According to dermatologist Dr. Rachel Maiman, with whom Elite Daily spoke for this article, azelaic acid, an antibacterial and acne-fighter, is an "under-the-radar ingredient that is frequently overlooked when compared to the more popular alpha- and beta-hydroxy acids." If you're looking to incorproate azelaic acid into your routine, start by picking up any of the best azelaic acid products featured here. Dr. Maiman suggests choosing a product that contains additional brightening and skin-soothing ingredients such as niacinamide, glycolic acid, and/or vitamin C, to really make the most of its benefits.
Though much of the research on topical azelaic acid has been limited to prescription-only products with a concentration between 15% to 20%, Dr. Maiman says she has seen good results from over-the-counter products with lower concentrations of azelaic acid. Keep in mind that some people — depending on the skin condition you're trying to treat — may require require a visit to a board-certified dermatologist to get a prescription-strength azelaic acid product.
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1. Expert’s Pick
For best results, Dr. Maiman advises using these two products (Paula’s Choice 10% Azalaic Acid Booster and 10% Niacinamide Booster) together. She explains, "The three main ingredients — azelaic acid, niacinamide, and salicylic acid — work in concert to produce a highly anti-inflammatory combination that is quite effective, and it also contains a blend of antioxidants and soothing ingredients that help calm skin and lessen the likelihood of irritation." Used together, this duo targets acne, congested pores, dullness, redness, and uneven skin tone/texture.
As an added bonus, Dr. Maiman says that these ingredients are generally considered safe for pregnant and lactating women, but always check with your health care provider before using any new skin care products, either prescribed or over-the-counter, if you're pregnant or considering becoming pregnant.
2. Best Budget Pick
This Naturium serum contains skin-brightening vitamin C, anti-inflammatory niacinamide, and antibacterial azelaic acid to calm and prevent breakouts, unclog pores, and promote generally brighter, more-even looking skin. It's fragrance-free, vegan, and has a lovely, lightweight texture — and that's not to mention its $20 price tag.
3. Best Gel
Another great (albeit more expensive) leave-on product with azelaic acid, TULA's Acne Clearing + Tone Correcting Gel treats current breakouts, prevents new ones, and helps fade unwanted scars leftover from breakouts past with its blend of niacinamide, azelaic acid, and salicylic acid. Rounding out the formula is hyaluronic acid and chicory root to keep your skin hydrated and balanced.
Another plus? TULA is certified cruelty-free by PETA, and their entire line is free of parabens, sulfates, phthalates, fragrance, and silicones.
4. Best Cleanser
About four days in, I returned to my favorite facial cleanser to continue to restore my glow and fight hyperpigmentation.
To treat hyperpigmentation and/or an uneven skin tone on your face, body, or scalp, apply this PCA Skin Pigment Bar and leave it on for two minutes. In addition to azelaic acid, other key ingredients in the formula include aloe, witch hazel, and the antioxidants kojic acid and niacinamide. This cleanser even comes with a soft sponge for easier application, which helps it lather up nicely, as well.
5. Best Scrub
If you're dealing with keratosis pilaris, ingrown hairs, or generally rough, bumpy skin, try this KP Duty Body Scrub from DERMAdoctor. It uses glycolic acid, lactic acid, and azelaic acid for chemical exfoliation, while hydrated silica provides some gentle physical exfoliation as well (the brand describes this as a chemical peel meets microdermabrasion). At the same time, some soothing botanicals (like evening primrose and black currant seed) support softer, smoother skin. Use this a couple of times a week in the shower to eliminate body breakouts and bumps.
Dr. Rachel Maiman, M.D., a Manhattan-based cosmetic and general dermatologist at Marmur Medical.