Uses of Azelaic Acid for Acne
You may not think of a compound originating from barley and wheat as an acne-fighting machine, but that’s what azelaic acid does. As a dicarboxylic acid that yeast naturally synthesizes, azelaic acid kills bacteria that clogs pores and promotes collagen regrowth via exfoliation.
Although azelaic acid is excellent for clearing up and preventing acne breakouts, it also helps reduce hyperpigmentation, which is the darkening of the skin. After your acne clears, you may still have dark spots, which is a form of melasma. Therefore, azelaic acid single-handedly cures acne and lightens your skin tone to a smoother, more brilliant state.
While you can obtain prescription azelaic acid foam, gels, and creams from a dermatologist, many people can clear up their acne using an over-the-counter topical acne treatment. Most of these treatments not only contain azelaic acid but other supplemental ingredients to turn the topical into an even more powerful acne treatment fighter.
Define Azelaic Acid
In technical terms, azelaic acid is an organic saturated dicarboxylic acid. It’s in the form of white powder and occurs naturally in certain grains. Thanks to its antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties, azelaic acid is a great option for curing and preventing acne breakouts.
Azelaic acid is excellent at combating the following types of acne:
There are two types of prescription azelaic acid—finacea, which has a 15% azelaic acid concentration, and Azelex, which has a 20% concentration. These are high azelaic acid levels and therefore have a greater chance of causing dryness, especially for sensitive skin. You’ll need to visit a dermatologist if you wish to use these high azelaic acid doses.
For this reason, coupled with the high cost of azelaic acid when it’s highly concentrated, many people prefer using over-the-counter azelaic acid as they can still reap the benefits without putting too much stress on their skin or wallet.
Uses of Azelaic Acid for Acne
Azelaic acid is an antibacterial, so it helps to kill bacteria deep within your pores and prevents new bacteria from forming. It also helps to reduce inflammation, shrinking the size and severity of pimples. The reason for this is that the bacteria that causes acne instigates the growth of cytokines, and your immune system responds to it by creating inflammation.
If you use prescription azelaic acid, it might come in the form of a finacea foam, but this can cause more skin irritation. You can purchase over-the-counter topicals in all forms, including azelaic acid foams, gels, and serums.
While acne-fighting properties are at the core of azelaic acid’s purpose, this treatment is also effective for skin ailments that are often by-products of acne, especially for people who have suffered years with severe pimples. Below are some examples.
Azelaic acid contains skin-lightening properties. By destroying melanocytes, azelaic acid helps prevent skin cells from producing melanin, which makes the dark spots you may find after your acne clears. Hyperpigmentation is also the result of lentigo maligna, a type of melanoma from spending too much time in the sun. Azelaic acid won’t prevent melanoma from growing, but it can reduce its discoloration and improve your skin tone.
Since papulopustular rosacea appears as small red bumps on the chin, nose, forehead, and cheeks, it can be difficult to tell if you have acne, rosacea, or a combination of both. If you don’t want to invest in a big dermatologist bill, figuring out the difference doesn’t matter—azelaic acid will treat both conditions at the same time. The acid works by reducing the size of blood cells, helping to alleviate inflammation and reduce redness.
Pityrosporum ovale is a fancy term for yeast. Yeast is a form of fungus, and azelaic acid helps prevent its formation, which is a common occurrence on human skin, thus instigating acne. Pityrosporum ovale is responsible for causing several other skin conditions, including seborrheic dermatitis and tinea versicolor.
Azelaic Acid for Acne Scars
You may have had short-term success with other acne products in the past only to find that your cleared acne left behind ugly scars. Although scarring doesn’t come with the pain that pimples cause, many people find it just as revolting as acne.
A tremendous benefit of azelaic acid is that while it battles your acne, it simultaneously decreases the appearance of scarring. The way it works is by promoting collagen formation, which is like a natural exfoliator. By increasing the rate that your dead skin cells shed, it helps to break down the scaring you have. Therefore, it leaves those areas with a lighter complexion.
Another way that azelaic acid helps acne scarring is through prevention. Azelaic acid inhibits tyrosinase and melanin production, which is responsible for producing postinflammatory hyperpigmentation—those dark spots that scarring can cause. By promoting new skin cell growth, azelaic acid helps you to shed tissue that normally would have scarred before the dark spots of scarring can take place.
Thanks to its skin-renewing properties, azelaic acid is an excellent ingredient to include in a skincare regimen for anyone wanting to decrease or avoid the formation of scarring from acne.
Although most acid-based acne medicines tend to be harsh on the skin, azelaic acid creates less drying and peeling than others. Nevertheless, if you have sensitive skin, you may want to start by applying your azelaic acid topical every other day. Over time, your skin will likely build up strength, and you’ll be able to use it every day.
Benzoyl peroxide and topical retinoids are notorious for being dangerous for pregnant women as they can cause birth defects. However, topical azelaic acid is safe to use for most pregnant and breastfeeding women, although you should still consult with your doctor prior to using it.
Severe side effects are uncommon with azelaic acid. Nonetheless, you should seek medical help immediately if you experience any of the following:
- Difficulty breathing
- Hives and itchy skin
- Joint pain and tightness
- Blistering and severe irritation at the application site
Although these side effects sound intimidating, take comfort in knowing that they’re rare. Azelaic acid is among the safest anti-acne ingredients on the market, thanks to the minimal side effects it typically produces.
Don’t Use These with Azelaic Acid
Technically, there isn’t any product that you can’t use with azelaic acid. However, because azelaic acid acts as an exfoliant, it’s best to avoid using other exfoliants simultaneously, as this could dry out or irritate your skin.
For example, you may have heard about tretinoin and acne. These two words tend to go hand in hand and have a close relationship to how azelaic acid works, except for one important distinction; at first, tretinoin makes acne worse because it quickly sheds dead skin cells, causing the face to react by producing more acne. However, once your skin adjusts, it’ll have the opposite effect—it will treat your acne.
Nonetheless, many people don’t like tretinoin’s acne-causing initial effect, which is why they prefer a slower but steadier ingredient like azelaic acid. The high cost of tretinoin can also push people away. Regardless of the acne treatment you choose, you should avoid combining azelaic acid with skin cell shedding ingredients like tretinoin.
Ideal Candidates for Azelaic Acid
If you’ve been struggling with acne for a while now and can’t find a product that clears up and keeps your acne away, you could be a good candidate for azelaic acid. Before beginning azelaic acid treatment, it’s critical that you understand that it isn’t a quick fix—you can expect results to take at least one month. Therefore, patience is a crucial component when considering candidates for azelaic acid.
People of all skin types can use azelaic acid. However, people with combination or oily skin typically have an easier time adjusting to azelaic acid topicals since the acid tends to dry out sensitive skin.
Nevertheless, people with sensitive skin are still good candidates for azelaic acid; it just means they may have to work their skin up to adjusting to it by only using the topical every other day at first.
Unlike some ingredients in other acne products, azelaic acid doesn’t cause birth defects. Therefore, it’s safe for pregnant and breastfeeding women to use.
Before beginning your azelaic acid treatment, it’s important to consider whether you’re willing to commit to it for a couple of months. One of the downsides to this product is that it takes time to fight the bacteria and swelling on your face—you might not start noticing results for four weeks. However, people who stick with their azelaic acid applications get to enjoy beautiful skin clearing and toning benefits.
To use azelaic acid, begin by testing a small amount of the serum on your arm. If all goes well with that, move to your neck. Finally, you can begin applying it to your face if you don’t have any adverse reactions. You don’t need much—a thin coating is more than enough to give you results.
It’s best to apply azelaic acid in the evening since sun rays can destroy its active ingredients. You should put it on after washing your face and after using any other moisturizers or products. Once you’ve applied your azelaic acid cream, let it soak into your skin for at least 15 minutes before getting into bed. Otherwise, your sheets could wipe it off.
If you feel any persistent burning or stinging in the days after starting your azelaic acid treatment, you should stop applying it and seek support from your dermatologist.
After all this talk about how azelaic acid and azelaic acid gel can fight acne and improve your skin tone, you might be wondering how you can include it as part of your skin care regimen. Our over-the-counter azelaic acid treatment is specialty formulated by combining azelaic acid with various other skin-enhancing ingredients, including:
- Kojic acid
- Lactic acid
- Salicylic acid
- Vitamin C
By applying our brightening serum daily for one month, you can expect to see improvements in your acne and a decrease in dark spots from acne scarring. Since azelaic acid makes skin sensitive to the sun, we encourage you to use sunscreen with a high SPF before going outside.
Like all the products we make at Admire My Skin, our brightening serum is USA-made and cruelty-free. Azelaic acid is naturally gluten-free, and our product stands out from our competitors because it’s free of paraben and fragrance.
One of the benefits of azelaic acid is that you can use it with just about any other topical. Below are some products and ingredients you may want to consider combining with it.
Our vitamin-packed glow drops contain skin-healthy vitamin C and vitamin E along with moisturizers like argan oil, rosehip oil, and sea buckthorn oil. Since azelaic acid can dry out skin, using these citrus glow drops as you’re working on combating your acne can be a wonderful balance.
Additionally, if you suffer from fine lines and wrinkles, our glow drops will give your skin a more youthful glow. As a bonus, you can mix these drops in with your foundation, creating a dewy type of appearance.
The high concentration of antioxidants in our hydration collagen cream makes this an excellent product to use as you work on eliminating your facial acne with azelaic acid. Its formulation includes deep moisturization, helping to prevent your skin from drying out from your azelaic acid treatment. Furthermore, it contains hydrolyzed marine collagen and sea kelp to promote collagen production, which helps to reduce any redness and irritation you have from acne.
There’s nothing like good retinol to help combat acne and wrinkles at the same time. Our formula contains 2.5% retinol. It prevented breakouts and improved skin tone in more than 90% of the participants in a clinical study. It will firm your face and improve skin tone, all while making it a safe choice to combine with your azelaic acid topical treatment.
Now that we’ve covered products that pair well with azelaic acid, let’s look at some ingredients that go well with it. If you’re looking for a product to combine with your azelaic acid cream, below are some ingredients you should keep an eye out for.
Tranexamic acid is another form of acid that is excellent for people seeking acne skin care. If you purchase a product containing tranexamic acid, you can expect similar results as azelaic acid, including the reduction of acne scars and brightening of the skin by lightening dark spots that acne caused. Like azelaic acid, tranexamic acid works well with various ingredients, including vitamin C, hyaluronic acid, salicylic acid, and retinol.
Retin A, which comes from vitamin A and uses the brand name “tretinoin,” is an excellent product to use with azelaic acid to combat acne. Retin A results are impressive. Like with azelaic acid, they reduce hyperpigmentation and redness from acne scars. The effect of both these products is permanent; once your dark spots are lighter, they won’t return to their hyperpigmented state unless you get a new round of acne in the same place.
Alpha Hydroxy Acid
Commonly abbreviated as “AHA,” alpha hydroxy acid refers to a large group of naturally occurring acids found in plants and animals. These are healthy acids and do an excellent job of complementing each other; they promote skin health, prevent clogged pores, and exfoliate to reduce scarring and inflammatory lesions from acne. Examples of AHAs include salicylic acid, lactic acid, and glycolic acid.
Vitamin C isn’t only good for the inside of your body; it has a powerful effect on the radiance of your skin when using it as a topical. Since azelaic acid makes skin sensitive to the sun, vitamin C’s antioxidant properties will help to protect you from UV rays. As a bonus, it helps to make skin look firmer and more moisturized.
Depigmentation is a common side effect of acne. To combat this, consider purchasing an azelaic acid product or supplement that contains hydroquinone. By doing so, you’ll increase the power of azelaic acid’s skin-lightening properties. Our azelaic acid brightening serum contains hydroquinone precisely because of how well these two ingredients complement each other.
Ready to Give Azelaic Acid a Try?
Are you tired of fighting a constant battle with acne? Azelaic acid could be the right treatment for you. Azelaic acid isn’t a quick fix since it takes several weeks for it to work. In that time, you’ll need to resist picking at your breakouts. Your patience will pay off, though. Within a month or so, you’ll see your acne clear up and stay gone, thanks to azelaic acid’s antimicrobial and antibacterial properties.
Azelaic acid is safe to use for all skin types. It excels at helping people who suffer from severe or moderate acne. Since it combines well with nearly any other product, you can continue using your favorite topicals or try out those we recommended here to help make your azelaic acid treatment more powerful.