What Is Azelaic Acid, and Why Are Skin-Care Enthusiasts Freaking Out About It?
There's nothing the skin-care community loves more than a well-researched ingredient with multiple benefits. From vitamin C to niacinamide, multitasking heroes are the cost- and time-effective way to help to streamline our shelfies. Of late, azelaic acid, an often-overlooked dermatologist favorite, has been getting more recognition for its acne-busting, rosacea-calming properties, which is why we spoke to trusted experts to get intel on why azelaic acid is an ingredient worth getting to know.
What Is Azelaic Acid?
Hailed as the overachieving ingredient that can treat acne and rosacea, azelaic acid is a naturally occurring acid, according to consultant dermatologist Mary Sommerlad, MBBS, MRCP. "Azelaic acid belongs to a family of acids called dicarboxylid acid," Dr. Sommerlad told POPSUGAR. "It is derived from grains and wheat but can also be formulated synthetically in labs." The lab-engineered version is most often used in skin care not only due its stability, but also so that it's safe for those with a gluten intolerance.
What Does Azelaic Acid Do For Your Skin?
Dr. Sommerlad agreed, explaining that it was initially designed as an acne treatment. "It has anti-inflammatory and antibacterial qualities, which are great for acne-prone skin as it can help calm and reduce spots." Those properties are what make azelaic acid an excellent choice for treating rosacea too. "Papulopustular rosacea is associated with red bumps and pus-filled blemishes, and regular use of azelaic acid helps to mitigate the associated redness and swelling with minimal risk of adverse side effects," Dr. Sommerlad added.
Similar to other well-loved acids such as AHAs and BHAs, azelaic acid does have exfoliating properties, albeit much gentler and therefore far better tolerated by sensitive or compromised skin.
For those suffering with postinflammatory hyperpigmentation, azelaic acid can also help to fade stubborn marks. "It can improve hyperpigmentation by inhibiting tyrosinase, the enzyme crucial to the production of melanin," Dr. Sommerlad said, adding that although azelaic acid tackles excessive melanin production, it doesn't depigment the skin. "Azelaic acid is a great long-term treatment option for people with melasma, and at concentrations of 20 percent, it has been shown to be as effective as four-percent hydroquinone, which is known for having several side effects."