Attribute it to the weather, stress, over-indulging on various celebratory nights out or the fact that there is a ‘y’ in the day, my skin has decided to make itself known. The joyful emergence of dryness, sensitivity and breakouts has been a fun paradox to try to address and, after many forays into an array of AHAs, BHAs, retinols and the like I find myself unboxing a tube of Azelaic Acid Suspension 10% from the Ordinary.

In the interests of full disclosure I should say that it was not without a small degree of skepticism that I was trying this product. Let’s just say that this is not my first rodeo when it comes to jumping on the bandwagon trying the latest ‘must have active.’ This is partly why I thought I would start with the Ordinary’s offering (even though I have had mixed success with their skincare in the past) as it was very reasonably priced but still provided a relatively high percentage of azelaic acid. However, notwithstanding my cynicism, having road tested this both before and after a fairly reasonable night out (aka indulged in all the skin-busting festivities of alcohol, sugar and a lack of sleep) I was amazed at how effective it was.

What is azelaic acid and how does it work?

Azelaic acid is a leave-on exfoliant that reduces the growth of keratin surface cells that can block pores and kills the bacteria associate with acne. Its neither an AHA or a BHA but is produced from a yeast that naturally occurs on the skin, perhaps explaining why my initial experience with this was so positive and lacked the usual ‘wake up to your face peeling off’ that I can experience with other active products.

Cosmetic dermatologist Dr Sam Bunting describes azelaic acid as a ‘gateway acid’ that increases the tolerance of other products. She also explains that it is a great all-rounder – able to treat a number of skin conditions from acne and pigmentation to rosacea, without exacerbating other concerns such as eczema.

In terms of strength, prescription treatments (such as Skinoren and Finacea) tend to contain 15-20% of azelaic acid. However, over the counter products, which generally have 10% of azelaic acid, are still an effective first foray into the product for many skin concerns.

How to use azelaic acid within your skincare regime

As azelaic acid is fairly gentle, it is possible to use it in both your morning and evening regimes, after cleansing and any water-based serums. That said, as with all new products, introducing it with a degree of caution is advisable. I would start with a nightly application and then increase/reduce your usage depending on how your skin reacts. If you only use azelaic acid once a day, I would keep it in your evening rather than morning routine.

In terms of application, azelaic acid can be used all over the face, rather than just the affected areas. However, I have seen a number of reviews suggesting that this is perhaps a step too far… and again would recommend localised application in the beginning before moving to a more liberal approach.

First impressions

My skin is prone to dryness and my immediate concern with introducing azelaic acid (as with all active products) was whether it would exacerbate this. To mitigate the risk, I applied the azelaic acid after cleansing and then followed it with a hyaluronic acid and moisturiser. As with all acids in skincare, ensure that you add an SPF as the final step to your morning routine (I currently use the IS Clinical Extreme Protect SPF 30, which seems to sit well under makeup).

The next day I have to say I was pretty astounded at my skin’s response to this product. There was an immediate smoothing of my skin and reduction in redness/breakouts. Of note, this benefit didn’t seem to come with the usual dryness that accompanies any remotely successful active ingredient. Given the success, I reapplied the next morning (again only to the areas it was needed) and was pleased to see that it sits well under makeup.

Whilst my initial experience was positive, the real test came that evening, which was filled with birthday celebrations. Food was definitely falling into the ‘if it fits your macros’ category (who am I kidding – it definitely did NOT fit my macros), and there may have been a drink or two involved. Sugar and a lack of sleep are sure fire triggers for my skin and sure enough when I got home I started to see the threat of a disgruntled dermis. I applied the azelaic acid (again post-cleansing, pre-moisturiser) and hoped for the best. The next morning, I was pretty astounded to see that my skin was not only remarkably well-behaved for the morning after the night before but was actually better than it usually is (even on a good day).

I will update this post after longer term use. However, for now, this is one product that is definitely going to be a staple in my skincare kit.

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