Azelaic Acid: Everything You Need To Know To Improve Acne, Rosacea and Pigmentation

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  • Not heard of azelaic acid? Turns out, you’re not alone unless you’ve done some Google sleuthing.

    Normally salicylic and glycolic acids are the hero ingredients for exterminating whiteheads, blackheads and whatever other heads may appear.

    But that’s also where azelaic acid swoops in.  For the unfamiliar, it pretty much does all of the above and more.  In fact, it’s dermatologist approved for treating breakouts as well as rosacea/pigmentation/sensitivity.

    Here’s what you need to know about using it…

    What is Azelaic Acid? 

    Azelaic acid is a dicarboxylic acid. It’s produced naturally by yeast that lives on healthy skin.

    For the purposes of skincare, it’s made from grains such as barley and wheat.

    A slosh on the skin has the same effect as a mild, leave-on exfoliant. It helps to unclog pores, making it the best acne treatment, and leaves the skin’s surface impossibly smooth.

    ‘Azelaic acid has anti-inflammatory effects,’ says dermatologist Dr Anjali Mahto. ‘This is especially useful for taking down redness in rosacea and spot-prone skin. In addition, it reduces ‘follicular hyperkeratinisation’  – the abnormal shedding of skin cells, which is a key issue for acne sufferers.’

    ‘However, one of the main uses of azelaic acid is to block the enzyme tyrosinase, which causes excess melanin and uneven brown patches on the skin.’ (Much in the same vein as a brilliant hyperpigmentation treatment.)

    Adds Mahto, ‘As a result, it can also fade some of the marks left behind after acne.’

    azelaic acid

    The Benefits in Skincare 

    Azelaic acid can be prescribed in two concentrations: 15 percent (Finacea) and 20 percent (Skinoren). There are also over-the-counter creams and gels at 10 percent or less.

    On the upside, even in lower concentrations, it delivers where skin freak-outs are concerned.

    One study published in the Journal of Medical Sciences, revealed that all 40 participants who used a 10 percent gel saw their mild to moderate acne improve after just eight weeks.

    We recommend the following for soothing a variety of skin issues and helping spots to wither away.

    Best Azelaic Acid Product

    The Ordinary Azelaic Acid Suspension 10%, £5.50, Cult Beauty

    azelaic acid, The Ordinary Azelaic Acid Suspension 10%, £5.50

    Skin prone to rosacea eats this gel-cream up as it takes down redness and bumps. Smacks of perfection for under a fiver.

    Buy it now

    Azelaic Acid vs Salicylic Acid  – What’s The Difference?

    At first glance, both ingredients tackle acne.

    ‘But azelaic acid has a different chemical composition to salicylic acid and AHAs (alpha hydroxy acids like glycolic acid),’  says Mahto.

    ‘The latter tend to be used for their exfoliating abilities, while azelaic stands out for its ability to target pigmentation. Used in tandem with salicylic acid, it’s a brilliant solution for tackling bumps and uneven skin tone.’

    How to Avoid The Side Effects…

    Do a patch test on the inside of your arm.

    If that goes okay and does not irritate your skin, you can put a thin layer of cream on your face, according to your prescription instructions. If you have sensitive skin, start out using it once every other day to see how you handle it.

    As with all acids, your skin may be more sensitive to UV rays, so Mahto emphasises the importance of incorporating an SPF into your morning skincare routine.

    Then let beauty’s frontline response to acne, sensitivity, pigmentation and rosacea get to work.



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