A simple guide to the amazing skincare benefits of azelaic acid
It may feel like azelaic acid has recently burst onto the skincare scene, but what is it, and how does it benefit the skin?
Azelaic acid is a yeast which occurs naturally in grains such as rye, wheat and barley. In skincare, it may be naturally derived or can also be produced synthetically. It has a whole host of skin benefits so actually, most of us can benefit from its multi-tasting marvellousness.
This all-rounder ingredient is a great choice for treating acne, rosacea and hyperpigmentation, so we find ourselves working it into a lot of your routines. It is such an effective ingredient that it is often prescribed at 15% to treat rosacea, and 20% to treat acne. Non-prescription azelaic acid products, like the ones we recommend on Renude, typically have concentrations of 10% and are still very effective in achieving results in the skin.
Here is a rundown of its key properties and how they can help you reach your skin goals.
Its ability to reduce inflammation in the skin makes it a great choice for acne blemishes as well as rosacea, both of which are inflammatory conditions. It also reduces instances of PIH (post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation) resulting from old acne marks, so this makes it a great option for blemish-prone skin that’s slow to heal or skin prone to PIH.
Research has shown that azelaic acid exhibits antibacterial effects, and is capable of killing the strain of bacteria which causes acne, known as P.Acnes (or officially Propionibacterium Acnes). It is not fully understood how, but one theory is that azelaic acid is able to penetrate the bacterial cell wall, alter the pH and prevent the bacteria from reproducing.
Another great mechanism for treating acne-prone or congested skin types. Azelaic acid has been shown to reduce the production of keratin, which can lead to blocked pores. Reducing keratin production decreases the chance of pores becoming blocked and in turn causing blackheads, whiteheads and other forms of acne.
Before hyperpigmentation becomes visible on the surface of the skin, there are a number of steps it goes through.
First, tyrosine is converted into melanin by the enzyme, tyrosinase. Once this melanin has been produced, it leaves the melanocyte and travels through to the skin cells at the base of the epidermis (the upper layer of skin which is constantly renewing). The melanin travels up through the layers of skin cells to the top, where it becomes visible hyperpigmentation.
This process takes a while (it can take 10 years to see the effects of sun damage on your skin for example), but once the pigmentation has reached the surface, this entire pathway has been activated and the cycle continues. This makes it one of the more challenging skin conditions to treat - consistency and patience are key.
Azelaic acid’s ability to inhibit tyrosinase means that it blocks the tyrosine in the melanocyte from becoming melanin. If excess melanin cannot continue to be transferred to the skin cells, then the areas of hyperpigmentation will start to fade. It’s important to maintain the use of tyrosinase inhibitors even once pigmentation has gone, as without tyrosinase suppression, it can return. This is also why marks tend to be more visible in the winter. UV exposure triggers a natural increase in melanin production, so it is harder to suppress this activity effectively.
A lot of high-performance skin care ingredients come with less desirable side effects to manage, but azelaic acid has great skin tolerability so can even be used for more sensitive types.
Unlike retinoids, azelaic acid is also suitable for use during pregnancy and whilst breastfeeding, so is a great option to support the skin of new mums as well as mums-to-be. Added bonus: its multi-functional properties mean you can keep your routine streamlined while reaping many benefits - a sure plus for those with little time to themselves.
Yes, azelaic is safe to use even twice per day, so can be incorporated into your morning and evening routine, depending on the other products you might be using alongside this.
This depends on your skin goals and the other ingredients you are using alongside azelaic acid, so there is no one-size-fits-all rule. However, at Renude, we most commonly recommend this as a morning treatment product, to be used after cleansing and before moisturising. We often advise this to be used in combination with an ingredient like retinoid for your evening routine, so you get the effects of both of these wonderful ingredients working together.
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