When it comes to active ingredients in skincare, people often navigate to acids first for a little extra “oomph”. While glycolic and lactic acid get a lot of attention, there’s a lesser-known acid that is truly the secret underdog of skin success.
Enter my acid with extra…azelaic acid! It’s a trusted ingredient in my toolkit for its versatility and effectiveness while being suitable for anyone prone to redness, pigmentation or acne - which is pretty much most of us! Let’s deep-dive into one of my favourite ingredients and explore why you should build it into your routine.
What is azelaic acid?
Azelaic acid belongs to a class of ingredients called dicarboxylic acids. Naturally occurring, we find it in wheat, rye and barley as well as within our own skin’s microbiome. I find that when a molecule is naturally present on our skin, more often than not, it has the ability to do lots of helpful things in the skin - just like retinoids!
What are the benefits of azelaic acid?
Azelaic acid is an incredibly versatile and effective ingredient for tackling multiple concerns such as acne, rosacea and pigmentation:
- Reduces inflammation: Azelaic acid soothes irritation and helps to improve redness caused by inflammation in rosacea.
- Fights acne: It has antibacterial properties which helps to treat current breakouts and prevent further bouts of acne, too.
- Unclogs pore: it normalises keratinization, which keeps pores clear and helps eliminate blackheads.
- Gently exfoliates: It helps remove unsightly dead skin cells that can cause our skin to look matte.
- Evens skin tone: It inhibits tyrosinase, which is an enzyme that leads to excess melanin and hyperpigmentation. It's effective on post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation from acne breakouts, sunspots from UV damage and even melasma.
- It’s safe for use within pregnancy and lactation: azelaic acid is one of the few treatment options for acne, rosacea, congestion, or pigmentation that is generally safe for pregnant women.
- A powerful antioxidant: it maintains our skin's long-term health, helping to prevent free radical damage.
Azelaic acid is central to my clinical work - it forms the backbone of maintenance acne regimes and is widely useful when tackling sensitive skin concerns, including rosacea and perioral dermatitis. We can extrapolate from this why it’s so helpful even in those with mild skin issues and it’s a true pleasure to see access to this helpful ingredient increase in over-the-counter products.
Ultimately, when one ingredient is able to treat multiple concerns, it allows you to use fewer products - this makes being consistent with your routine even easier and leads to long-term results that are sustainable.
How to use azelaic acid?
In most instances, azelaic acid should be used all over the skin as not only will it help improve areas of concern, it can provide antioxidant protection, brighten skin tone and improve skin texture. With active ingredients, using more product doesn’t equal a better result so start slow!
Begin with half a fingertip of product and build up gradually to a full fingertip, providing you don’t have any irritation. As always with skincare, an even distribution is key so I’d recommend using the 13 Dot Technique application method - you’ll be pleasantly surprised how a small amount of product goes a long way.
It’s safe to be used twice a day but if you have sensitive skin, always be cautious and build azelaic acid into your skin slowly by using it every other day.
What ingredients does azelaic acid work well with?
Thanks to its versatility, azelaic acid is a team player and pairs well with other active ingredients. For the daytime, azelaic acid works very well with Vitamin C and niacinamide which can be combined (with SPF) for a stellar morning routine. This trio all exhibit antioxidant properties which protect the skin from free radicals - find them in our best-selling Flawless Brightly Serum, our daytime warrior for complexion brilliance.
Ultimately, I'm hugely passionate about azelaic acid and its power to transform skin. Think of it as your one-stop-shop for treating multiple concerns - all while being incredibly gentle for the skin.