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Azelaic Acid Before or After Sunscreen? Why the Order Matters

by Ella Goodman 30 Jun 2024

Hey there, skincare junkies! 

So, you’ve heard the buzz about azelaic acid and you’re wondering where this magical potion fits into your routine. 

If you’re scratching your head and asking, “Should I use azelaic acid before or after my sunscreen?” – honey, you’re in the right place.

Let's dive deep and clear up any lingering confusion.

Breaking Down the Magic: What is Azelaic Acid?

Before we untangle the mystery of when to use azelaic acid, let’s take a closer look at what it actually is. 

Here’s the lowdown:

  • Azelaic acid is a naturally occurring compound found in grains like barley, wheat, and rye.
  • It’s a diva ingredient for dealing with pesky issues like acne, rosacea, hyperpigmentation, and inflammation.

Think of azelaic acid as that MVP who does it all without making a fuss. It’s gentle yet powerful - kind of like your favorite yoga instructor who can also bench press twice her weight.

The Big Question: Before or After Sunscreen?

Alright, let’s cut to the chase. 

The golden rule for layering skincare products is:

  1. Lightest to heaviest: Serums and acids first, then heavier creams and oils.
  2. Treatment before protection: Active treatments bestow their magic before your sunscreen shield.

Yep, you guessed it. Azelaic acid goes on before your sunscreen. 

Sunscreen is your final armor against the sun’s rays, and nothing should peek through it - not even azelaic acid.

Why This Layering Order Matters

Here’s why it’s crucial:

  • Absorption: Sunscreen needs to sit on the surface to be effective. If azelaic acid goes on top, it compromises both the protection of the sunscreen and the power of the acid.
  • Effectiveness: Proper layering increases the efficacy of both products, giving you that glowing look and solid protection.

Getting Practical: How to Slip Azelaic Acid into Your Routine

Now that we’ve cleared up the mystery, let’s get down to the nuts and bolts. 

How do you actually incorporate azelaic acid into your routine without it feeling like a chore?

AM Routine: Glow Up and Go

  1. Cleanser: Start with a gentle cleanser to purify your canvas.
  2. Toner: Optional, but if you’re feeling fancy, a toner can prep and balance your skin.
  3. Azelaic Acid: Apply azelaic acid right after your toner. This is when your skin is most receptive.
  4. Serum: If you’re a serum addict, dab those on next. Light serums like hyaluronic acid can go beneath your sunscreen.
  5. Moisturizer: Lock in hydration with your go-to moisturizer.
  6. Sunscreen: Spread that SPF all over, generously and evenly.

PM Routine: Overnight VIP Treatment

Nighttime is when your skin goes into TLC mode. So here’s how to pamper it:

  1. Double Cleanse: Especially if you wore makeup or SPF. Use an oil cleanser first, followed by a gentle foaming wash.
  2. Toner: Again, optional, but a soothing toner can work wonders.
  3. Azelaic Acid: Apply your azelaic acid to deliver those skin-perfecting benefits while you sleep.
  4. Serum: This is the time to layer in any targeted treatments like retinol. Keep it light so layers absorb well.
  5. Moisturizer: Seal in all the goodness with a nourishing nighttime moisturizer.

Pro Tips for Maximum Glow

  • Consistency is Key: To see real benefits, use your azelaic acid consistently. Make it your skincare staple for at least three months.
  • Patch Test: New products can be tricky, so always patch test before fully diving in. Apply a small amount behind your ear and wait 24 hours.
  • Avoid Overloading: Don't cocktail too many actives together unless your skin is seasoned and can handle it. Stick to layering basics.
  • Sun Protection: This can’t be stressed enough. Using azelaic acid makes it more important than ever to get that sunscreen on every day.

Troubleshooting Common Issues

If you’re thinking, "Okay, but what if my skin freaks out?" here's your cheat sheet:

  • Irritation: Some may experience mild irritation when starting with azelaic acid, especially if you have sensitive skin. Ease into it. Use it every other day to start and build up your tolerance.
  • Hydration: Azelaic acid is not particularly drying, but ensuring your skin is hydrated can help prevent adverse reactions. Incorporate a hydrating serum or layer with a richer moisturizer.
  • Application Strategy: If you’re using multiple actives (like AHAs, BHAs, or retinoids), stagger their usage. Use azelaic acid in the morning and save the stronger treatments for nighttime.

Skincare Trends to Watch

While azelaic acid is having its moment in the spotlight, keep an eye on these trend-worthy ingredients and practices that perfectly complement your azelaic acid routine:

  • Niacinamide: This vitamin B3 superstar can be layered before azelaic acid for added benefits like improved texture and brightness.
  • Barrier Repair Creams: Strengthen your skin’s natural barrier with ceramides and fatty acids to better tolerate strong actives.
  • Skin Cycling: Rotate your actives wisely to prevent overstressing your skin. Use azelaic acid on Monday-Wednesday-Friday and other treatments on alternate days.

Unleashing the Power of Azelaic Acid

What’s So Special About Azelaic Acid?

Okay, so we know how to use it. Now let’s take a closer look at what azelaic acid is and does.

Let’s get real: Azelaic acid is like that under-the-radar hero in a blockbuster film—unassuming but packs a punch. 

It's a naturally occurring acid found in grains like barley and rye, but when it comes to your skin, this bad boy works wonders.

Think of azelaic acid as your skincare PJ’s—soft, comfy, and quietly transformative. Its unique ability to work while you sleep means you can wake up to an improved complexion without even trying.

Here’s what it does:

  • Banishes Acne: Azelaic acid targets your mild to moderate acne with precision. It delves deep into your pores, wiping out the bacteria causing those pesky pimples.
  • Fades Hyperpigmentation: Tired of those dark spots overstaying their welcome? Azelaic acid halts the production of excess melanin, which brightens and evens out your skin tone. It’s made the grade in our clinically effective dark spot corrector for good reason!
  • Reduces Redness: Its anti-inflammatory properties are perfect for conditions like rosacea. It calms the skin, reducing redness and swelling, letting your natural glow shine through.

Pro Tips for the Pros

To fine-tune this like a pro:

  • Consistency Is Queen: Results require commitment. Use azelaic acid regularly. Skipping it won’t give you the results you crave.
  • Patch Test Is a Must: Your skin might not take to azelaic acid immediately. Apply it to a small area and wait 24 hours to see how your skin reacts.
  • Sun Protection Is Non-Negotiable: Azelaic acid can make your skin more susceptible to sun damage. Always apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen in the morning to protect your investment.

Why Is Sunscreen the Real MVP?

Now, let’s pivot to the unsung hero of skincare—sunscreen. 

While azelaic acid is working on your skin’s tone and texture, sunscreen provides the ultimate shield against external invaders.

Rock-Solid Reasons to Use Sunscreen

  • Prevents UV Damage: Daily exposure to UV rays accelerates aging and can lead to skin cancer. Sunscreen isn't just a summer fling; it’s a lifelong relationship.
  • Unlocks Skincare Synergy: Imagine putting in all that effort with azelaic acid only to let UV rays wreck your progress. Sunscreen ensures all that hard work doesn’t go to waste.
  • Eradicates Hyperpigmentation: Dark spots and melasma thrive under the sun. Consistent SPF usage keeps future pigmentation issues at bay.

Understanding the Types of Sunscreen

Knowledge is power, folks. Familiarize yourself with these key types:

  • Mineral Sunscreen: These physical blockers, like zinc oxide, sit on top of your skin and literally reflect UV rays. Ideal if you have sensitive skin or react poorly to chemical sunscreens.
  • Chemical Sunscreen: These sunscreens absorb UV radiation and convert it to heat. They’re often more lightweight and less likely to leave a white cast.

Effective Sunscreen Application

Winning with sunscreen means applying it correctly:

  1. Choose the Right Formula: Pick a broad-spectrum SPF 30 or higher. Water-resistant options are great if you’re sweating or swimming.
  2. Apply Generously: Don’t skimp. A teaspoon for your face and neck should do the trick.
  3. Reapply: Every two hours if you're outdoors, or right after swimming or sweating. Even the best formulas need refreshing to stay effective.

More Than Skin Deep: The Science Vibe

Ready for a science geek-out? Here’s how these ingredients elevate your skincare game:

Azelaic Acid – The Complexion Transformer

  • Modulates DNA Synthesis: Stops abnormal pigment-producing cells in their tracks, steadily evening out your complexion.
  • Antibacterial Agent: Thrives in killing P. acnes bacteria lurking in your pores, nixing acne before it surfaces.
  • Anti-inflammatory Action: Reduces inflammation linked with rosacea, calming those dreaded flare-ups.

Sunscreen – The UV Shield

  • Reflects or Absorbs UV Rays: Mineral sunscreens create a physical barrier, while chemical ones absorb radiation, neutralizing it before it wrecks your skin.

Investing in Yourself: Lifestyle and Skincare Harmony

Let’s not kid ourselves—good skin doesn’t happen by accident. It’s the result of intelligent choices, harmonious routines, and a little bit of dedication.

Skin Gym

Visualize your skincare regimen as a daily gym session. Just as you wouldn't skip leg day (well, okay, maybe once in a while), don’t sideline essential steps like azelaic acid or sunscreen. Age might be just a number, but your skin’s condition will tell the entire story.

Mindfulness Meets Skincare

Skincare time should be a ritual—a timeout from the hustle. Play that chill playlist, sip on calming tea, and let every application be a moment of mindfulness. Self-love takes many forms, and skincare is a potent one.

Real Talk

No one’s perfect. Life’s curveballs might make you miss a step here or there—don’t sweat it. Aim to make azelaic acid non-negotiable, like brushing your teeth. And never, ever skip sunscreen. It's your all-weather friend, and your future skin will be grateful.

Wrapping Up

Feeling like a skincare mogul yet? 

You've now got the insider scoop on how azelaic acid fits into your routine and why sunscreen earns its MVP status. 

These staples are not just for vanity—they’re investments in your skin’s health and your peace of mind.

Imagine facing each day not just looking radiant but feeling confident and cared for. A few minutes each day can amplify your skin confidence, elevating how you feel inside and out.

So love your skin with intent, and bask in that fabulous radiance you deserve, every single day. 

Be the boss of your skincare. Your glow-up is here to stay!

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