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Azelaic Acid: How to Use It for Maximum Glow-Up

by Ella Goodman 28 Sep 2023

Hey there, glow-getter!

You're probably here because you've caught wind of the skin-transforming magic of azelaic acid.

Ah, yes—the darling of the skincare world that's making waves, and for all the right reasons.

And if you're wondering how to make this superstar ingredient a loyal member of your beauty brigade, then buckle up, because we're about to spill the tea on the hows, whys, and wows of azelaic acid.

Let’s get started!

What's the Buzz: Azelaic Acid 101

Grainy Beginnings

First off, the origins. Azelaic acid isn’t some lab invention or a recent discovery. Mother Nature has been producing it for eons.

Found naturally in grains like barley, wheat, and rye, this ingredient packs an ancestral punch.

These grains, staples in diets across the globe, have harbored this skincare secret, just waiting for modern science to shine a spotlight on it.

Not Your Everyday Acid

Now, when we say ‘acid’, it’s easy to think of something harsh, burning, or even damaging.

But azelaic acid dances to a different beat. With a pH closer to that of our skin, it ensures gentle action. It doesn’t bulldoze its way through; instead, it tiptoes, ensuring minimal disruption and maximal love.

Exfoliator Extraordinaire

Exfoliation is the art of nudging away the old to make way for the new. Azelaic acid excels at this. Instead of physically scrubbing, it promotes cellular turnover.

This means it helps the skin naturally shed its older, possibly damaged cells, giving fresher, younger cells their time in the limelight. And the result? A complexion that looks rejuvenated and feels baby-soft.

Brightening the Way

Here’s where the science gets a tad cooler.

Melanin is what gives our skin its color. Sometimes, due to various factors (hello, sun damage and inflammation), our skin might produce excess melanin in patches, leading to uneven skin tone or hyperpigmentation.

Enter azelaic acid. It targets the enzyme responsible for melanin production, ensuring it doesn’t go overboard.

In layman's terms? It’s like having a vigilant lifeguard for your skin, ensuring everything remains balanced and harmonious.

Acne, Rosacea, and Pigmentation's Nemesis

Most of us have faced the wrath of acne at some point. Those pesky, inflamed bumps aren't just physically painful but can take a toll on one's confidence.

Similarly, rosacea brings along redness, flushing, and visible blood vessels. And pigmentation? Those dark patches or spots that refuse to budge.

Now, what if one ingredient could tackle all three?

Yes, you guessed it! Azelaic acid's anti-inflammatory properties reduce acne-causing bacteria, calm rosacea flare-ups, and lighten pigmented spots. It's like a Swiss army knife for your skincare woes.

Safety First

A crucial point to touch on is its safety profile. Azelaic acid is generally well-tolerated, making it a friend to most skin types.

It’s non-comedogenic, which in simpler terms means it won’t clog your pores. Plus, it doesn't carry the risk of bleaching your skin - a concern that's valid with some other actives.

Serum: The Best Vessel for Azelaic Greatness

The Serum Structure: Why It’s a Game Changer

At the heart of any effective skincare routine is a good understanding of product texture and consistency.

Among the myriad of choices – from creams to lotions to gels – serums emerge as the gold standard.

But why? Think of serums as the high-speed trains of the skincare world. They’re designed for swift, efficient delivery. Their lightweight nature allows them to bypass the surface traffic and plunge directly into the deeper layers of the skin.

The Power of Penetration

Ever wondered why some products just sit on the skin while others seem to disappear almost instantly?

It's all about molecular size. Serums are formulated with smaller molecules, allowing them to penetrate further than their heavier counterparts.

With azelaic acid housed in a serum, you're ensuring that this powerhouse ingredient isn't just sitting pretty on the surface but is making its way down to where the real action happens.

Concentration Matters

When we talk skincare, it's not just about what's inside but how much of it there is.

Serums are like the espresso shots of the skincare realm – potent and concentrated. By opting for an azelaic acid serum, you’re guaranteeing that you’re receiving a richer dose of the ingredient in every drop. This means quicker results and more noticeable changes in your skin's texture and appearance.

A Symphony of Ingredients

Now, here's where it gets even more intriguing. A serum isn't just a solo performance; it’s an orchestra.

While azelaic acid is the star player, serums often come packed with a host of other beneficial ingredients that complement and amplify the effects of azelaic acid.

Think of hydrating hyaluronic acid or soothing niacinamide, all working in tandem with azelaic acid to harmonize your skin’s melody.

Less is More: Efficiency at its Best

Another feather in the cap for serums is their efficiency.

Given their concentrated nature, you don't need to use a lot. Just a few drops are enough to cover the entire face.

With an azelaic acid serum, this ensures that you're getting an optimal dose of the ingredient without any wastage. It's skincare that's both effective and economical!

Customizable and Flexible

The beauty of serums, especially those packed with azelaic acid, lies in their adaptability.

You can layer them under moisturizers, sunscreens, or even mix them with other serums (as long as they're compatible – always do a patch test!).

This flexibility means that they can seamlessly fit into any existing skincare routine, enhancing and elevating it.

Steps to Success: Using Azelaic Acid Serum

1. Start Clean: The Canvas Matters

Imagine painting on a dusty canvas. It wouldn’t yield the best results, right?

Similarly, your face is the canvas, and the azelaic acid serum is the masterpiece you’re about to create.

Use a gentle cleanser tailored to your skin type to ensure you’re starting on a fresh, clean slate. This step will clear away the day's grime, excess oil, and any remnants of makeup, ensuring that your serum gets direct access to your skin without any barriers.

2. Tone It Up: Balance and Prep

Once your face is sparkling clean, grab your favorite toner. A toner will balance your skin's pH levels, making it more receptive to the subsequent treatments.

Think of it as laying down a primer before your main coat of paint – it sets the stage for everything that follows.

3. Patch Test First: Safety Dance

Now, before you let azelaic acid serenade your face, let's ensure the tune is right for you.

Choose a discreet spot, preferably on the inside of your wrist or behind the ear. Apply a smidge of the serum and wait.

It’s a 24-hour waiting game. If after this period, there's no irritation, redness, or discomfort, you're ready to rock and roll. Remember, better safe than sorry!

4. Apply Thinly: The Art of Moderation

Azelaic acid serum, being the potent elixir it is, demands respect. Pour a few drops on your fingertips, rub them together slightly to warm it up, and then spread it evenly over your face.

Use gentle upward strokes – it's like giving your skin a mini massage.

And the best part? You don’t need to slather it on. This serum is concentrated magic, so a little truly goes a long way.

5. Eye Spy: Safety Zone

When applying, be cautious around the eye area. The skin here is delicate, and you want to avoid any potential irritants.

Use your ring finger – it naturally applies the least pressure – and gently pat any product around the orbital bone, steering clear of the lids and under-eyes.

6. Follow-Up: Seal the Goodness

Once your azelaic acid serum has been absorbed, it’s time for the closing act. A moisturizer will lock in the serum, ensuring prolonged benefits and preventing any potential drying effects.

Think of it as a protective blanket, keeping all the good stuff in and the bad stuff out.

7. Sun Savvy: Guard Against the Rays

Azelaic acid, while a superhero in its own right, can make your skin more sensitive to the sun.

So, if you're planning to step out, arm yourself. A broad-spectrum SPF is non-negotiable. It will shield your skin from harmful UV rays and prevent any potential setbacks in your skincare journey.

Timings Matter: Night Owl or Morning Lark?

When it comes to skincare, timing isn’t just a tick on the clock; it's an art.

You see, our skin has its own internal clock called the circadian rhythm.

During the day, it's on high alert, fending off UV rays, pollution, and all the grime. Come nightfall, it switches to repair and rejuvenation mode.

Enter stage right, Azelaic Acid. This powerhouse ingredient loves the tranquility of nighttime.

Why? The nighttime provides an uninterrupted platform for azelaic acid to regenerate skin cells, combat inflammation, and brighten your complexion.

Plus, there’s less environmental stress to compete with, allowing this potent ingredient to take center stage.

However, for those of you who swear by a morning routine, all is not lost! Azelaic acid can flex and adapt. If you prefer a dawn application, just remember one golden rule: sunscreen is non-negotiable.

Think of SPF as azelaic acid’s daytime bodyguard, ensuring it performs without any UV interference.

Pairing it Right: The Perfect Playmates

Building the ultimate skincare team is like creating the perfect music playlist – each product sets a tone, contributing to the symphony of radiant skin.


This vitamin B3 derivative is like azelaic acid’s trusty sidekick. Together, they tackle inflammation, reduce redness, and enhance the skin's barrier function. Imagine the two in tandem, harmonizing to reduce those pesky breakouts.

Hyaluronic Acid

If azelaic acid was attending a party, hyaluronic acid would be its plus-one. This hydration hero ensures that while azelaic acid refines and renews, your skin remains plump and hydrated.

Think of it as the perfect duet—azelaic acid takes the lead while hyaluronic acid ensures every note is pitch-perfect.


Picture peptides as the choreographers in this skincare dance. They boost collagen production, ensuring your skin remains firm and youthful.

With azelaic acid addressing surface concerns, peptides work on the underlying structure, ensuring a holistic skincare approach.

However, a word to the wise: while these ingredients are the dream team, introducing them all at once could be overwhelming for your skin.

It's like adding too many instruments to a song—chaotic! Instead, stage your introductions, allowing your skin to adapt to each new player.

Personalize Your Frequency: March to Your Own Beat

Azelaic acid, though potent, isn’t a one-size-fits-all. Your friend might be serenading her skin with it every day, while for you, thrice a week strikes the right chord.

Starting slow is the key. Begin with 2 to 3 times a week. This gentle introduction allows your skin to get familiar with azelaic acid’s unique rhythm.

As days roll by, you can increase or decrease the frequency.

The end goal? To create a personalized skincare symphony that resonates with your unique needs.

Remember, skincare is a dialogue. Your skin will often drop hints—be it through a radiant glow or an unexpected breakout. It's crucial to tune in and adapt accordingly.

The Do’s and Don’ts: Your Skincare Rulebook

Navigating the world of azelaic acid might seem daunting, but with a few ground rules, you'll be a maestro in no time.

Do: Be patient post-application

Think of it as allowing the first coat of paint to dry. Waiting a few minutes ensures that the azelaic acid has been fully absorbed, maximizing its efficacy and paving the way for subsequent products.

Don’t: Pair with direct acids right out of the gate

Both can be potent, and it’s essential to give your skin time to adjust. It’s like letting two headstrong individuals get to know each other slowly.

Do: Always have a professional in your corner

Consulting with a dermatologist, especially if you're pregnant, breastfeeding, or have sensitive skin conditions, ensures you’re using azelaic acid in the safest, most effective manner.

In Conclusion...

Azelaic acid, especially when housed in a serum, is a game-changer. Its transformative powers are all yours for the taking.

Remember, it's not just about adding a product; it's about embracing an ingredient that could very well be the missing piece in your skincare puzzle.

So, here's to brighter, clearer, and happier skin. Cheers!


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