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Which Ingredients Go Well With Azelaic Acid — And Which DON'T?

by Ella Goodman 12 Oct 2023

Hey skincare enthusiasts!

You've probably landed here after hearing the buzz about azelaic acid.

It’s the skincare ingredient on everyone’s lips and bathroom shelves.

Maybe you’re wondering what magical potions to mix it with, or perhaps you're just trying to get the maximum glow out of your skincare routine.

Well, hold on tight, because we’re about to spill the tea on how to make the most out of your azelaic acid game!

What can I combine with azelaic acid?

First and foremost, let’s dive deep into the cocktail of ingredients that are BFFs with azelaic acid.

Vitamin C: The Synergy of Brightening and Healing

Why They Pair Well: We've all heard the hype about Vitamin C, right? But have you ever wondered why it's so often touted as a fantastic partner for azelaic acid?

Here’s the 101: Both ingredients are potent antioxidants. This means they fight off free radicals - those pesky little molecules responsible for skin damage and premature aging.

Now, azelaic acid specifically targets the melanin production pathway. This is fantastic because it evens out discoloration and reduces the appearance of dark spots.

Enter Vitamin C: not only does it further inhibit melanin production, but it also aids in collagen synthesis, giving your skin that plush, youthful feel.

In essence, while azelaic acid works on the surface, Vitamin C goes deeper, making sure the skin is rejuvenated from within.

Application Tip: When layering these two, always apply Vitamin C first. Its smaller molecular size means it penetrates the skin quicker. Follow up with azelaic acid for an added boost.

Lactic Acid: A Gentle Embrace for Sensitive Skin

Why They Pair Well: Lactic acid is what you'd call an alpha-hydroxy acid (AHA).

In simpler terms, it gently exfoliates the skin by loosening the bonds between dead skin cells.

This exfoliation process reveals fresh, radiant skin underneath. When paired with azelaic acid, which already has skin-brightening properties, you're in for a treat!

Imagine pairing your favorite exfoliating spa treatment with a rejuvenating face mask. That's the kind of duo we're talking about.

Another awesome point? Lactic acid is known for being gentler compared to other AHAs, making this combo ideal for those with sensitive skin. So, not only do you get smoother skin, but you also reduce the chances of irritation.

Application Tip: Always start with the lactic acid to exfoliate and prep the skin. Once you've rinsed that off and dried your face, apply azelaic acid. This ensures that the azelaic acid can penetrate deeper and work its magic!

Kojic Acid: Doubling Down on the Brightening Game

Why They Pair Well: Kojic acid, derived from fungi, has been a staple in skincare for its depigmenting properties. Now, while azelaic acid works on a broad spectrum of skin issues, kojic acid focuses intently on hyperpigmentation.

Think of it like this: azelaic acid is the jack-of-all-trades, while kojic acid is the specialist. Together, they ensure that not only are you addressing general skin health, but you're also zeroing in on targeted problem areas.

Kojic acid achieves its effects by inhibiting tyrosinase, an enzyme responsible for melanin production. This, coupled with azelaic acid's melanin pathway targeting, ensures a comprehensive approach to achieving an even skin tone.

Application Tip: Kojic acid can sometimes be drying. So, it's a good idea to layer it with azelaic acid to benefit from azelaic acid's moisturizing properties. This way, you tackle dark spots without drying out your skin.

A Word to the Wise: Introducing Actives the Right Way

When adding multiple active ingredients to your routine, think of your skin as a canvas. You wouldn’t slap on layers of paint without preparation, right?

The same goes for skincare. Always introduce one active at a time.

Why? Because this allows you to monitor your skin's reaction and ensure that you're not overwhelming it.

What doesn't mix well with azelaic acid?

This bit kind of feels more fun in a weird way, right?

Now that we've waxed poetic about the best buddies of azelaic acid, let's venture into slightly rockier terrain.

You see, in the intricate ballet of skincare, not all ingredients gracefully glide together. Some might stumble, trip, or even totally wipe out when paired. Let’s break down which ingredients might just step on azelaic acid’s toes.

High Concentrations of Retinol: Too Much Power in One Potion

The Science Behind It: Retinol, a derivative of vitamin A, is essentially the superhero of the skincare world.

Its claim to fame? Accelerating cell turnover and boosting collagen.

Fantastic, right?

Now, when you pair this accelerated cellular activity with azelaic acid, which itself can be active and tingling on the skin, there's potential for a superhero clash. It's like Batman and Superman facing off: both awesome in their own right but might not always play nice together.

Why Tread Lightly: Using azelaic acid and high concentrations of retinol in tandem might not always be the dynamic duo you'd hope for. The combination can increase the risk of skin dryness, peeling, and irritation, especially if you're a skincare newcomer or have sensitive skin.

Navigating the Minefield: If you're adamant about using both, consider alternating them.

Retinol nights on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and azelaic acid nights on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. Give your skin a breather on Sunday. This way, you’re minimizing potential irritation while still reaping the individual benefits.

Highly Acidic Products: Balancing the Acid Tightrope

The Science Behind It: Our skin naturally maintains a slightly acidic pH balance, hovering around 5.5. This acidic mantle is crucial for keeping nasties out and moisture in.

When you introduce potent ingredients like glycolic acid, which is considerably more acidic, and then add azelaic acid into the mix, you're tempting fate. Too many acids can disrupt this balance, leaving your skin vulnerable.

Why Tread Lightly: Overloading with acids can strip the skin of its natural oils, compromise the skin barrier, and leave you with a face that's red, irritated, and sensitive. And remember, damaged skin barriers take time to heal and are more susceptible to external aggressors like pollution and bacteria.

Navigating the Minefield: If you’re keen on using both azelaic acid and another strong acid, it’s all about timing.

You might want to use one in the morning and the other at night. This minimizes the chances of over-exfoliation and gives your skin a decent window to recuperate. And as always, ensure you’re religious with sunscreen, especially when playing with acids. Sunscreen is your protective shield against potential damage.

The All-Important Patch Test: Your Safety Net

No matter how excited you are to dive into a new skincare regime, a patch test is your non-negotiable first step. We can't emphasize this enough.

Everyone’s skin is unique, and what works for one person might wreak havoc on another. So, even if an ingredient isn’t commonly known to conflict with azelaic acid, always listen to your skin.

How to Patch Test Like a Pro: Apply a tiny amount of the product on a discreet area, like the inside of your wrist or behind the ear. Wait for 24 hours.

No reaction? Great! But if there's redness, itching, or any sign of irritation, it might be best to reconsider that product or consult with a dermatologist.

How can I make azelaic acid work better?

Fortunately, making azelaic acid work harder for you isn’t some cryptic secret reserved for skincare gurus.

Here’s the lowdown:

Moisturize: The Unsung Hero of Any Routine

Why It Matters: Think of your skin as a sponge. When it’s dry and stiff, it doesn't absorb as well. But when it's moist, it's primed to soak up everything you layer on it.

Deep Dive: Moisturizing is not just about avoiding dry patches. It’s also about ensuring your skin's barrier is strong, supple, and ready to work with azelaic acid. When your skin barrier is in top shape, it can absorb and utilize active ingredients much more effectively.

Action Steps: After applying azelaic acid, give it a minute or two to sink in. Then, reach for a moisturizer packed with ceramides, hyaluronic acid, or niacinamide. These ingredients not only lock in hydration but also strengthen the skin's natural barrier, making it the perfect sidekick to azelaic acid.

Sunscreen: Your Daytime Shield Against The World

Why It Matters: While azelaic acid is working its magic in reducing blemishes and evening out your skin tone, it can also make your skin a tad more vulnerable to those sneaky UV rays.

Deep Dive: UV rays don't play around. They can cause premature aging, worsen hyperpigmentation, and even increase the risk of skin cancers. Using azelaic acid, which exfoliates and reveals newer skin, without protection is like buying a brand-new smartphone and not using a cover. One drop, and oops!

Action Steps: Regardless of the weather or season, make sunscreen the grand finale of your morning routine. Aim for an SPF of 30 or higher, and if you’re out and about, reapply every two hours. Your future self will thank you for it!

Consistency: The True Backbone of Skincare Success

Why It Matters: Results in skincare aren’t about quick fixes. It's about the dedication you put in, day in and day out.

Deep Dive: Azelaic acid, while powerful, isn't a wizard with a magic wand. It works by reducing inflammation, killing bacteria, and speeding up cell turnover. These processes need time.

And the skin you see today? It’s a result of the care you’ve given it over the past month or even longer.

Action Steps: Mark a calendar, set a reminder, or make a ritual out of your skincare routine. Give azelaic acid a good few weeks to show its impact.

And during this time, don’t keep switching out products or routines. Let azelaic acid take center stage, and soon enough, you'll be staring at its rave reviews every time you look in the mirror.

BONUS Tip: Know Your Skin

Understanding your unique skin type and needs can enhance how azelaic acid works for you. If you have extremely sensitive skin, you might want to start with a lower concentration and gradually build up.

If your skin is more on the oily side, opt for a gel-based formulation. Tailoring your approach means you’re not just following the crowd, but listening to your skin’s unique song.

Wrapping It Up: Your Skin's Glow-Up Journey!

Now that we've handed over the keys to the kingdom of azelaic acid know-how, it's all up to you.

Skincare is personal, and while we've given you the 411, you know your skin best.

Try things out, see what works, and most importantly, enjoy the process. After all, taking care of your skin is a form of self-love.

Remember, azelaic acid isn't just about skin brightening. It's about confidence, it's about feeling good in your own skin, and it's about rocking your unique glow.

With us by your side, consider this your first step into the fab world of flawless skin. Until next time, keep shining!

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