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Azelaic Acid for Acne: All You Need to Know

Azelaic Acid For Acne - Young Female, With Acne Scars (Hyperpigmentation, Popping A Pimple

Have you been struggling with recurrent acne and post-acne hyperpigmentation?

Azelaic Acid might be the topical acne treatment you need.

Azelaic acid for acne is a strong and natural remedy that also inhibits future recurrence. The topical treatment can also control post-acne problems like post-inflammatory erythema (PIE) and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH).

Read more to learn about Azelaic Acid, its benefits, usage, and cautions.

What Is azelaic acid?

Azelaic Acid (AzA) is a natural acid (medium-chain dicarboxylic acid) found in animal products, whole grain cereals, rye, and barley. This substance can also be naturally found on human skin as a by-product of the Malassezia species (yeast/fungi that causes fungal acne). [1] [2]

The National Library of Medicine has shown that the acid has natural properties that are effective against acne. Azelaic acid is also an anti-inflammatory component in nature making it a gentler topical solution. [3]

Benefits of azelaic acid for skin

AzA is important to the skin in many ways;

It is an antibacterial
This acne-fighting ingredient can reduce the pH of the skin for hours after application, creating the optimal environment, for its bactericidal properties to work more effectively against acne-causing bacteria. [4]

It is a natural Keratolytic Agent.
The keratolytic property of this naturally occurring acid eliminates excess oil and removes dead skin cells to unclog your skin pores.

Effective for Hyperpigmentation
This topical treatment clears dark patches to lighten the skin. This effect is achieved by reducing melanin production resulting from acne scars.

It is Non-toxic
Compared to several other acne treatments for mild to severe acne, azelaic acid, when used appropriately, is gentler for sensitive skin. In some cases, it is even as effective as tretinoin. [5]

It is an exfoliating agent.
Similar to salicylic and glycolic acid, azelaic acid has an active agent that goes deep into the pores to block the production of excess oils. In turn, your skin will not experience the future occurrence of clogged pores, thus leaving your skin clean and clear.

It is a comedolytic agent
Azelaic acid works by stopping the production of excess oils, thus stopping the future buildup of whiteheads and blackheads.

Azelaic acid for folliculitis

Lipid-dependent yeasts such as Malassezia require fatty acids to survive [19].

The ability of antifungal agents to lower the skin’s fatty acid concentration is one of the many reasons they are so effective. This is particularly essential because it deprives fungi of lipid nutrients, making them less likely to grow.

According to research, azelaic acid can also lower the free fatty acid content of the skin [20]. While this fatty acid-reducing ability may not completely eradicate fungal folliculitis, it can help reduce its growth.

Is azelaic acid better than salicylic acid?

Is Azelaic Acid Better Than Salicylic Acid?

Comparatively, salicylic acid is a natural chemical that fights acne by clearing up excess sebum, dead skin cells, and bacteria leading to clogged pores.

On the other hand, azelaic acid treats acne by stopping the spread of the bacteria-causing acne.

Both products contain the same properties that are effective for treating active acne. However, AzA may be considered a better option than salicylic acid since it deals directly with the root cause of acne (bacterial infection.)

Can azelaic acid replace benzoyl peroxide?

Benzoyl Peroxide(BP) is a natural FDA-approved OTC and topical prescription for treating acne vulgaris.

Research suggests that azelaic acid is a weaker topical treatment than Benzoyl Peroxide. However, when AzA is used in stronger percentages, both topical acne treatments work comparatively. [6]

Can I mix benzoyl peroxide and azelaic acid together?

In a research finding, the mixture of benzoyl peroxide with AzA formed a more powerful treatment option for mild to severe acne. [7]

How to apply azelaic acid?

Azelaic acid can be found as an over-the-counter product or a prescription drug from a board-certified dermatologist.

The topical acne treatment should be used not less or more than what is prescribed by your dermatologist or as directed on the product you’re using.

Generally, azelaic acid should be safe for all skin types. However, patients with sensitive skin are advised to be cautious when using azelaic acid.[8] Ultimately, azelaic acid products follow a consistent method of application with the right dosage;[9]

Wash Up 

Before applying the treatment:

  • Clean your hands and the affected area(s).
  • Apply a mild soap or a soapless lotion when washing, then gently dry the skin with a clean towel.
  • Avoid using any alcohol-based cleanser at this stage.

Carry Out a Patch Test


On your first application, carry out a test. Apply the directed amount on a small affected area, like on your forehead at night. Observe the effects after 24 hours. We prefer extended patch testing over rapid patch tests.

If you generally observe minimal to no irritation, you can proceed to apply it to other areas of your skin. Otherwise, seek professional advice.

Apply the Treatment.

Cover your face with a thin layered coating of your azelaic acid product. Apart from foam products, massage your face gently after application. Allow the medicine to soak up into your pores and skin for 30 minutes.


Wash your hands immediately after applying the medication.
After absorption, you can use other cosmetics.
You may need to apply sunscreen, as AzA is sensitive to UV rays.

Should I use azelaic acid before or after my moisturizer?

According to one study, applying moisturizers before or after AzA did not significantly affect the distribution of azelaic acid into human skin,

Regardless, you should always moisturize to maintain healthy skin and reduce the effects of dryness. [10]

How often should I use azelaic acid on my face?

EMC recommends a dosage of up to twice a day for normal skin. The same body advises on changing the dosage to only once a day for sensitive acne-prone skin. Similarly, to control any adverse effects of azelaic acid, reduce the regular dosage to one time a day. [11]

How long does it take azelaic acid to work on acne?

Although research advocates azelaic acid as a good treatment for cystic acne, its results may take longer to present. [12]

The earliest results may begin to show after four weeks. The results may take even longer ( up to 12 weeks) to be visible on sensitive skin.

How long does azelaic acid take to work on acne scars and lighten dark spots?

Azelaic acid starts working on acne immediately by eliminating dead skin cells and unclogging pores. At this point, acne may dry out, leaving dark freckles on the skin.

The continuous application of azelaic acid then starts to work on hyperpigmentation. And in about four to eight weeks, the dark spots, observably, lighten up.

Does azelaic acid shrink large pores?

Adult-Face_Pitted_Acne_Large-Pore- Azelaic Acid For Ance

Using azelaic acid can shrink large pores. The treatment cures acne and controls the clogging of pores. This way, large pores that appear due to clogging are reduced as well as the overall skin texture is improved.

Azelaic acid Gel vs. Cream formulations: Which is better?

The gel contains 15% AzA concentrations, while the azelaic acid cream usually has 20% AzA. Despite the gel having a lesser amount of AzA than its latter, it has better skin absorption due to its advanced formulation technology. [13]

What percentage to start out with 10, 15 …20%?

15% to 20% of AzA medications are considered effective for treatment. Patients with a normal skin type can start by applying either of the two azelaic acid concentrations.

However, since this topical can cause mild irritation on some sensitive skin types, your dermatologist may prescribe that a patient start from a 10% concentration and then gradually progress to 15% and so on.

Side effects of azelaic acid Safety Tips

As much as azelaic acid is classified as a gentle treatment, it is known to cause some side effects. Moderate side effects may not require an appointment with a dermatologist.

However, if you encounter any severe side effects, see your dermatologist.

Common side effects experienced by those who use azelaic acid include;

  • Redness
  • Burning
  • Dryness
  • Itching and peeling
  • Stinging or tingling

Less common and severe side effects include;

  • Blistering or flaking skin
  • Crusting
  • Fever
  • Flaking of skin and scaling
  • Severe Itching
  • Rash or soreness
  • Severe burning or severe redness

Rare side effects include:

  • Changes in skin color
  • Difficulty swallowing or breathing
  • Eye pain, redness, swelling, or blurred vision
  • Hoarseness
  • Joint swelling
  • Large, significant hives on the body
  • Red eyes
  • Swollen eyes
  • Fast heartbeat (Tachycardia)
  • Tightness in the chest
  • Tight, stiff, or painful feeling in the joints

Skin irritation is rare when azelaic acid is used under normal settings. According to research data, irritability was listed as a possible adverse effect, even though it had never been observed. [14]

Is azelaic acid safe for pregnant women?

This treatment has not been researched efficiently during pregnancy. However, a medical publication shows that AzA might not be harmful in pre and postpartum. [15]

The study supports the above by arguing that azelaic acid is naturally on healthy skin and foods that we eat. Thus if it were a risk, any pregnancy would suffer whether the woman isn’t or is using topical azelaic acid among treatment options in her skincare routine.

What are the prescription options for azelaic acid?

Topical azelaic acid is prescribed in 15% (Finacea) to 20% (Azelex) solutions. Finacea can be packaged as an FDA-approved gel and foam at 15% prescription strength. [16]

Finacea foam is prescribed as a type of azelaic acid foam, which is considered highly flammable. When utilizing the foam-based formulation to treat acne, patients should exercise extreme caution in handling this flammable product.


Comparable acne-fighting ingredients

Although azelaic acid is on the FDA’s list of safe and effective treatments for acne, rosacea, and hyperpigmentation, there aren’t many drugs of its kind on the market.

Other drugs that you can use as alternative treatment options for fighting acne include;

Octadecenedioic Acid

This alternate drug has antibacterial properties and a bleaching capability to treat acne-prone skin and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation simultaneously.

Oral Antibiotics 

Antibiotics are prescribed for fighting unwanted bacteria in the body. Oral antibacterial is considered strong enough to treat moderate to mild acne.


Topical retinoids can stop the formation of acne caused by a mixture of excess oil and dead skin cells. [17]  [18]

Niacinamide and zinc

Both Zinc & Niacinamide have antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties suitable for curing acne and dealing with dark spots.

Top Seven Azelaic Acid Skin Care Products You Can Try

*Pricing Guide

  • $ = Under $20
  • $$ = Between $20 -$30
  • $$$ = Above $30

We include products that we believe will be beneficial to our readers. If you make a purchase using the links on this page, we may receive a commission.

Naturium – Azelaic Topical Acid 10%


  • Effective for Rosacea and Acne
  • Works well for hyperpigmentation
  • Smoothens uneven skin tone
  • Reduces breakouts
  • Controls the release of excess oils
  • Has the minimal risk of purging when unclogging pores


  • May take longer to show the healing power
  • Scent concerns for some

Naturium – Azelaic Topical Acid 10% is an oil form of azelaic acid that can be applied to the whole body. The AzA concentration in the formulation boosts Niacinamide and Vitamin C to create a gentle exfoliator effect, reduce dark spots and balance the release of sebum.


Water, Propanediol, Potassium Azeloyl Diglycinate, Polyacrylate Crosspolymer-6, Niacinamide, Ethyl Ascorbic Acid, Caprylyl Glycol, Coffea Arabica (Coffee) Seed Extract, Sodium Hyaluronate, Phenylpropanol, Phenoxyethanol, Citric Acid, Potassium Chloride, Glycerin, Chlorphenesin, Tocopherol, Potassium Sorbate, Sodium Benzoate

Application Procedure:

  • Shake the bottle well
  • Clean your hands and face
  • Apply 1- 2 drops (thin layer) of the oil evenly on your skin while avoiding the eyes
  • A patch test is recommended. If successful, you can apply twice per day
  • Adjust dosage in case of severe effects

Price: $

facetheory – Porebright Serum N10


  • Unclogs blocked pores
  • Treats hyperpigmentation
  • Has a glowing effect on the skin
  • It quickly absorbs through the skin
  • Nourishes and hydrates the skin


  • This b3 serum is very potent! If you have dry skin, patch-test it on a small area first to see how your skin reacts, as it may cause further dryness and peeling.

facetheory Porebright Serum N10 is a beauty essence that contains 10% niacinamide, azelaic acid, salicylic, and hyaluronic acid to prevent acne-induced redness, pigmentation, and dullness.


Aqua, Propanediol, Niacinamide, Sodium Lactate, Salicylic Acid, Glycerin, Sodium Anisate, Sodium Levulinate, Sodium Hyaluronate, Azelaic Acid, Aloe Barbadensis (Aloe Vera) Leaf Juice

Application Procedure:

  • Dampen the affected skin areas
  • Apply a few drops to the affected area
  • Conduct a Patch test
  • Stop using it in case of any irritation

Price: $

Geek & Gorgeous 101 – aPAD


  • Unclogs pores to leave your face moisturized
  • Controls uneven skin
  • Controls the secretion of excess sebum
  • Reduces redness (rosacea)
  • Gentler formulation makes it better for AzA beginners or sensitive skin.


  • Could be more potent

This serum uses a three-in-one acne medication that can reduce blemishes, pigmentation, and redness. The formula applies 6% Potassium Azeloyl Diglycinate (PAD) or 20% Azeclair to ensure efficacy for all skin types. aPAD is especially beneficial for those who are sensitive to niacinamide.


Water, Potassium Azeloyl Diglycinate, Propanediol, Glycerin, Methyl-Gluceth 20, Allantoin, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Xanthan Gum, Citric Acid, Ethylhexylglycerin, Phenoxyethanol

Application Procedure:

Price: $

Finacea 15% Azelaic Acid Gel


  • Treats Rosacea
  • Effective control for maskne (Acne spread from wearing a mask)
  • Eliminates Cystic Acne
  • Reduces redness and post-acne spots


  • Patients may experience a slight stinging or burning

Finacea 15% Azelaic Acid Gel is a prescription medication that is applied to the skin.

It is important to use Finacea as directed by your healthcare provider. Do not use more or less of it, and do not use it for longer or shorter than prescribed.

Finacea is an effective treatment for mild to moderate acne vulgaris. It may also help improve the appearance of acne scars.

Talk to your healthcare provider about whether azelaic acid is right for you.



Azelaic Acid

Benzoic Acid, Edetate Disodium, 1,2-Diarachidoyl-Sn-Glycero-3-Phosphocholine, Medium-Chain Triglycerides, Polyacrylic Acid, Polysorbate 80, Propylene Glycol, Sodium Hydroxide, Water

Application Procedure:

  • Before washing the area with mild soap, wash and dry your hands
  • Apply a thin layer of the Gel to the affected skin and rub gently
  • Wash hands after use
  • Perform Patch test
  • Then continue by applying twice a day

Price: $$$

Azclear Medicated Lotion (Gel-Cream) 20% Azelaic Acid


  • Unclogs blocked pores.
  • Treats mild to moderate acne


  • Mild irritation is possible initially

Azclear Action Medicated Lotion is an oil-free, antibacterial lotion used to treat blackheads, pimples, acne, and papulopustular rosacea.


Azelaic Acid

Aluminum, Magnesium Silicate, Silicon Dioxide, Glycerol, PEG-400, Phenoxyethanol, Povidone, Purified Water, Xanthan Gum

Application Procedure:

  • Wash and dry hands and the affected area
  • Apply a thin layer of lotion to the affected skin.
  • Perform Patch test

Price: $$

Versed – Weekend Glow Daily Brightening Toner


  • Eliminates Acne breakouts and dark spots
  • It leaves a glowing effect on the skin
  • It evens skin tone
  • Treats Hyperpigmentation


  • It has a slight burning sensation at the start
  • It leaves an unpleasant smell

Versed Weekend Glow Daily Brightening Toner is an anti-aging toner used on dull and problematic skin.

At an AzA concentration of 0.5%, the treatment contains three additional acidic ingredients, including antibacterial agents for treating acne.


Water, Hamamelis Virginiana (Witch Hazel) Water, Glycolic Acid, Propanediol, Lactic Acid, Glycerin, Niacinamide, Azelaic Acid, Kojic Acid, Arctostaphylos Uva-Ursi Leaf Extract, Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate, Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract, Morus Alba Bark Extract, Panthenol, Sodium Hydroxide, Sodium Benzoate, Potassium Sorbate, Citric Acid, Disodium EDTA, Phenoxyethanol, Ethylhexylglycerin, Sodium Citrate

Application Procedure:

  • Clean your hands and the affected area
  • Apply the toner 2-3 times on a dry cotton pad
  • Swipe the pad across the neck, chest, and facial skin
  • Perform a patch test on sensitive skin before continuing with the dosage as directed
  • Apply twice every day before using a moisturizer

Price: $

Paula’s Choice – 10% Azelaic Acid Booster


  • Heals the effects of purging on skin
  • Clears Rosacea
  • Smoothens the face
  • Reduces redness
  • Unblocks clogged pores


  • It may have side effects on folks who are allergic to salicylate derivatives.
  • Not fungal acne safe

Along with its potent blend of salicylic and azelaic acid, 10% Azelaic Acid Booster, is a brightening and soothing ingredient. This acid booster works on all skin types to heal multiple stubborn acne conditions.


Water⁠, Azelaic Acid⁠, C12-15 Alkyl Benzoate⁠, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride⁠, Methyl Glucose Sesquistearate⁠, Glycerin⁠, Cetearyl Alcohol⁠, Glyceryl Stearate⁠, Dimethicone⁠, Salicylic Acid⁠, Adenosine⁠, Glycyrrhiza Glabra (Licorice) Root Extract⁠, Boerhavia Diffusa Root Extract⁠, Allantoin⁠, Bisabolol⁠, Cyclopentasiloxane⁠, Xanthan Gum⁠, Sclerotium Gum⁠, Propanediol⁠, Butylene Glycol⁠, Phenoxyethanol⁠

Application Procedure:

  • Wash the affected areas of the skin
  • Apply to your face and neck
  • Use once or twice daily
  • Can be used alongside any moisturizer or serum
  • Apply sunscreen after the daytime application of this treatment
  • If you have a salicylate allergy, check with your physician before using any products that contain salicylic acid

Price: $


Azelaic Acid is a strong component for treating mild to severe acne.

Before you buy an OTC AzA medication, you should seek professional advice from your board-certified dermatologist. Whether in 20% or 15% concentrations, AzA will treat papulopustular rosacea, and reduce inflammation and severe erythema.

AzA is an anti-inflammatory skincare ingredient that is generally safe for the skin. However, there are some side effects associated with the use of azelaic acid. Patients with sensitive skin should seek professional advice before boarding this treatment form.


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