Let’s talk about:
- What is Azeleic Acid?
- What are the benefits of Azeleic Acid in Skincare?
- What are the side effects of Azeleic Acid?
- Azeleic Acid myths and misconceptions
- How do I use Azeleic Acid as part of my skincare routine?
- When should I expect to see results?
- Which products with Azeleic Acid should I try?
Azeleic Acid popped up on my radar sometime during the middle of 2019 (although it has been building momentum for a couple of years already).
Once a week I would sit on my couch with a view of the Stellenbosch mountains and chat to SKOON’s chemist about trending ingredients. To say he was enthusiastic about Azeleic Acid would be a gross understatement ☺. After looking at all the research on this ‘rising star’ ingredient I found myself equally excited.
Here are all the reasons!
Possibly the fact that Azeleic Acid has all the makings of a stellar skin care ingredient.
Definitely the fact that Azeleic Acid is quite a comprehensive multi-tasker. Multi-tasking ingredients are the differentiators between good and great skin care.
Now, as you all know I always start a blog with a sweet treat and a cup of coffee. A cold, almost-Spring day like today calls for a slice of warm apple tart with a blob of cream…but no, I am on a 90 day sugar detox so today let’s just share a cup of coffee (on my side I am secretly hoping three months will pass in a flash!)
Back to the topic at hand. Let’s find out more!
What is Azeleic Acid?
The good news first. Your skin is familiar with Azeleic Acid since it is a natural by-product produced by yeast called Malassezia furfur that forms part of your skin microbiome (just a fancy collective term for your healthy skin flora).
I see a lot of blogs referring to the fact that Azeleic Acid is also found in whole grains like wheat, rye, barley, oats and sorghum. Hmm… this is certainly a long and impressive list and leaves the impression of skincare brands bashing wheat around to harvest Azeleic Acid ☺.
In reality, most of the Azeleic Acid used in skin care products is lab-engineered for maximum stability and effectiveness. At SKOON. we use Azeleic Acid made from RSPO certified palm oil – so no worries about gluten.
What are the benefits of Azeleic Acid in Skin Care?
Azeleic Acid has migrated from medicinal topical applications for acne and rosacea to mainstream skin care due to the fact that it is so effective, yet so mild, with virtually no side effects. Any medicinal ingredient needs to be extremely consistent, hence the fact that Azeleic Acid is mostly bio-engineered to deliver just this.
Effective, consistent results.
Reduce acne and clear pores of bacteria
The treatment of acne, acne-prone and clog-prone skin involves several basic steps. The first step is daily follicular exfoliation. The basis of this step is to use ingredients like enzymes, alpha hydroxy acids or keratolytics to help the inside of the follicle to exfoliate, breaking loose cell buildup and solidified sebum, loosening clogged pores and drying visible lesions.
Azeleic Acid is a keratolytic (like Vitamin A) and its real value lies in the breakup of microcomedones (small impactions formed by cells that have built up on the inside of the follicle wall – think blackheads, whiteheads) that already exist. It also functions to keep hyperkeratosis (btw, hyperkeratosis is hereditary, the reason why you find acne running in a family) from accumulating, to form new microcomedones.
If you want to know more about exactly how a keratolytic helps keep your skin clear, read my blog on another potent keratolytic, Vitamin A. Keep in mind Azeleic Acid is not a retinoid but both Vitamin A & Azeleic Acid are keratolytics.
I guess you now may want to know what the difference is between Vitamin A and Azeleic Acid.
Good question ☺.
How Azeleic Acid compares to other anti-acne ingredients like Vitamin A
The simple answer is quite good actually. Azeleic Acid is on a par with Vitamin A when it comes to controlling acne. But..and this is a big but…there is more to this simple answer. We need to look at some numbers to really compare these two mega ingredients.
(Wish I could reach for a slice of apple tart now ☺)
I know you want to skip the maths but bear with me. I think it is important to know, especially if you are struggling with acne and are looking for an effective solution.
Azeleic Acid comes in two forms: prescription medicine and normal skincare. The difference lies in the percentage of Azeleic Acid used in a formula. Prescription products contain 15%-20% Azeleic Acid and skincare products usually have around 10% in the case of wash-off products and 3% for leave-on products.
If you have grade III-IV acne, cystic acne or uncontrollable fungal acne I would recommend a speedy trip to your doctor to discuss prescription Azeleic Acid cream e.g. Azelex® - as a possible option. According to numerous studies, the results are the same if you use 15% Azeleic Acid or Accutane or 0.05% Retinoic Acid.
If you want to continue with long term maintenance after the use of either Accutane or prescription Azeleic Acid or simply want to control sporadic hormonal breakouts or blackheads, look no further than SKOON’s OH SHERBET! 10% Azeleic acid exfoliating mask. (PS: Just launched!).
Like I said at the beginning of this blog – you can’t go wrong with this multi-tasking on-trend ingredient.…and our lovely, 100% natural mask is such an easy way to incorporate this powerhouse exfoliant in your beauty routine.
Let’s have a quick peek at some of the other superb benefits.
Reduce visible redness in rosacea
No one is completely sure of the exact cause of rosacea but it appears to be hereditary and is related to how easily you blush! Makes sense then that it is more prominent in people with fair skin.
Rosacea is primarily an inflammatory disorder and symptoms may include extensive flares of redness, acne-like bumps and distended capillaries. You can have either “dry rosacea” or a type of “acne rosacea”.
It will come as no surprise then that the most effective ingredients to address rosacea symptoms (nope, there is no cure!) are those with significant anti-inflammatory properties. Enter our multi-tasking hero ingredient “Azeleic Acid”.
As I have previously mentioned Azeleic Acid has migrated over to skincare from medicine due to the fact that it has demonstrated significant anti-inflammatory activity in addition to being an effective anti-acne agent. Prescription products to treat rosacea will contain around 15% Azeleic Acid.
Skincare products containing 3% Azeleic Acid are perfect for long term maintenance treatment when your flares are in remission. Don’t forget to boost your topical Azeleic Acid with antioxidants like Vitamin C (WOW-WOW WONDER 3-Hyaluron + C serum) for more effective results – there is a link between damage from free radicals and rosacea.
Rosehip oil is another ingredient that is incredibly effective at treating rosacea, reducing inflammation and getting rid of blemishes.
Boosting tone and reducing pigmentation
Hyperpigmentation is both a long- and short-term cosmetic problem caused by the sun (and we certainly do have lots of sun in sunny South Africa!). It manifests as dark splotches on your skin and may appear suddenly, especially if you are a woman, after years of sun exposure. Even if your hyperpigmentation is caused by hormones or medicine, sun exposure is still the major factor determining whether your pigmentation will improve or worsen.
In general, hyperpigmentation is treated with 3 basic steps:
❶ Exfoliation, to remove existing splotches.
❷ Use of melanin-suppressing ingredients to stop the formation of new splotches.
❸ Effective sun care to minimise the formation of new splotches.
Let’s have a look at what Azeleic Acid can do for pigmented skin.
Besides being an effective exfoliant (sure do hope you know this off pat by now), Azeleic Acid also blocks the melanin-producing enzyme tyrosinase – making it a double-duty guy. This makes Azeleic Acid a keratolytic (exfoliator) and a melanin-suppressant.
Hyperpigmentation is what I call a “long hauler”. There are no quick solutions but with some perseverance and a multi-tasking ingredient like Azeleic Acid in your beauty toolkit there is certainly scope for improvement.
What are the side effects of Azeleic Acid?
This is what makes Azeleic Acid so good - and versatile. It has numerous functions and treats a variety of skin concerns without any serious side effects.
A keeper ☺.
Azeleic Acid myths and misconceptions
“Azeleic Acid contains gluten, and if I apply it, I’ll have an adverse reaction due to my gluten intolerance..”
As mentioned earlier, there may be confusion around the fact that certain grains contain Azeleic Acid.
At SKOON. we use (gluten-free) Azeleic Acid, bio-engineered from RSPO certified palm oil. So, no worries there.
If you are concerned, you need to contact the relevant brand, to clarify their source.
How do I use Azeleic Acid as part of my skincare routine?
This will depend on what type of Azeleic Acid product you are using.
SKOON. has just launched an easy-to-use 10% Azeleic Acid clay mask. You can use OH SHERBET! Azeleic acid 10% exfoliating clay mask daily for breakouts. The light pink clay is super absorbent and will further help to mop up excess oil and dry out bumps and blemishes. Although OH SHERBET! is a wash-off mask you can also spot treat individual breakouts with dabs of clay mask and leave it on overnight.
When should I expect to see results?
How long is a piece of string ☺?
Acne, rosacea and hyperpigmentation are all “long haulers”. Results will not be overnight. That being said there should be visible improvements fairly quickly.
If you do not notice an improvement that excites you within the first 3-4 weeks, I suggest you revisit your products and routine.
Which products with Azeleic Acid should I try?
Have a look at these two.
OH SHERBET! Azeleic acid 10% exfoliating mask WHITEWASH Purifying cleanser (with 1% Azeleic Acid).
Pheww… writing without my sidekick sugar is only half the fun! As always, leave your comments and questions.