You wouldn’t be alone if you have never heard of azelaic acid. Despite having a plethora of skincare benefits - https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/2528257/
What is it?
Azelaic Acid a naturally occurring compound found in whole grains and is also produced by the skin’s natural yeasts. Extensive studies of this acid have shown it to be beneficial for several conditions; from acne to melasma. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8659112/
How does it work?
Azelaic acid works actively in the skin targeting many cells in both the dermis and epidermis. It has anti-inflammatory effects on the skin and so is excellent at reducing redness and swelling in flare-ups of acne and rosacea. As well as a good on-the spot treatment, when used daily, it is also an effective acne preventer. In fact, studies suggest it’s as effective as other topical treatments such as tretinoin, antibiotic cream and benzoyl peroxide but has fewer side effects. It works as a natural exfoliant, has antibacterial properties, and reduces the production of keratin – a protein which can block pores and lead to acne.
Another key property of azelaic acid is its ability to even out pigmentation and skin tone by inhibiting tyrosinase, an enzyme responsible for pigment (melanin) production. I commonly prescribe it for people suffering with skin marks left after acne (post inflammatory hyperpigmentation) and excess pigmentation (melasma). It has been shown in some studies to be as effective as 4% hydroquinone when used daily over several months. https://europepmc.org/article/MED/1816137
How do I use it?
Use about a fingertip’s worth of Azelaic Acid for the whole face after cleansing. If you find you are experiencing some irritation from it, try using it after applying your moisturiser. Unlike some topical treatment, this won’t decrease its effectiveness and is a good way of avoiding unnecessary irritation.
Whenever starting a new skin product, I recommend introducing it into your regime slowly and patch test first. With azelaic acid, more isn’t necessarily better. One study found that applying 20% Azelaic Acid cream once daily was just as effective as applying it two times a day after three months. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18561584/
Azelaic acid is a natural exfoliant and it is important that it is used alongside a high SPF (greater than SPF 30) daily to avoid sensitisation and further pigmentation of the skin.
As with any topical skin treatment, due to the skin's cell cycle, results aren't often seen until after a couple of months.
Where can I find it?
SkinCeuticals Phyto A Brightening Serum.
Phyto A+ Brightening Treatment delivers next generation brightening ingredients in a lightweight, oil-free formula that's suitable even for sensitive skin. This is a gentle product containing 3% Azelaic Acid.
2% Alpha Arbutin
Helps even skin tone
3% Azelaic Acid
Helps address clogged pores by increasing cell turnover
5.75% Phyto Botanical Blend
Helps calm, soothe, and reduce visible redness.
Unlike many conventional acne and hyperpigmentation treatments, azelaic acid can be used safely by nearly everyone. Your doctor can prescribe you Finacea gel 15% or Skinoren 20% following a consultation if you need prescription strength. Typically, over the counter skincare will have less than 10%.