When To Use Azelaic Acid
We're back again with another ingredient spotlight. Today's celebrant is azelaic acid! We'll cover what it does and how to use it below but here's a few product recommendations to get you started:
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Empyri Top 3 Azelaic Acid Products
If you've been around the skincare block with us, you know that the word acid is not to be feared. Gone are the days when acid only means a chemical peel with the esthetician and downtime for days. You can add acid into your skincare routine right at home for some gentle exfoliation to help with everything from acne to crepey skin and an uneven skin tone.
Azelaic acid is still an underdog. But that doesn't mean it's not a heavy hitter.
Azelaic acid is a naturally occurring acid. You know we love all things natural skincare, so we're off to a good start here.
It's sourced from grains like barley, wheat and rye. (Azelaic topicals are considered gluten free, but if you have a sever allergy, ask your doctor before trying). Depending on the manufacturer, it is considered part of organic skin care.
Azelaic acid products are available over the counter, typically at 10% or lower. Or, you can get a prescription strength at levels of 15 or 20%.
Before you decide where to start, let's look closer at the benefits of azelaic acid and when to use it.
What Does Azelaic Acid Do?
In short, azelaic acid is a topical treatment to help with the following skin concerns:
- acne breakouts & acne scars
- hyperpigmentation & dark spots
- uneven skin tone & dull skin tone
Azelaic acid is considered one of the best acne treatment products. Azelaic acid's antimicrobial and anti inflammatory properties help to calm active acne flare ups and it's clearing out of pores prevents future breakouts.
Azelaic acid is sometimes seen as an alternative to benzoyl peroxide for treating acne. The upside is that azelaic acid is more gentle; the trade off is that results come more slowly. For moderate to severe cases of acne, a board certified dermatologist will often prescribe azelaic acid at 15 or 20% alongside other actives rather than on its own.
And finally, azelaic acid works as an exfoliant. Let's look at this in more detail below.
Azelaic acid as an exfoliant
Just by seeing the word "acid", you probably guessed that azelaic acid is an exfoliant.
It's not an alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) like glycolic acid or lactic acid. And it's not a beta hydroxy acid (BHA) like salicylic acid. Azelaic acid is a dicarboxylic acid which goes deep into pores, removes dead skin cells and prevents comedones - blackheads.
Anytime we remove dead skin cells, it increases cell turnover. This can help with hyperpigmentation, brown spots and acne scarring from acne. And for unproblematic skin types, removing dead skin cells promotes a brighter complexion and more even skin tone.
How to use azelaic acid
Follow these steps to use azelaic acid in your skincare routine:
- Seek input from a dermatologist.
- Patch test. It is not common for people to have adverse reactions to azelaic acid, but you should always try new products, especially active ingredients, before applying to your entire face. To patch test, apply a pea sized amount of your azelaic acid product to the inside of your upper arm. Wait 24 hours and monitor for irritation, swelling or redness.
- Apply azelaic acid leave-on treatment after cleansing. In the evening, use an oil cleanser to thoroughly remove makeup, sunscreen and pollution. In the morning, refresh with warm water or choose a mild soap or gentle cleanser before applying azelaic acid.
- Follow with moisturizer. Similar to other chemical exfoliants, azelaic acid does require that you protect your skin after with your favourite moisturizer.
- Use SPF. We know you're already wearing your sunscreen everyday. Choose a broad spectrum with an SPF of 30 of higher as skin will be sensitive to the sun.
- Don't overdo it. Like all active ingredients, you want to start with a very small amount and work up to the suggested dose overtime. Even after your skin has become familiar with azelaic acid, don't overdo your usage. This can cause dry skin and/or irritation.
- Use up to 1-2x per day. If you have sensitive skin, only use azelaic acid a couple of times per week. If your skin is resilient to exfoliation, you can use up to 2x per day - morning and night. Just be sure not to over-combine with other exfoliants. More on that below.
- Be patient! Results with azelaic acid can take from a few weeks to months to show.
What to avoid while using azelaic acid
If you incorporate azelaic acid into your skincare routine, you want to avoid sun exposure without proper protection. We've said it before, and we'll say it again before the end of this article - wear your sunscreen!
This warning is not unique to azelaic acid. Many skincare products make our skin sensitive to sun exposure.
The Best Azelaic Acid Products:
Like we said, azelaic acid is still a bit of an underdog in the OTC skincare community. You won't find hundreds of skin care products with this active ingredient just yet. We've rounded up a few good options if you're ready to give azelaic acid a try.
Empyri to decide on best products
This creamy treatment is perfect to improve skin texture and brighten complexion through gentle exfoliation. Customers experience reduced redness caused by acne blemishes and rosacea.
This nourishing serum benefits acne prone, inflamed skin by clearing clogged pores with azelaic acid. It's a well-rounded formula that includes hyaluronic acid to hydrate and niacinamide to calm and protect.
This azelaic acid moisturizer reduces blemishes and improves skin tone and texture. It's boosted with vitamin C for added brightness and green tea for antioxidant protection. Gentle enough for sensitive and acne prone skin.
Can I use vitamin C and azelaic acid together?
Yes, you can use vitamin C and azelaic acid together. Here's a few important things to keep in mind:
- If you have sensitive skin, you may benefit from skin cycling i.e. rotating through your active ingredients during the week rather than using more than one each day
- Both vitamin C and azelaic acid make your skin sensitive to the sun so whether you're using one or both, always apply SPF during the day
- Divide between morning and night. A good way to use vitamin C and azelaic acid together is to use vitamin C in the morning and an antioxidant layer beneath your sunscreen. Then in the evening use azelaic acid to exfoliate after cleansing and follow with your moisturizer to repair and protect your skin barrier overnight.
What should you not mix with azelaic acid?
Azelaic acid is considered by dermatologists to be a gentle skin care ingredient. So there are no major concerns about mixing it with others.
You do however want to avoid using too many other chemical exfoliants while using azelaic acid. Yes, we love alpha hydroxy acids and beta hydroxy acids for clearing out clogged pores to reveal a radiant complexion. But if we exfoliate too much, this can lead to skin irritation, redness and dry skin. Ouch!
Our advice is to try incorporating azelaic acid is your skincare routine and if you love it:
- Replace one of your other chemical exfoliants with the azelaic acid product permanently; or
- Keep a number of chemical exfoliants available in your "skincare wardrobe" but only use one at a time to avoid skin irritation. Just be sure to keep an eye on the products' shelf life!
We're pleased to have introduced you to azelaic acid. It may not be a front runner in skincare yet, but it's making moves - especially for those with skin conditions like acne, rosacea and hyperpigmentation.
You can add azelaic acid to your skin care routine regardless of your skin type. Just remember that it exfoliates, so you don't want to combine with too many other acids. Either replace something that's no longer doing its job, rotate as part of your skin cycling or choose a spot treatment gel and only apply to the affected area (like that stubborn chin pimple that won't go away!).
Give it a try and be kind to yourself along the journey.
You Are Loved.