Azelaic Acid: Benefits, Side Effects, Precautions & FAQ's

Azelaic Acid – Benefits, Side Effects & Precautions

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Skin conditions can become a bane for our beauty and appearance. Whether it is acne, pimples, bumps or swelling caused due to rosacea, there are a number of pesy skin conditions which make it difficult for us to maintain a smooth and blemish free skin. Hence, it is no surprise that we are always on the lookout for products which can help us to deal with these skin conditions and one such product is the Azelaic Acid. Let us understand what it is and how can it helps in treating skin conditions?

What is Azelaic Acid?

Azelaic acid is a medication which is used to treat moderate acne, pimples, symptoms of rosacea, etc. You can use this medication either in the form of cream or gel. It belongs to the group of dicarboxylic acid. The azelaic acid creams or gels are basically leave-on exfoliant which are gentle on your skin and help in unclogging the pores.

Though this acid can be derived from rye, wheat and barley, for cosmetic purposes it is generally lab-engineered which is then added to various products used for skincare. This medication is majorly used as a topical medication with prescription. However, the effectiveness of azelaic acid is such that it can benefit our skin even when used at lower concentrations and this is why azelaic acid OTC (over-the-counter) is also becoming popular.

Also Read: How To Find The Best Dermatologist For Pimples Treatment?

Benefits of Azelaic acid

There are many benefits which include –

  • It is effective in treating mild to moderate acne problems. The antibacterial properties present in this medication help in unclogging the pores by killing all the bacteria which result in blackheads and whiteheads
  • Azelaic acid cream for rosacea is useful for reducing the bumps, lesions, redness and swelling which occur on the rosacea-affected skin. This is possible because of the anti-inflammatory properties present in the medication
  • People suffering from pigmentation problems can also benefit with azelaic acid as it aids in inhibiting the over production of melanin in the skin
  • Azelaic acid also helps in treating hair loss just like finasteride and dutasteride.

Azelaic Acid Topical Dosage

The topical dosage of azelaic acid differs from one skin condition to another. Usually the dosage is –

  • For acne problems in adults and children over the age of 12 years – The recommended dosage is 20% of the acid in creams. A thin layer should be applied twice a day on the affected areas
  • For rosacea treatment in adults – The recommended dosage is 15% of the acid in gels or foams. A thin layer should be applied twice a day on the affected areas

Also Read: Excoriated Acne – Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

Side Effects of azelaic acid on skin

Similar to other skincare products, there are few side effects which can cause a certain amount of discomfort to you. Some of the minor side effects include –

  • Tingling
  • Itching
  • Tenderness
  • Stinging
  • Burning
  • Dryness

Take note of these symptoms and inform your doctor if you feel they are becoming severe. Apart from the above-mentioned minor side effects, there are couple of other severe symptoms as well, such as –

  • Rashes
  • Hives
  • Difficulty in breathing or swallowing
  • Swelling of various body parts such as lips, throat, tongue, eyes or face
  • Hoarseness

In such cases, stop using it immediately and inform your doctor about the same.

Also Read: Acne Breakout – Causes, Treatment And Prevention

Precautions while using azelaic acid

Before you start using, you need to take certain precautions so that you do not face any unnecessary problems later on. These precautions include –

  • Inform your doctor well in advance if you are allergic to this medication or about your other allergies, if any
  • You should also share your complete medical history with your doctor prior to using this medication
  • Any problems such as asthma, oral herpes, cold sores, etc., should be informed to the doctor
  • If you are pregnant, then this medication should be used only if it is necessary and you should discuss all the possible side effects with your doctor and only then start using it

Azelaic Acid Vs. Benzoyl Peroxide Vs. Salicylic Acid Vs. Glycolic Acid

Though other ingredients such as benzoyl peroxide, glycolic acid and salicylic acid are quite effective in treating various skin conditions, there have been various studies conducted which have resulted in azelaic acid performing as well or better than these ingredients.

For example, a study was conducted wherein 580 people were given 5% benzoyl peroxide, 1% Clindamycin or 15% azelaic acid. As per the results, on an average, 70% of the acne was cleared in people who used azelaic acid and they did not face any of the side effects which generally accompany benzoyl peroxide.

An Azelaic acid and glycolic acid combination will also work perfectly to treat those pesky skin conditions.

Also Read: How To Get Rid Of Blind Pimples – Causes & Treatment

Azelaic Acid Interactions with Topical Drugs

Interaction with other drugs will affect the way it works on your skin. The severity of the side effects can also depend upon these drug interactions. This is one reason why you should inform your doctor in advance about your medical history and all the medications that you use. Below are some of the medications which can interact with azelaic acid topical.

  • Isotretinoin
  • Accutane
  • Amnesteem
  • Absorica
  • Sotret
  • Myorisan
  • Zenatane
  • Claravis

Overdose of azelaic acid

There can be serious repercussions if you swallow azelaic acid. In case you swallow it, you need to go to the emergency room immediately. Always ensure that you take the dose at the same time every day as this will help you to avoid missing any dosage.

In case you do miss a dosage, do not try to double your dose the next time as it will lead to unnecessary side effects.

Also Read: Hard Pimple – Causes, Types & Treatment


  • Is azelaic acid an antibiotic?

No, azelaic acid is a non-antibiotic which is used as a topical drug for acne treatment.

  • What is the use for azelex cream?

Azelex cream is used for topically treating acne, rosacea and pigmentation problems.

When used in the right form and with the right concentration, Azelaic acid medication can do wonders for your skin and help you in treating the unwanted acne and rosacea problems successfully. But remember that it is always advisable to talk to your doctor, discuss your medical history, allergies, etc., and only then go ahead with the prescribed azelaic acid application.

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About The Author

Kushneet Kukreja

Kushneet Kukreja

A postgraduate in Biotechnology from Kingston University and an ISSA Certified Specialist in Fitness & Nutrition, Kushneet Kukreja is a passionate writer who works in close association with the dermatologists at our head office to generate valuable and scientifically accurate content for our blog.

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