I consider myself a person who knows how to measure and logic. But when I observed a pimple forming, I lost the feeling. I would throw everything at it, from salicylic and glycolic acids to a cotton ball soaked in witch hazel — the moisture barrier and healthy cells would be destroyed. Thankfully, working with dermatologists over the years has helped me discover better ways to treat acne. Namely: azelaic acid. To celebrate the brighter, clearer skin this under-the-radar ingredient delivers, we’re working on all things azelaic acid for skin.
Compared to the old ways of tightening pores, applying azelaic acid to the skin is a kinder, gentler answer. Favorite dermatologists come in many different forms. But whether anti-inflammatory and antibacterial azelaic acid is present in a gel, serum, foam, or cream, the purpose is the same: to remove bacteria from pores with gentle exfoliation.
To learn more about using azelaic acid for skin, the rising star in the acne world, I contacted board-certified dermatologist Dr. Elizabeth Geddes-Bruce and Dr. Karen Fernandez, top esthetician at SkinSpirit for answers. Read on for everything you need to know about using azelaic acid for skin.
Featured image of Claire Huntsberger.
What is Azelaic Acid?
Dr Geddes-Bruce explains: “Azelaic acid is a mild acid produced naturally by a yeast and found in cereals. “It has many beneficial properties for the skin and can be tolerated even by people with sensitive skin conditions, like rosacea.”
How does azelaic acid work on the skin?
Its anti-inflammatory properties get azelaic acid a lot of attention, but its talents also abound. “Azelaic acid has a number of properties that make it a starting ingredient in many topical medications,” says Dr. Geddes-Bruce.
It acts as an antioxidant to fight damage and reduce inflammation, while preventing the top layer of skin from growing bad bacteria that can affect our microbiome. Dr Bruce-Geddes adds: “As if that weren’t enough, it also blocks an enzyme in the skin that causes hyperpigmentation.
As for how long it takes to see results, the soothing nature of azelaic acid requires a bit of patience. “With over-the-counter forms, you should see results in about four or five months,” says Fernadez. “With a prescription product containing 15 to 20% azelaic acid for the skin, you should see results in two to three months.”
What skin types can use Azelaic Acid?
The beauty of azelaic acid for the skin is its tenderness. It can be tolerated by almost any skin type (including pregnant or lactating women). But for those with skin that may be too sensitive to handle more aggressive treatments, this hardworking (but not harsh) ingredient can do wonders for hyperpigmentation, melasma, rosacea or acne.
To maximize its benefits, azelaic acid often works best with others. “In many cases, it will need to be combined with other treatments or topical medications to be fully effective,” adds Fernandez.
Where should Azelaic acid fall in your routine?
Although it comes in many forms, azelaic acid is most commonly found in serum. Apply it on clean and dry skin before applying your moisturizer and sunscreen. “You always want serums that are concentrated and work on the skin before applying heavier or thicker creams,” says Ferndez.
Azelaic acid can be gentle but also very strong. “It mixes well with other agents, but can cause further irritation if used with other acids or retinoids,” explains Dr. Geddes-Bruce. “It’s best to avoid using it at the same time as products with peptides, as acids can affect their effectiveness.”
Is it ok to use Azelaic every day?
Those with sensitive skin may want to work their way up, but you can absolutely apply azelaic acid every day.
“We love it because most skin types don’t have a ‘boost’ time to adapt to azelaic acid – no flaking or sensitization with daily use,” explains Fernandez. “That said, as with all things, if your skin doesn’t agree with it, then stop using it.”
The best products with azelaic acid for skin
These recommended serums and lotions blend skin azelaic acid with other high-impact ingredients to create the ultimate acne and rosacea blend.