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What is azelaic acid…should you put it on your skin?

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What is azelaic acid…should you put it on your skin?

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What is azelaic acid…should you put it on your skin?

When you ask your dermatologist about various skin care remedies, you usually get information about vitamin C serums, salicylic acid (especially for acne-prone skin), retinol (for wrinkles and hyperpigmentation), and hyaluronic acid ( for the promotion of collagen production).

However, there is another treatment that works just as well for a skin care routine but doesn’t get as much hype. This type of treatment is based on azelaic acid, a compound found in barley, rye and wheat.

Photo by Polina Tankilevitch from Pexels

According to recent research, azelaic acid has a soothing effect on inflamed skin and can help treat rosacea and acne. It is also good for treating melasma and dark spots (due to sun exposure without proper sunscreen).

How does azelaic acid work on the skin?

When used topically, azelaic acid has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties as it cleans the bacteria in the pores and causes acne or rosacea. Additionally, treatment with azelaic acid products (most commonly in gel, foam, and cream form) can prevent future outbreaks.

However, dermatologists usually don’t prescribe these products alone because it doesn’t give immediate results. In addition, there are some side effects such as peeling, dryness, and even skin burning.

Azelaic acid for specific skin conditions

Besides acne and rosacea (mentioned above), dermatologists tend to recommend azelaic acid for hyperpigmentation and skin lightening. This is because this acid promotes cell turnover, which is the skin’s ability to renew itself.

The idea is that because of this effect, the skin heals faster, thereby reducing scarring caused by acne or rosacea. So, you’ve got a 2-in-1: Azelaic acid treats acne while also getting rid of any hyperpigmentation it triggers.

Also, if you have melanin discoloration, the same properties make azelaic acid products very useful for skin lightening treatments. However, the effectiveness of these treatments depends on the type of treatment you use.

Most over-the-counter products contain small amounts of azelaic acid (less than 15%), only prescription drugs have higher concentrations. Therefore, if you are not seeing improvement with your current treatments, it is best to see a dermatologist.

How to use azelaic acid on the skin

As we already mentioned, most products that contain azelaic acid come in foam, cream or gel form. However, regardless of the product type, you need to follow these steps for proper application:

  • Wash the skin with warm water and a mild cleanser to remove any impurities or oils from the area. Pat dry.
  • Wash hands with soap before using product.
  • Take a pea-sized amount or smaller and dab it on the affected area (not the entire face!). Let it dry and continue with your routine and makeup.

It’s important to avoid any astringent cleansers or soaps that remove skin oils to avoid further drying of the skin in the treated area. Also, you have to be patient as it takes about a month or two for skin cells to renew and push away old cells.

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In most cases, azelaic acid is beneficial for hyperpigmented, acne-prone skin. However, side effects such as peeling, dry skin or irritation may occur.

While these effects can appear during the first few days of using such products, if they persist, it is best to discontinue use and consult your dermatologist.

Also, it’s important to continue your skincare routine during treatment (here are some tips on how to deal with dry skin) and always wear SPF during the day – even if you’re indoors!

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