigmentation, which is when your skin has patches of discoloration, is common during and after acne breakouts. Azelaic acid prevents these discolored skin cells from forming. It can also help to even out skin tone from hyperpigmentation.
It may seem like an oddball on this list of ailments that azelaic acid treats, but it can help lighten skin discoloration from melanin blotches. People who want to use azelaic acid strictly for its lightening properties typically only apply the cream to their melanin blotches.
That said, if you’re interested in skin lightening benefits, you may be better off combining azelaic acid with hydroquinone. You can learn more about the differences between these two substances in our article on hydroquinone vs. azelaic acid.
Benefits of Azelaic Acid Cream
Azelaic acid cream offers various benefits for people suffering from skin conditions. Some of its best advantages include:
- Exfoliates and promotes new cell growth
- Reduces inflammation and redness
- Has long-term acne vulgaris fighting qualities
- May prevent hair loss
- Gluten-free for people who are sensitive to gluten
- Evens skin tone by inhibiting tyrosinase, which is the enzyme that causes hyperpigmentation
- Helps prevent cancer because it’s an antioxidant
The National Center for Biotechnology Information states that azelaic acid is effective against several skin conditions, including acne, if you apply it using a cream with a formulation of twenty percent.
Similarly, a study released by ScienceDirect on azelaic acid among patients with hyperpigmentation showed that approximately 4 – 8% of azelaic acid absorbed systemically. That was enough to make azelaic acid a tyrosinase inhibitor and reduced the production of melanin.
Despite the many benefits of azelaic acid, as with any new topical medicine, you should start by using a small amount to make sure you don’t have an allergic reaction.
Azelaic Acid Cream Products
As you gear up to use azelaic acid, it’s essential to know the best treatment regimen. The most effective way to use an azelaic acid cream is to apply it twice per day—once in the morning and once in the evening. That said, if you’re prone to dry or sensitive skin, it’s best to start with an every other day application.
In either case, you’ll only need to apply a thin layer of cream to your face. Make sure to wash your hands and your face before applying, then gently massage the cream all around your face, avoiding your mucous membranes.
The most effective way to use azelaic acid is to apply it at the same time every day and not to miss a day. It takes time for azelaic acid cream to work—usually around six to eight weeks. So, you don’t want to undo all your hard work on week seven by getting off your application routine!
In almost all cases, you should spread azelaic acid cream over your entire face. That’s especially true for propionibacterium acnes since the cream will help clear out pores and prevent acne-causing bacteria from setting in. However, suppose you’re seeking skin-lightening benefits. In that case, you may only want to apply the cream in the area where you’re suffering from melanin blotches, depending on how localized it is.
Are you ready to take advantage of the power of azelaic acid cream? If so, we’ve got the solution for you.
Our powerful Brightening serum contains both azelaic acid and hydroquinone, which creates a serum that removes dark spots and evens skin tone worn from acne and other skin blemishes.
What sets Admire Brightening Serum apart from our competitors is that we’ve packed this product with the highest concentration of ingredients allowed for over-the-counter use without a prescription.
In addition to removing dark spots instigated by melasma and skin blemishes from acne, our azelaic acid cream reduces hyperpigmentation, fine lines, and wrinkles.
By using Admire Brightening Serum once or twice per day, we guarantee that you’ll see results within four weeks. Don’t believe us? You can view our customer gallery of before and after photos here.
Other Products Compatible with Azelaic Acid Serums
When considering other products to use in conjunction with azelaic acid, it’s important to understand them well and the side effects they could cause. For example, tretinoin and acne often go together in a good way—tretinoin helps to regenerate new cell growth, much like azelaic acid.
Similarly, benzoyl peroxide is a similar but more expensive treatment that functions like azelaic acid. The good news is that azelaic acid is a gentler treatment than harsh ones your dermatologist may have prescribed you, such as alpha hydroxy acid, glycolic acid, and salicylic acid.
However, too much of a good thing can be too much; by choosing a product that contains both azelaic acid and tretinoin, you could be setting yourself up for adverse reactions like extreme skin irritation, even if you have a normal skin texture. For example, you should avoid using skinoren cream and finacea gels.
A good rule of thumb is to test one product at a time. Start with your azelaic acid cream. If your skin reacts well to it after a week or two, then consider adding another product and proceed in the same way. Your body will tell you what works well and what doesn’t; listen to it.
With that disclaimer in mind, below are some other products you can consider incorporating with your azelaic acid cream.
Topical retinoids: azelaic acid gel offers some age-defying benefits because of skin regeneration. However, retinoids tend to be more effective at targeting pesky fine lines and wrinkles. Since you won’t be applying your azelaic acid cream around your eyes, this is a safe place to use your retinoid. For other areas of your face, proceed on a trial basis.
Moisturizer: A moisturizer is an excellent supplement to use with azelaic acid because it will help counteract the medicine’s drying effect. Before applying any product on top of your azelaic acid foam, cream, or gel, you should let some time pass for it to soak into your skin; fifteen minutes is a safe number.
Sunscreen: We can’t reiterate it enough—you should never leave the house while using azelaic acid without wearing sunscreen. A sunburned face will achieve the opposite effect of the smooth skin tone you’re trying to achieve!
Niacinamide, hydroxy acids & antioxidants: Products containing any of these three ingredients pair beautifully with azelaic acid. The reason being is that azelaic acid is a stable molecule. Therefore, your skin likely won’t have a harsh reaction if you use facial products containing these ingredients.
Azelaic Acid Precautions
Like any medication, you may encounter side effects when using azelaic acid. The most common side effects include:
- Dry or red skin
- Skin peeling at the application site
- A sensation of burning or tingling on the area where you’ve applied the medication
The symptoms above aren’t necessarily a reason to stop using your azelaic acid cream, but you should keep an eye on it and speak with your dermatologist if the issue persists. Some people find that dropping their azelaic acid usage to applying it every other day is an excellent way to manage these unwanted side effects.
In rare cases, you may experience more severe side effects from using azelaic acid. They include:
- Trouble breathing
- Itchiness and hives
- Joint pain or tightness
- Swelling and irritation around the application site
- Blistering and severe flaking around the application site
All of the symptoms above are reasons to stop using azelaic acid and seek a medical professional’s immediate support.
Although you don’t have control over azelaic acid’s side effects, there’s one aspect you do have control over—using sunscreen. Azelaic acid makes skin more prone to sunburn, and for obvious reasons, you don’t want sunburn irritating your already irritated skin. So, make sure to lather up with some good quality SPF.
Although a side effect of azelaic acid is dry skin, it doesn’t compare with Accutane, a potent oral anti-acne medication that dries your skin from the inside out, right down to your lips. For this reason, many people prefer the relatively mild effects of azelaic acid to Accutane.
Azelaic acid cream is a good choice for people who have tried other treatments for postinflammatory hyperpigmentation, acne, and other skin conditions with little to no results. The medicine can take a while to kick into effect, so patience is key.
If you’re prone to dry skin, we recommend using your azelaic acid cream every other day since a side effect is skin drying. Other than people with dry skin, azelaic acid creams are safe for anyone to use, including pregnant women. They typically don’t have a negative impact when combined with other facial care products.
What are you waiting for? Get started using a brightening serum and reclaim your beautiful facial tone.