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Meet Azelaic Acid: The Unsung Hero for Fighting Acne and Rosacea

Acne doesn’t stand a chance.

liquid gel or serum texture with glass pipette on hell background beauty concept
Vera Livchak

When you think of the best acne-fighting products, some of the first ingredients that come to mind are probably the all-stars like salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, and retinol. While these products are well-deserving of the reputations they've garnered, there's another more under-the-radar ingredient that doesn't get enough recognition for its zit-busting benefits: azelaic acid.

"Azelaic acid is a naturally-occurring acid found in grains such as wheat, barley, and rye," says board-certified dermatologist Dr. Stacy Chimento , MD of Riverchase Dermatology in Bay Harbor Islands, Florida. It can also be produced by the yeast on your skin. "It’s usually found in creams, gels, or foam to soothe inflammation, boost skin cell renewal, and calm acne."

Much like the handfuls of other trendy ingredients known for their many skin-saving benefits, azelaic acid has a number of uses, though it's best known for being able to combat acne and rosacea.

"As an anti-inflammatory, azelaic acid can reduce inflammation, making acne less visible, less red, and less irritated," says Dr. Chimento. Additionally, the ingredient can help rid your pores of the bacteria that can cause breakouts while also encouraging cell turnover and slowing melanin production that can result in hyperpigmentation and melasma.

Obviously there are a few things to keep in mind if you're considering incorporating it into your everyday skincare routine. To start, it should be applied after cleansing and around 15 minutes before moisturizing so that it can be fully absorbed by your skin.

"Azelaic acid should be used morning and night, and is best paired with a moisturizer or hydrating serum," says board-certified physician Dr. Azza Halim, MD. "It should also be blended well into the skin or used as a spot treatment on dark spots and absorbed so as to not leave areas of demarcation that make the skin look blotchy."

Per Dr. Chimento's instructions, you'd typically have to use azelaic acid with other medications, since seeing significant results may take a while if you're just using the ingredient on its own — but, of course, you should be careful about what you mix it with.

"Although azelaic acid can be mixed with virtually any product, using it with beta hydroxy acids (BHAs) such as salicylic acid, can increase the chances of dryness and irritation," Dr. Chimento said. "If you’re using a more potent form of azelaic acid that isn’t over-the-counter, you should consult with your dermatologist before mixing or combining it with any ingredients or products."

It's also possible that anyone who uses azelaic acid might experience side effects like irritation, redness, flaky skin, peeling, and/or hives, though it's not common for everyone. Dr. Halim recommends slowly introducing the ingredient into your routine if you have sensitive skin (start off using it a few times a week before increasing your use to daily), but if you experience any of the aforementioned side effects, you should stop your use of it immediately.

In case you're ready to switch things up, read ahead to check out a few azelaic acid-infused products worth adding to your regimen.

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1
Paula's Choice 10% Azelaic Acid Booster
paulaschoice.com
2
The Ordinary Azelaic Acid Suspension 10%
deciem.com
3
FaceTheory Lumizela Azelaic Acid Serum A10
us.facetheory.com
4
Naturium Azelaic Topical Acid 10%
naturium.com
5
Typology Mattifying Serum 10% Azelaic Acid
us.typology.com
6
PCA SKIN Pigment Gel
dermstore.com
7
Dr. Brandt Dark Spots No More Triple Acid Spot Minimizing Concentrate
dermstore.com
8
TULA Skincare Clear It Up Acne Clearing + Tone Correcting Gel
dermstore.com
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