Azelaic Acid

Azelaic Acid (AzA), a naturally occurring component on the skin and found in some foods, is gaining attention as a "miracle cure" for treating acne and hyperpigmentation. Most commonly known for its ability to inhibit acne-causing bacteria and even out skin tone, AzA is becoming a top choice for many in their skincare journey. In this article, Chanh Beauty will guide you through everything you need about this remarkable ingredient.

What is Azelaic Acid?

Azelaic Acid (AzA) is a natural dicarboxylic acid found in wheat, rye, and barley. It's also produced by the yeast Malassezia furfur, which naturally resides on the skin. This ingredient is used in medicine as a topical treatment for skin conditions such as acne, rosacea, and hyperpigmentation.

What is it?

Mechanism of Action

Azelaic Acid works in several ways to benefit the skin:

  • Antibacterial: Helps eliminate Propionibacterium acnes, the main cause of acne.
  • Anti-inflammatory: Reduces inflammation, swelling, and redness associated with acne and rosacea.
  • Skin brightening: Inhibits melanin production, reducing melasma, freckles, and dark spots for an even skin tone.
  • Exfoliating: Gently removes dead skin cells, promoting skin renewal.

Concentration and Dosage

Azelaic acid is available over-the-counter (OTC) and by prescription in various concentrations. The appropriate concentration and dosage for you will depend on your specific skin condition and skin sensitivity. Here's a rundown:

  • Over-the-counter (OTC) Azelaic Acid: This typically comes in concentrations of 10% to 20%. It's generally used for mild to moderate acne and rosacea.

  • Prescription Azelaic Acid: This can be in higher concentrations, ranging from 15% to 20%. Dermatologists might prescribe this for more severe acne or rosacea.

Here are some general recommendations for usage:

  • 10% Azelaic Acid: Apply a thin layer to the affected area(s) twice daily, morning and evening, after cleansing your skin.
  • 15% Azelaic Acid: Apply a thin layer to the affected area(s) once daily, in the evening, after cleansing your skin.
  • 20% Azelaic Acid: Follow your doctor's instructions for application frequency and amount.

Benefits of Azelaic Acid

Benefits of AzA

Azelaic acid boasts a range of benefits for various skin concerns. Here's a breakdown of its key strengths:

1. Acne Fighter:

  • Antibacterial Properties: Azelaic acid combats the P. acnes bacteria, a major culprit behind acne breakouts.
  • Reduces Inflammation: It helps calm inflamed acne lesions, lessening redness and discomfort.
  • Unclogs Pores: By gently exfoliating the skin, it prevents dead skin cells and sebum from clogging pores, reducing the formation of new pimples.

2. Rosacea Relief:

  • Reduces Redness and Inflammation: Azelaic acid effectively diminishes the flushing and visible blood vessels associated with rosacea.
  • Soothes Irritation: Its anti-inflammatory properties calm and soothe irritated skin.

3. Hyperpigmentation Hero:

  • Melanin Regulation: Azelaic acid helps regulate melanin production, which can lead to hyperpigmentation issues like dark spots and uneven skin tone.
  • Fades Discoloration: By targeting melanin production, it helps fade existing hyperpigmentation and prevent new dark spots from forming.

4. Gentle Exfoliation:

  • Promotes Cell Turnover: Azelaic acid gently exfoliates the skin's surface, promoting healthy cell turnover and revealing a smoother, brighter complexion.
  • Minimizes Pores: By removing dead skin cells, it helps minimize the appearance of enlarged pores.

5. Additional Benefits:

  • Antioxidant Power: Azelaic acid possesses some antioxidant properties, potentially helping to protect the skin from free radical damage.
  • Suitable for Sensitive Skin: Compared to other acne treatments, azelaic acid is generally well-tolerated by sensitive skin, making it a good option for those who experience irritation with other products.

Side Effects of Azelaic Acid

Side Effects

While Azelaic Acid is generally well-tolerated, especially compared to some other acne treatments, it can cause some side effects, particularly when you first begin using it. Here's a rundown of the potential downsides:

  • Irritation: This is the most common side effect, manifesting as burning, stinging, itching, or redness at the application site. These effects are usually mild and subside within a few weeks of consistent use.

  • Dryness: Azelaic Acid can sometimes cause dryness, especially for those with already dry skin. Using a moisturizer after applying Azelaic Acid can help alleviate this.

  • Peeling: In some cases, Azelaic Acid might cause mild peeling as it exfoliates the skin. This is usually temporary and can be managed with a gentle moisturizer.

  • Increased Sun Sensitivity: Azelaic Acid can make your skin more sensitive to the sun. It's crucial to use sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher daily, especially when using Azelaic Acid during the day.

Here are some additional points to consider:

  • Severity: The severity of side effects can vary depending on your skin sensitivity and the concentration of Azelaic Acid you're using.

  • Allergic Reaction: While rare, some people might experience an allergic reaction to Azelaic Acid. Symptoms can include severe itching, swelling, or difficulty breathing. If you experience any of these, discontinue use and consult your doctor immediately.

How to Use Azelaic Acid for Beginners

If you're new to using AzA, the process may seem confusing. Here are detailed steps to use this ingredient safely and effectively:

Step 1: Cleanse the Skin

  • Start by thoroughly cleansing your face with a gentle cleanser suitable for your skin type.
  • Gently pat your face dry with a soft towel.

Step 2: Apply Azelaic Acid

  • Take a small amount of Azelaic Acid, about the size of a pea, and dab it on five points of your face: forehead, both cheeks, chin, and nose.
  • Gently massage until the product is fully absorbed into the skin.
  • Avoid applying Azelaic Acid to the eye area, lips, and other sensitive regions.

Step 3: Moisturize

After applying Azelaic Acid, use a moisturizer suitable for your skin type to provide hydration and prevent dryness.

Precautions When Using Azelaic Acid

To achieve optimal results and ensure skin safety, consider these important tips when using Azelaic Acid:

  • Use sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher during the day.
  • Apply Azelaic Acid 1-2 times daily, depending on your skin condition.
  • Start with a low concentration and gradually increase if necessary.
  • Test the product on a small skin area before applying it to your entire face.
  • Avoid using Azelaic Acid if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
  • Some users may experience mild stinging when applying Azelaic Acid. This sensation usually subsides after a few minutes.
  • Consult a dermatologist if you have any skin concerns.


1. Who can use Azelaic Acid?

Azelaic Acid is safe for most skin types, including sensitive skin. However, if you have specific skin conditions like rosacea or eczema, consult a doctor before use.

2. How should Azelaic Acid be used?

Azelaic Acid is typically applied as a cream or gel, twice daily, in the morning and evening, on clean and dry skin.

3. Does Azelaic Acid interact with other medications?

Azelaic Acid has minimal interactions when used topically. However, be cautious with:

  • Topical medications: Using Azelaic Acid with topical isotretinoin may increase skin irritation.
  • Oral medications: Limited studies suggest potential interactions with oral anticoagulants, anticonvulsants, and heart medications.

Inform your doctor about all medications you are taking before using Azelaic Acid.

4. Which ingredients can be combined with Azelaic Acid?

combination of azelaic acid
  • Benzoyl Peroxide: Both are effective against acne, helping to clear and prevent breakouts.
  • Tretinoin: Azelaic Acid may alter skin pigmentation, but tretinoin can mitigate this effect, enhancing treatment efficacy.
  • AHA/BHA: These acids exfoliate and cleanse pores, complementing Azelaic Acid in acne treatment.
  • Niacinamide and Vitamin C: This trio is effective for treating hyperpigmentation and improving skin tone.

5. Can Azelaic Acid be used daily?

Yes, azelaic acid can be used daily. When incorporated into a skincare routine, it is generally well-tolerated and safe for long-term daily use. Many dermatologists recommend applying azelaic acid once or twice a day, depending on the product's concentration and your skin's sensitivity. It's crucial to follow the instructions provided by the product manufacturer or your healthcare provider. As with any skincare treatment, it's advisable to start with a lower frequency and gradually increase usage to ensure your skin adapts well and to minimize any potential irritation.

6. Is it safe to use Azelaic Acid in pregnancy?

Current research suggests that Azelaic Acid is safe for pregnant women when used in concentrations below 20%. However, always consult a doctor before use during pregnancy.

7. How long does it take to see results with Azelaic Acid?

Azelaic acid doesn't start working right away. If you're taking it to clear up acne, it may be a month before your skin improves. If your doctor has prescribed azelaic acid for rosacea, you may not see a positive change for 3 months. If your skin stays the same or gets worse, let your doctor know.

8. Can Azelaic Acid be used for inflamed acne?

Azelaic Acid is effective for inflammatory acne. Studies show it works as well as benzoyl peroxide and retinoids for mild to moderate inflammatory acne. For severe cases, stronger medications may be needed under a dermatologist's supervision.

9. Can Azelaic Acid be used in the morning?

Yes, azelaic acid can be used in the morning. Unlike retinoids and some other popular skincare ingredients, azelaic acid does not absorb UV and visible light, which means it is unlikely to cause sun sensitivity. However, if you are using prescription-strength azelaic acid products, your skin may become thinner due to increased cellular turnover, making it more vulnerable to UV damage. To protect your skin, it is essential to use sunscreen daily. With proper sun protection, azelaic acid can be a beneficial addition to morning skincare routines, especially for those using products that are not suitable for daytime application, such as retinoids.

Azelaic Acid truly is a "miracle cure" in skincare, especially for those dealing with acne and hyperpigmentation. Understanding its mechanisms and correct usage can help you maximize its benefits. Be patient and maintain a consistent skincare routine to achieve clear, healthy skin. With Azelaic Acid, you'll notice significant improvements in your skin's condition every day.