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Is Azelaic Acid The *Secret* Ingredient You Need To Get Rid Of Acne?

Find out why this underdog deserves a spot in your skincare routine.
PHOTO: Getty Images/iStockphoto

When it comes to anti-acne solutions, azelaic acid isn't really what first comes to our minds. We tend to go for tried-and-tested ingredients like tea tree oil, salicylic acid, and benzoyl peroxide. But, we shouldn't be quick to kick azelaic acid to the curb because this underdog is actually a *godsend* for people dealing with breakouts, rosacea, and hyperpigmentation. Below, we list down everything you need to know about azelaic acid, plus the best products to try:

What is azelaic acid?

Azelaic acid is a naturally occurring acid that comes from barley, wheat, and rye grains. It is generally used to treat rosacea, hyperpigmentation, and acne. It works as a gentle leave-on exfoliant, which makes it suitable even for the most sensitive skin. It also prevents comedones (blackheads and whiteheads) and gently dislodges dirt and debris from the pores. It's also anti-inflammatory and has antioxidant properties—perf for angry breakouts!

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Azelaic acid usually comes in a prescription form with a 15 to 20 percent strength, but more and more brands are coming out with their own versions with lower strength that's more affordable and safer to use at home. Commercially available azelaic acid products usually come in gel, foam, and cream formulas that cater to different parts of the body.

What are the benefits of using azelaic acid?

  1. It exfoliates the skin.

    Because it's a type of acid, it has the ability to gently exfoliate the skin without causing irritation or scarring. It's a lot better than using physical exfoliants that can leave microtears and abrasions in their wake.

  2. It reduces inflammation.

    When you're faced with angry breakouts, soothe them using azelaic acid which can reduce inflammation and redness.

  3. It evens out hyperpigmentation caused by breakouts.

    Azelaic acid can prevent tyrosinase from forming, which is an enzyme that leads to pigmentation. Research also proved that it can prevent dark spots by indirectly destroying melanocytes, which are the skin cells that produce melanin.

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  4. It treats rosacea.

    According to Francesca Fusco, MD, azelaic acid can help with treating the clogged pores, inflammation, and infections caused by rosacea. According to her, it's a less irritating option, which makes it perfect for people with sensitive skin.

  5. It prevents acne.

    Stop pimples in its tracks by applying azelaic acid to the affected areas. It possesses antibacterial properties that can prevent acne from coming back.

How do you use azelaic acid?

Whether you're using a prescription or over-the-counter formula, Gervaise Gerstner, M.D. suggests applying a thin layer of the product during your a.m. and p.m. routines. To help make it more effective, Fusco recommends lumping this step between your AHA, BHA, or retinol, and moisturizer. Don't forget to wear sunscreen with at least an SPF 30 in the morning to prevent dark spots from forming!

What are skincare products containing azelaic acid?

  1. Best Azelaic Acid-Infused Skincare Product: The Ordinary Azelaic Acid Suspension 10%

    This product from The Ordinary contains a high concentration of azelaic acid that can help brighten the skin tone, improve texture and unevenness, reduce breakouts, and minimize redness and rosacea. It also has a lightweight cream-gel formula that won't feel heavy or greasy on the skin.

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    Best Azelaic Acid-Infused Skincare Product: The Ordinary Azelaic Acid Suspension 10%

    The Ordinary Azelaic Acid Suspension 10%, P800, BeautyMNL

  2. Best Azelaic Acid-Infused Skincare Product: First Aid Beauty Skin Rescue Oil-Free Mattifying Gel Moisturizer

    This moisturizer from cult-fave brand First Aid Beauty has a mattifying gel formula, which makes it suitable for oily skin types. Aside from azelaic acid, it also contains niacinamide to improve the skin's elasticity and bring it back to its healthy state.

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    Best Azelaic Acid-Infused Skincare Product: First Aid Beauty Skin Rescue Oil-Free Mattifying Gel Moisturizer

    First Aid Beauty Skin Rescue Oil-Free Mattifying Gel Moisturizer, P1,980,

  3. Best Azelaic Acid-Infused Skincare Product: Skinoren Azelaic Acid Gel

    This azelaic acid gel from Skinoren has a 15 percent concentration, which is higher than most products. You need a doctor's prescription to purchase this. 

    Best Azelaic Acid-Infused Skincare Product: Skinoren Azelaic Acid Gel
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    Skinoren Azelaic Acid Gel, P1,326.25/30g, Southstar Drug

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