While skincare ingredients like retinol and vitamin C get a lot of attention for their skin benefits, other lesser-known but just as effective ingredients also address multiple skin concerns. One of these skincare actives is azelaic acid.
Azelaic acid skincare products are ideal for those with acne-prone skin, as they help to reduce inflammation and kill bacteria. Azelaic acid can also help brighten the skin and even skin tone.
I’ve tested quite a few azelaic acid products and narrowed it down to this list of the eight best azelaic acid products, most of which are serums that will give you the most bang for your buck.
Let’s take a look at the seven best azelaic acid products for your skin.
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8 Best Azelaic Acid Products
While there are many effective topical azelaic acid skincare products on the market, this list includes a variety of product types (cleanser, serums, suspension) that are, for the most part, quite affordable.
Most of these products have an azelaic acid concentration of 10%, which is an effective concentration to get visible results.
1. Paula’s Choice 10% Azelaic Acid Booster Serum
Paula’s Choice 10% Azelaic Acid Booster is a best-selling gel cream formulated with 10% azelaic acid.
This azelaic acid product targets multiple skin concerns, including acne, enlarged pores, uneven skin texture, redness, and uneven skin tone. It even helps fade post-breakout acne scars and marks.
Azelaic acid has antibacterial benefits as an acne treatment and targets P. acnes, the acne-causing bacteria. It also helps to soothe inflammation and brighten your skin.
The booster also contains 0.5% salicylic acid, a beta hydroxy acid (BHA) that helps to exfoliate your skin and unclog pores. Plant extracts like licorice root, allantoin, and bisabolol calm and soothe your skin.
Paula’s Choice 10% Azelaic Acid Booster is oil-free and works as a spot treatment or can be used all over your face.
Use it alone or mix it with a serum or moisturizer. Because it’s oil-free, it’s great for oily skin.
2. The Ordinary Azelaic Acid 10% Suspension
The Ordinary Azelaic Acid 10% Suspension has gained a cult following for its ability to brighten your skin and improve the appearance of blemishes, uneven skin tone, hyperpigmentation, textural irregularities, and dullness.
In addition to 10% azelaic acid, the suspension contains vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant that helps to protect your skin from free radical damage, which can lead to premature skin aging.
Some users love The Ordinary Azelaic Acid 10% Suspension for calming rosacea, a skin condition that causes redness and inflammation. Others won’t be without it because it reduces breakouts and keeps skin clear.
Since azelaic acid typically doesn’t irritate the skin as much as AHAs (i.e., glycolic acid or lactic acid), you can use it daily to address your skin concerns.
The suspension has the texture of a cream, so The Ordinary suggests applying it after your cleanser, water-based serums, and oils, but before your moisturizer or face cream. (I prefer to use it before oils, so use it in the order that works best for your skin.)
Like all The Ordinary products, it’s super affordable, yet one drawback is it has a somewhat grainy texture that might not play well with some other skincare products.
For more details on this product, please see my review of The Ordinary Azelaic Acid 10% Suspension.
3. Naturium Azelaic Topical Acid 10%
Naturium Azelaic Topical Acid 10% is a serum that contains glycinated azelaic acid, an azelaic acid derivative that balances excess oil while hydrating your skin.
The serum gently exfoliates your skin while reducing the look of dark spots, hyperpigmentation, discoloration, and uneven skin tone.
The azelaic acid derivative (potassium azeloyl diglycinate) is water-soluble. It provides similar benefits as azelaic acid, such as brightening your skin but also helps regulate sebum (oil) production, which is great for those with oily skin.
Pure azelaic acid can be drying, but this specialized high-soluble blend of azelaic acid and amino acid glycine won’t cause dryness, making this serum ideal for dry, acne-prone skin.
Niacinamide, another key ingredient in this serum, helps to fade away dark spots and brighten your skin by reducing melanin production. This acitve ingredient also helps balance sebum production and supports a healthy skin barrier.
Niacinamide’s antioxidant benefits help protect your skin from environmental damage, and it has been shown to help improve the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
Sodium hyaluronate, a type of hyaluronic acid, is a powerful ingredient that helps to hydrate and plump up your skin. Coffea arabica (coffee) seed extract provides additional antioxidant protection.
This azelaic acid serum is gentle, so it is suitable for those with a sensitive skin type.
4. Mario Badescu Clarifying Serum with Azelaic Acid
Mario Badescu Clarifying Serum with Azelaic Acid is a post-blemish serum for sensitive acne prone skin. It is formulated to calm redness and irritation while reducing the appearance of pimples and breakouts.
The serum contains azelaic acid in both its original pure form and the derivative form of potassium azeloyl diglycinate to fight blemishes while also brightening the skin.
The serum also contains prebiotic inulin, alpha-glucan oligosaccharide, and postbiotic lactobacillus ferment lysate to promote beneficial and healthy skin flora.
Java tea extract helps to reduce the look of pores and shiny, oily skin. Aloe vera calms and hydrates your skin.
Scutellaria baicalensis root extract, also known as Skullcap root extract, is an antioxidant that helps to protect your skin from environmental damage and may even help target P. acnes, the bacteria that causes acne.
Lactic acid, an alpha hydroxy acid (AHA), is included in the serum to help exfoliate dead skin cells and improve cell turnover for brighter skin while acting as a humectant to help bind moisture to your skin.
Sodium hyaluronate and hydrolyzed sodium hyaluronate are forms of hyaluronic acid that attract and retain moisture and hydrate your skin.
The lightweight serum has a thin gel-like consistency that doesn’t feel heavy or greasy on the skin.
5. Cos De Baha Azelaic Acid 10% Serum
Cos De Baha Azelaic Acid 10% Serum uses 10% azelaic acid and niacinamide to repair skin damage, target acne scars, hyperpigmentation, and rosacea, and clarify and brighten your skin.
While azelaic can help with acne and brighten your skin, niacinamide is a powerful ingredient that addresses these skin concerns as well.
Niacinamide is an effective treatment for acne. This clinical study found that a 4% nicotinamide gel had comparable results to a 1% clindamycin gel in the treatment of acne.
But niacinamide’s benefits don’t stop there. Niacinamide interrupts melanin (pigment) production in our skin, which helps to fade away dark spots and even out your skin tone.
Niacinamide is also an antioxidant that can help protect your skin from environmental damage. It even stimulates collagen production for smoother skin and ceramide production for a strong skin barrier.
This serum is also formulated with sodium hyaluronate (hyaluronic acid), which helps hydrate and plump parched skin, and aloe vera extract, a skincare ingredient that soothes and calms your skin.
You only need a few drops of this lightweight serum that you can use in both your morning and evening skincare routines. This serum gets extra points for its super affordable drugstore pricing.
6. Peach Slices Redness Relief Azelaic Acid Serum
Peach Slices Redness Relief Azelaic Acid Serum utilizes a 10% concentration of azelaic acid to reduce inflammation and redness and even out skin tone.
Azelaic acid works its magic to calm irritation and even signs of rosacea. It also targets acne and breakouts with its antibacterial benefits.
This acid is formulated to gently exfoliate to remove dead skin cells, helping to clear away uneven patchy skin tone.
Green algae is known to have a variety of benefits for your skin. It is a rich source of vitamins, minerals, and amino acids that can help to hydrate and nourish your skin.
Panthenol, or vitamin B5, is a humectant that helps to attract and retain moisture in your skin while also having anti-inflammatory benefits.
Centella asiatica extract, also known as Gotu kola or cica, is an ingredient popular in Korean skincare. It has various benefits, including aiding in wound healing, reducing inflammation, and boosting hyaluronic acid production.
All of these properties make Centella asiatica an excellent ingredient for those with acne-prone skin.
The creamy white serum is fragrance-free and can be used by all skin types, especially those prone to sensitivity, rosacea, redness, hyperpigmentation, enlarged pores, blackheads, uneven skin tone and texture, acne, and breakouts.
7. PCA SKIN Pigment Bar
PCA SKIN Pigment Bar uses azelaic acid in conjunction with other skin brighteners to reduce hyperpigmentation and discoloration while calming your skin.
While serums are an excellent way to address pigment issues, cleansers like Pigment Bar can be an effective way to help even skin tone on both your face and body.
The solid cleansing bar blends azelaic acid with kojic acid and niacinamide for brighter skin. Kojic acid is derived from mushrooms and helps to lighten your skin.
Niacinamide is an effective brightening agent with anti-inflammatory properties to calm your skin while reducing transepidermal water loss.
It also contains green tea extract, an antioxidant that can help protect your skin from free radical damage from environmental factors like pollution and UV rays.
This cleansing bar is ideal for those with normal to combination skin prone to hyperpigmentation and uneven skin tone.
Please note that Pigment Bar contains rosewood essential oil that has a woodsy floral scent.
8. The Inkey List SuperSolutions 10% Azelaic Serum Redness Relief Solution
The Inkey List SuperSolutions 10% Azelaic Serum Redness Relief Solution is a lightweight serum formulated with 10% azelaic acid.
The quick-absorbing serum soothes irritated skin and reduces the look of redness and uneven skin tone.
A 10% concentration of azelaic acid has antibacterial and brightening benefits along with soothing and calming properties to reduce the appearance of redness.
The serum also contains micro-fine green-colored particles to mask redness. A 0.3% concentration of allantoin from the comfrey plant helps soothe your skin and reduce irritation.
The serum leaves no white cast and doesn’t pill on your skin, making it comfortable to wear with other skincare products and makeup.
Perfect for irritated skin, redness, and a blotchy, uneven skin tone, the serum is formulated for all skin types, including sensitive skin and those prone to rosacea.
The Benefits of Azelaic Acid
Azelaic acid is a naturally occurring acid that is found in grains like wheat and barley. It’s also produced by yeast that naturally lives on our skin.
Azelaic acid has many benefits for your skin, including being an antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antibacterial.
These properties make azelaic acid an effective ingredient for treating acne. Azelaic acid helps to unclog pores, reduce redness and inflammation, and kill the bacteria that can cause acne breakouts.
Azelaic acid can also help brighten your skin and even skin tone. It accomplishes this by inhibiting the production of melanin, the pigment that gives our skin its color.
Azelaic acid interferes with an enzyme called tyrosinase, which is needed for melanin production.
This makes azelaic acid an excellent choice for those with hyperpigmentation or melasma.
So, if you’re looking for an ingredient that can help with acne and improve the overall appearance of your skin, including an even complexion, look for azelaic acid in your skincare products!
Azelaic Acid Side Effects
Azelaic acid is generally well-tolerated, but like any skincare product or active ingredient, it can cause side effects, particularly in individuals with sensitive skin or those who are new to the product.
Here are some potential side effects to keep in mind:
- Skin Irritation: Some users might experience skin irritation, such as redness, burning, stinging, or itching upon application. This is more likely to happen during the initial days of usage as your skin adjusts to the product.
- Dryness and Peeling: Azelaic acid can cause dryness and peeling of your skin, especially if used in high concentrations or if used too frequently.
- Changes in Skin Color: In some rare instances, azelaic acid may cause changes in skin color.
If you experience severe or persistent side effects, it’s best to stop using the product and consult with a dermatologist or your healthcare provider.
Always perform a patch test when introducing a new product into your skincare routine. If you’re new to azelaic acid, it’s advisable to start using the product slowly, such as every other day or even less frequently, and gradually increase as your skin becomes accustomed to it.
While azelaic acid doesn’t increase photosensitivity (like certain other exfoliating skincare acids do), it’s always a good idea to use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher during the day to protect your skin, especially when you’re using active ingredients that can make your skin more susceptible to sun damage.
Azelaic Acid Conflicts
While azelaic acid is a versatile skincare ingredient that can work well with other active ingredients when specifically formulated together in the same product, when mixing different products, specific combinations of active ingredients with azelaic acid may not be suitable for everyone. These include:
- Other Direct Acids: Using azelaic acid with other direct acids like AHAs (i.e., glycolic, mandelic, and lactic acid) and BHAs (salicylic acid) can increase the likelihood of skin irritation, dryness, and peeling because these all act as exfoliants and might be too harsh when used together.
- Retinoids: Retinoids, like retinol and prescription retinoids, are powerful skincare ingredients that can also potentially cause skin irritation, particularly when you first start using them. If you are using retinoids and azelaic acid in the same skincare routine, it’s crucial to monitor your skin closely for any signs of over-exfoliation or irritation. Some people might be able to tolerate this combination, but it can be too much for others.
- Pure Vitamin C (L-Ascorbic Acid): Azelaic acid and pure Vitamin C are both excellent for brightening your skin and evening out skin tone. However, depending on the active concentration, mixing them can cause skin irritation and redness.
It’s important to note that everyone’s skin is different. What irritates my skin might not irritate another’s.
It can also be helpful to apply different active ingredients at different times of the day (for example, azelaic acid in the morning and retinol or vitamin C at night) to avoid potential interactions and irritation.
Final Thoughts On The Best Azelaic Acid Serums
Azelaic acid is a multi-tasking skin care ingredient that can help with multiple skin concerns, including acne, hyperpigmentation, uneven skin tone, and redness.
If you’re looking for an effective way to target these issues, consider adding one of these serums, cleansers, or creams with azelaic acid to your skincare routine.
Thanks for reading!