If you’re a skincare enthusiast, you’ve likely seen azelaic acid skin care products starting to appear among some of our favorite brands. Even though I consider myself a seasoned beauty buff, I found that I still have a lot of questions about the uses of azelaic acid, why it is a better choice than other acids, and who should use it. So I reached out to a couple of experts to clear things up on azelaic acid once and for all.
When it comes to finding the perfect skincare routine, no two are the same. However, there are always new things to learn and new products to try that can be used for a myriad of problems, and you never know when the next game-changing ingredient will appear. These days, azelaic acid is circulating as one of the most popular skincare ingredients.
I tapped on famous dermatology nurse and esthetician Natalie Aguilar and dermatologist Dr. Elizabeth Geddes-Bruce from Westlake Dermatology in Austin for his ideas. They both praised the many uses for azelaic acid and made it clear that it is a wonderfully effective active ingredient that is gentle enough for most people to use on the skin.
What is azelaic acid?
Dr. Geddes and Aguilar explained that azelaic acid is a natural acid found in whole grains such as barley, rye, or wheat. It has inherent antibacterial properties that can provide multiple benefits when applied to the skin. It is used in many over-the-counter skin care products, but can also be prescribed as a higher-strength prescription. Our two experts noted that in addition to being antibacterial, azelaic acid is also a gentle exfoliator that decreases inflammation, unclogs pores, diminishes dark spots and pigmentation, improves skin tone, and prevents acne.
Who should use azelaic acid for skin?
According to our experts, all skin types can benefit from the use of azelaic acid. Dr. Geddes commented that it is generally well tolerated by even the most sensitive skin types. Works magic on oily and acne-prone skin. It is a great addition for people prone to dark spots, acne scars, melasma, and other skin lesions. Aguilar also mentioned that azelaic acid is most often used to treat skin types that fight rosacea and inflammatory hyperpigmentation.
Is azelaic acid safe for all skin types?
Both Dr. Geddes and Aguilar emphasized that azelaic acid is extremely mild and one of the safest ingredients in skin care. Dr. Geddes noted that it is one of her top acne treatments during pregnancy and while breastfeeding. With that said, he recommends slowly incorporating it into your skincare regimen, especially if you are already trying to incorporate a new retinoid, AHA, or BHA. If the skin feels dry, irritated, or sunburned, Aguilar advises his clients to avoid azelaic acid until the skin feels normal again.
Azelaic acid vs. salicylic acid
If you’ve ever taken a deep dive into skincare, especially when it comes to trying to control redness, oil, and acne, you’ve likely heard of salicylic acid. Our experts noted that there are definitely similarities between the two – they are both exfoliants that work well on acne, scars, and brighten the skin.
But Aguilar points out that they work differently. Azelaic acid is milder and requires consistency and time to achieve the desired effect. Unlike salicylic acid, azelaic acid is calming, acts to cure rosacea, helps improve the appearance of visible blood vessels, and reduces melanin production.
Dr. Geddes explains that salicylic acid is a BHA that is chemically related to aspirin, making it a stronger skin exfoliating agent that works faster to penetrate and cleanse pores to treat acne. That also means it is more irritating. If you are looking for the gentlest active ingredient to treat your skin, then azelaic acid is the way to go.
Keep scrolling to see some of the best azelaic acid products for skin
This multi-functional cream is a cult favorite among beauty buffs, and for good reason. Ideal for all skin types, it helps revitalize dull and uneven skin, heals acne scars, dark spots, and treats blemishes.
Azelaic acid, licorice extract, and salicylic acid work together to lighten the skin and soothe irritation. This highly effective serum works to reduce brown spots, acne marks, and more. Use it on its own or add a couple of drops to your moisturizer.
Deeply cleanse your skin with this refreshing night mask. Natural exfoliants help remove dead skin cells, restore its natural balance, and keep skin calm and clean. This mask is able to absorb excess oil while providing intense hydration.
This active-rich serum is 97% naturally derived and works to mattify oily skin, reduce excess sebum, prevent open pores and blackheads, and fight acne-causing bacteria.
This all-purpose cleaner is one of Aguilar’s favorite products with azelaic acid. It also serves as a mask and helps to gently control and improve hyperpigmentation, brightens the skin and evens out skin tone while reducing redness and yellowing of the skin. It is truly magical!
Made with glycolic acid and azelaic acid, this rich cream visibly improves the appearance of unwanted dark spots for a more even, radiant skin tone that leaves skin feeling soft and hydrated.
Dr. Geddes is a fan of these clinical strength pads that instantly reveal smooth, radiant skin. They gently exfoliate dead skin cells to smooth fine lines and wrinkles while reducing the appearance of pores and blemishes.
Are you looking to improve it? Dr. Geddes recommends speaking with your dermatologist to obtain a prescription for Finacea Foam, which has a higher concentration of azelaic acid than over-the-counter options.
Aguilar also loves this powerful serum to help brighten and hydrate the skin. Safely treats acne, inflamed skin, and excess oil. It is also safe for pregnancy and breastfeeding!