Ingredient Knowledge - Azelaic Acid

Sunday, January 24, 2016 - 6:26am

What is azelaic acid?

Azelaic acid is an aliphatic dicarboxylic acid because it has two carboxylic acid functional groups rather than one, which has been out in the market since 1989. Azelaic acid is naturally found in wheat, rye, barley, oat seeds and sorghum. It is also produced naturally by the genus Malassezia, a yeast responsible for a skin condition called tinea versicolor.

Since this acid has potent anti-bacterial properties, it is made into topical preparations such as gels, serums, creams, foams and also as cleansers to treat various skin conditions, such as acne (A according to a 1996 study in the journal Cutis (Cutaneous Medicine for the Medical Practitioner). It is also used to treat rosacea because it reduces inflammation. It helps the skin to renew itself more quickly and therefore reduces pimple and blackhead formation. It also helps to kill the bacteria that cause acne and rosacea (According to a 1999 double-blind, randomized, multicenter study in Acta Dermato-Venereologica) and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, the marks pimples leave behind.

Unlike exfoliating acids, which gently brighten by casting off stained cells, azelaic acid interferes with melanin production in the skin's deeper layers so less pigment makes its way to your skin's surface. Azelaic keeps pigment production in check, rather than inhibiting it altogether, like kojic does.

This is a plus for skin of color, because there's no risk of azelaic acid lightening the normal skin bordering the dark area you're treating. It can work on all types of pigment, from isolated spots to widespread freckling and melasma splotches.


How Effective is Azelaic Acid for Skin Lightening?

One double-blind study showed that a 20% azelaic acid cream was effective for lightening the skin of 65% of the participants in just 24 weeks.

Another 24-week study in South America found that a 20% concentration of azelaic acid was equivalent to 2% hydroquinone in the treatment of melasma, whereas another study conducted in the Philippines found that 20% azelaic acid was superior to 2% hydroquinone.


What are some good products containing Azelaic Acid?

Only 2 forms are available by prescription and they are:

Discuss with your prescribing dermatologist which is better for your type of skin.

Azelaic Brightening Serum from Medical Esthetics by Katie's Clinical Skin Care line. A unique pigment clarifying serum that addresses uneven production of melanin. A dynamic blend of Bearberry, Kojic, Salicylic, Azelaic and Fruit Acids synergistically targets areas of hyperpigmentation and acne-prone based scaring. Super antioxidant Ferulic Acid and peptide stabilized Vitamin C resist free radicals while encouraging collagen synthesis.


Pro tip: Always top these products with a facial sunscreen of SPF 30+ that contains the mineral filter zinc oxide. It "blocks like a brick wall," shielding your skin from all wavelengths of light, even those emitted by computer screens and fluorescent bulbs, which have been shown to bring on brown spots.


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