Azelaic acid is an FDA approved skin care ingredient used for the topical treatment of acne and rosacea. Azelaic acid is antibacterial, meaning it kills acne bacteria in existing pimples. In fact, azelaic acid is so tough against acne bacteria that it’s an OTC option for treating cystic acne and has been studied to be almost as effective as Accutane. Azelaic acid 20% is a keratolytic meaning it exfoliates dead skin cells and is also a comedolytic meaning it prevents future whiteheads and blackheads from forming. Azelaic acid lightens acne scars as well as melasma, and it’s anti-inflammatory properties calm rosacea and redness. Even though azelaic acid is a powerful ingredient, it’s gentle on the skin and safe for all skin types. Azelaic acid is naturally occurring in whole grains like barley, wheat, and rye, but mostly synthetic versions are used in skincare products for greater stability and overall effectiveness.
Top 6 Azelaic Acid Skin Care Benefits
✓ Fights Acne Bacteria
GREAT FOR MODERATE TO SEVERE ACNE
A long-established ingredient, azelaic acid is best known for the treatment of acne. Azelaic acid is antibacterial meaning it works to kill acne bacteria, and unlike many other acids that fight acne (salicylic, glycolic, and alpha hydroxy acids), azelaic acid is an OTC options that’s actually strong enough to fight cystic acne. Azelaic acid combats acne by diving deep into your pores and decreasing the free fatty acid content in your skin. This creates a skin environment that’s less friendly to acne bacteria. There is also evidence that azelaic acid disrupts normal cellular function of acne bacteria, effectively killing it from the inside out.
✓ Safer than Accutane
GENTLER & NONTOXIC OPTION
Accutane is a branded, prescription acne medication which contains the acne fighting ingredient isotrentinoin (a derivative of Vitamin A). Even though Accutane is exceptionally effective at clearing severe, cystic acne, it comes at the risk of various side effects, some more serious than others. For example, Accuatane can cause skin irritation, dry skin and dry lips, but it also can cause birth defects (women who are pregnant or may become pregnant cannot be prescribed Accutane). For those looking for a strong acne treatment but without the scary side effects, azelaic acid is a safer option. In a comparison of azelaic acid cream to oral isotretinoin in the treatment of severe acne, researchers found that azelaic acid was almost as effective as isotrentinoin at treating severe acne with considerably less skin irritation and no risk of birth defects.
✓ Prevents Future Acne
KEEPS PORES CLEAN
Azelaic acid is a comedolytic meaning it prevents future whiteheads and blackheads from forming. By keeping pores clean, whiteheads and blackheads won’t develop from excess oil or dead skin cell buildup. FYI, salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide are also comedolytics.
✓ Removes Dead Skin Cells
Azelaic acid increases the turnover rate of dead skin cells, and as dead skin cells see their way off your face, your pores are left nice and clean. The scientific reason is azelaic acid has keratolytic properties (like ingredients salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide). And why do we care? Having unclogged, clearer pores prevents future acne from developing.
✓ Lightens Melasma and Acne Scars
TREATS MILD HYPERPIGMENTATION
Azelaic acid lightens hyperpigmentation by reducing melanin production in hyperactive areas (darker spots on the skin). Azelaic acid limits melanin creation by inhibiting tyrosinase, an enzyme needed for the production of melanin in your skin. Fancy way of saying azelaic acid prevents the enzyme from doing its thing, and the melanin production line comes to a halt. Less melanin being created is what fades hyperpigmentation, especially dark areas not caused by the sun. All in all, the topical treatment of azelaic acid decreases melanin which fades hyperpigmenation like melasma and acne scars. Unfortunately, azelaic acid does not fade freckles or age/sun spots as effectively.
SOOTHES ROSACEA (REDNESS) AND ACNE
Azelaic acid is an anti-inflammatory, meaning less redness, pain, and swelling from acne, rosacea, or other types of inflammation. For acne-prone skin, azelaic acid calms breakouts and prevents new pimples from developing. For those with rosacea, azelaic acid calms redness by soothing the underlying inflammation that causes rosacea. Plus, azelaic acid is milder than other antibacterial agents, making it a prime ingredient to gently exfoliate and clean pores without irritating rosacea or sensitive skin in general.