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Azelaic Acid (and its benefits) - the unsung hero!

Updated: Apr 7

After reading this article, you will learn what azelaic acid is and what its benefits are. Toward the end, I'll also reveal my personal recommendation. All in all, this article will give you a perspective of a dual-board-certified dermatologist.

It has always been a struggle to choose the right skincare products for anyone suffering from acne. Often the conventional treatment used to tame acne and seborrhoea makes the skin even more inflamed and sensitive.

Although retinoids have proven to be a boon for acne-prone skin, they pose a major risk of making the skin extremely dry and prone to sunburns. Vitamin C can help in reducing the unsightly dark spots left by healing acne, but it acts very slowly, and it takes a long time, patience, and consistent usage before we can see any significant results. However, apart from the above-mentioned well-known anti-acne and skin-brightening ingredients. there is one hidden gem of an agent with multiple benefits for oily skin, Azelaic acid.

Azelaic acid can not only combat acne and unclog pores, but it also evens out the hyper-pigmentation of skin and helps in lightening dark spots and making skin look brighter. Let's see how this unsung hero does its magic.

What is Azelaic Acid?

It is a naturally occurring dicarboxylic acid that is derived from wheat, rye, and barley. Unlike other strong acids used for treating acne, azelaic acid is a milder acid and doesn't cause a lot of skin exfoliation.

What are the benefits of Azelaic Acid?

  • Clears dark spots: It fades marks of hyperpigmentation caused by acne, melasma, or sunburn. This mechanism is mediated by its inhibitory action on the enzyme tyrosinase. Tyrosinase is an essential enzyme for the production of melanin (the pigment that imparts color to the skin). There is an excessive accumulation of melanin in case of skin hyperpigmentation and dark spots. Azelaic Acid reduces the production of this melanin and hyperpigmented skin cells.

  • Unclogs pores: Being a beta-hydroxy acid, Azelaic Acid can penetrate the sebaceous glands and unclog pores. It dissolves the excessive oily over your skin and clears your pores.

  • Treats acne: It helps in fighting acne by reducing the production of oil and fighting acne-forming bacteria.

  • Mild exfoliant: It is also a mild skin exfoliant. Unlike other alpha-hydroxy acids and beta-hydroxy acids, Azelaic Acid causes very gentle skin exfoliation. By the virtue of its keratolytic properties, it can break down the excessive epidermal keratin and remove the upper dead skin layers. Keratin is a protein found in the uppermost layer of skin which, when in an excessive amount, can blog the pores.

  • Anti-inflammatory: Azelaic Acid also holds myriad kinds of anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and antibacterial properties making it a holistic tool in a dermatologist's tool kit for various dermatological diseases. Apart from treating acne, hyperpigmentation, and dull skin, it is also being used as a prescription drug for rosacea, keratosis pilaris, male pattern baldness, and hidradenitis suppurativa. However, before starting Azelaic Acid, you must always consult your dermatologist about how and when to use it.

  • Good safety profile: Unlike most other topical agents used for acne and melasma, Azelaic Acid is also safe to be used in pregnancy.

To put it plainly, Azelaic Acid is an under-explored drug with versatile properties. The drug not only cleans your pores but also watches over the acne-causing bacteria. Azelaic Acid is available in the market in various concentrations and preparations ranging from gels, creams, and sprays in 5% to 20%.

Here's an Azelaic acid serum that I have personally tried and loved:

But every skin type and skin condition might respond differently to Azelaic Acid. The drug is, therefore, only available as a prescription drug at higher concentrations. It is essential that you seek an expert's opinion before initiating the usage of Azelaic Acid.

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