Photo: 123rf

Alpha hydroxy, salicylic, hyaluronic: we already know that acids are your friends when it comes to achieving your skin goals. However, until recently, one particular acid has been flying under the radar and we’re here to put an end to that. People, meet Azelaic acid, your new best friend when it comes to tackling acne and a host of other common skin woes.

So, what is it?

Azelaic acid is naturally occurring acid that comes from barley, rye grains and wheat, and is from the same family as dicarboxylic acid. It is generally used to treat acne, rosacea and melasma and works like a gentle, leave-on exfoliant, making it suitable even for those with sensitive skin. Take note that this acid is pH dependent, meaning it has to have the right level of acidity to be effective, so opt for products that have been formulated with a pH of 4.9, which is approximately the pH level of healthy skin.

How does it work for your skin?

Azelaic acid has powerful antibacterial properties, and has been shown to be particularly effective against the bacteria on your skin that causes acne. It is a great alternative to benzoyl peroxide if your skin tends to be irritated by it, as studies have shown that Azelaic acid is just as effective in battling breakouts. In fact, it might just be even better than benzoyl peroxide, as this acid also has anti-inflammatory properties which helps to tone down redness and swelling that often accompanies acne.

Photo: 123rf

In addition, Azelaic acid can also be helpful for evening out your skin tone as it inhibits the skin’s excess production of melanin, making it the ideal product to combat breakouts and the annoying pigmentation that seems to linger even longer than the actual pimple. How have we not discovered this sooner?! Just to drive the point home: in another study, 85 participants with severe acne were given either Accutane (aka the most powerful acne medication available) or 20% Azelaic Acid cream. After 6 months, the group who used the acid were 100% cleared of cystic acne and saw a 88% reduction in whiteheads and papules, and 70% reduction in clogged pores. The Accutane group saw 100% clearing of cystic acne, 97% reduction in whiteheads and papules and 83% of clogged pores. These are some incredible numbers for a topical and could be a game changer for those suffering from severe acne as Accutane, though effective, comes with more risks and side effects.


In short, azelaic acid helps to:
– Reduce acne and breakouts
– Reduce redness, sensitivity and inflammation
– Reduce the symptoms of rosacea
– Fade hyperpigmentation, dark marks and brightens dull skin


Photo: Instagram / emmamyhoney

How do I use it?

Apply as a spot treatment day and/or night after cleansing and toning, then follow up with a moisturiser. With daytime use, always follow with a sunscreen with SPF30 or higher, as its exfoliating properties can make your skin a little sensitive to light. You can combine it with other acne medications or AHAs and BHAs, but as with any new product, always do a patch test before use. Azelaic acid is associated with very little risk, but some mild side effects can include stinging or skin dryness. If you’re unsure, check with your dermatologist.

Where do I get my hands on some?

Now that you’re convinced, we recommend The Ordinary’s Azelaic Acid Suspension, a lightweight, cream-gel texture that you can easily mix with your moisturiser. Paula’s Choice Clear Skin Clearing Treatment contains both Azelaic and Salicylic acid, and licorice root extract, which is a potent antioxidant. Rodial’s Super Acids Daily Serum contains lactic and Azelaic acid to help refine your pores and smoothen out your skin tone over time. Murad Redness Therapy Recovery Gel is specially formulated for sensitive skin and can be worn alone as a moisturiser if your skin isn’t too dry. It uses a gentler version of Azelaic acid, along with skin-soothing ingredients like zinc and peppermint extract to really soothe sensitive skin

So if you’ve been battling acne and pimples, we hope this new ingredient will be a positive revolution for your complexion.


ALSO READ: 7 acne concealers that cover and actually treat and calm zits