Azelaic Acid: Whaaaaaaa?

This is a new one for me.  I’ve seen a lot of posts recently regarding Azelaic acid, @Chemist_confessions on instragram, KLOG, Paula’s Choice are the groups I follow where I recently saw posts. I’ve had this on my mind for awhile just haven’t been able to finish it (Thanks conference season). But what on earth is azelaic acid?

What is Azelaic Acid?

Azelaic acid is a dicarboxylic acid.  This group of acids isn’t hydrochloric acid, these are found commonly as an amino acid.  So we eat dicarboxylic acids.  You can get this in a range of concentrations most commonly as a 10% solution up to prescription strengths at 20%.


Azelaic acid has been used to reduce the look of blemishes, even skin tone, heal and even out the appearance of acne scarring. You had me at acne scarring.

The Studies

Here’s the science I saw.

Hydroquinone: the gold standard for evening skin tone

In the treatment of melasma, what some people would self-diagnose as hyperpigmentation, a double-blind study showed that 20% azelaic acid had a better-perceived reduction in darker pigmentation than 2% hydroquinone with similar side effects to the hydroquinone treatment.  Problems with this study, there were only 9 men in it, so it’s effect on men can really be assessed.  Because of estrogen concentrations, women’s skin is very different than men.  Second and largest problem with this study, I can’t find a 20% azelaic acid facial product. In a second double-blind study, 20% azelaic acid did not have different results from 4% hydroquinone.  The highest I’ve found as a booster over the counter is 10%.


a 20% azelaic acid gel saw a significant decrease in acne lesions after 1 month and a 15.9-10.5% reduction in sebum excretion.

In general, all the research suggests this is a useful product.  However, at the concentrations that have been evaluated its hard to find the concentration from a reputable distributor.  It is available as a 20% (w/w) prescription, Azelex(R). It is much more common to find it at a 10% concentration

The Problem

As you can see from above the majority of the Azelaic acid that has been examined is at a 20% concentration. That’s a prescription strength concentration. So over the counter won’t show these results. Remember I’ve only seen 10% from a reputable distributor.


  • Paula’s Choice 10% Azelaic Acid Booster ($36)
    • Great combo with salicylic acid to help prevent breakouts while it’s healing the old damage
  • The Ordinary: Azelaic acid suspension 10% ($7.90)

As more products are released with a known concentration (some don’t list their Azelaic acid concentration, I’m not going to suggest those) I’ll continue to update this post. If you’d like to try Azelaic acid at 20% visit your favorite dermatologist and ask if it’s an option for your specific condition.

Have you seen any other Azelaic acid products?? What have you seen?

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