What Is Azelaic Acid?
If you’re after fancy terminology then azelaic acid is a dicarboxylic acid - sounds scary, but it’s a very gentle and kind acid. It is created in labs using ingredients such as barley, wheat and rye and can be found in all types of products from pastes to serums to masks.
Benefits of Azelaic Acid For Skin
As mentioned, it is an exfoliating ingredient, however azelaic acid benefits go beyond that. “It is able to stop the growth of P. acnes; the blemish-causing bacteria,” explains Daniel Isaacs, Director of Research at skincare brand, Medik8. “On top of this, it can normalise the skin-shedding cycle. This helps stop the plugging of a pore which can lead to blemishes. It is a potent anti-inflammatory, and it can even target overactive melanocytes, the skin cells which produce pigments, to reduce post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation after blemishes have healed.”
Side effects of Azelaic Acid
There are very few negatives that come with azelaic acid, “it’s a very well tolerated ingredient and there isn’t any evidence that it should interfere with any other ingredients,” says Daniel. And for anyone wondering: can I use azelaic acid and retinol? Then the answer is a resounding yes.
How to use Azelaic Acid in your skincare routine
Because azelaic acid is an ingredient with a specific skincare goal, you won’t tend to find it in cleansers or products that are washed off the skin as it needs to stay on to get to work. Most commonly it will be found it blemish treatments and gels or treatment masks and solutions that can be applied under, or combined with, your regular moisturiser. “I recommend using it after exfoliating,” says Paula Begoun, skincare expert and founder of Paula’s Choice.
It’s also worth noting that azelaic acid is okay to use alongside other acids such as glycolic, lactic and salicylic, which you are likely to find in your toning or exfoliating products already. In fact, Paula encourages the use of an AHA or BHA exfoliant alongside azelaic acid. “Even though azelaic acid has some exfoliating properties, it is not as effective when compared to AHAs or BHA, so if you’re struggling with sun damage and clog pores, I’d advise using both,” she says.
Our Favourite Azelaic Products
Whether you want to embrace azelaic acid in all its glory or use it on specific areas of concern, there is a product to suit your skin and routine. Here are the three azelaic acid products we really love.
For On The Spot Action: Medik8 Blemish SOS Rapid Action Target Gel, £ 20,00
A fast-acting treatment that targets spots, reduces inflammation and fights acne-causing bacteria, this gel is a bathroom cabinet essential. While it won’t magically erase the angry spot you woke up with, it will dramatically reduce to redness and inflammation.
The Daily Treatment: This Works Morning Expert Multi-Acid Pads, £ 33,00
Sweep these 100% biodegradable pads over your skin every morning to deliver an instant dose of brightening, exfoliating action. Getting your daily fix of azelaic acid couldn’t be easier and they help ease acne breakouts.
Paula's Choice 10% Azelaic Acid Booster, £ 37,00 '>The Skincare Supercharger: Paula's Choice 10% Azelaic Acid Booster, £ 37,00
This lightweight cream can be applied on its own or added to your regular moisturiser or serum to add extra dark spot diminishing and blemish zapping powers. It consistently sells out, which for us is a sign of a must-have skincare product.
Final verdict on azelaic acid for skin
If you have oily skin, clogged pores, spot prone skin or you have sensitive skin that cannot tolerate other acids, azelaic acid products for you. The fact that you can use azelaic and retinol together is a big win for anyone looking to exfoliate skin and smooth fine lines and wrinkles. If blocked pores are your bug-bear, it might be worth considering using a clay mask once a week, alongside your azelaic acid treatment daily. What sets it apart from other acids is its ability to be slotted into your regular skincare routine without causing any fuss or bother to anything else. It is a super-efficient but well-behaved ingredient and isn’t that what we’re all after?