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Azelaic Acid for Acne Treatment

Azelaic Acid for Acne Treatment


Azelaic acid, technically called heptanedicarboxylic acid, is a topical treatment for mild to moderate acne, including inflammatory acne. It may be combined with oral antibiotics or hormonal therapy to increase effectiveness. Azelaic acid has a significant advantage over retinoids, another type of commonly prescribed topical acne treatment, because it does not cause extra sensitivity to UV light.

The Problem

Acne typically begins with excess oil production by overactive sebaceous glands, resulting in excessive secretion of oil onto the skin. When the skin becomes more oily, dead skin cells in the pores are not shed properly and tend to clog pores. This creates a hospitable environment for anaerobic bacteria that cause acne, and clogged pores can become inflamed as well. Azelaic acid is beneficial for all these problems.


Azelaic acid is a natural substance produced by a yeast that lives on human skin. It decreases bacteria growth, reduces inflammation and helps keep skin pores clear. Azelaic acid also helps decrease pigmentation, making it helpful for darker-skinned individuals who have developed persistent brown spots from acne. It is available by prescription in cream, lotion and gel form in brands such as Azelex and Finacea, and in generic form.


To use azelaic acid cream, lotion or gel, first wash your affected skin with water and a mild cleanser, and pat your skin dry with a soft towel. Apply a thin layer of the product and rub it in gently. Patients typically are advised to apply azelaic acid once daily at first and then twice daily once they know it doesn't irritate their skin.

Time Frame

Although azelaic acid is effective, acne responds slowly to this treatment, according to the New Zealand Dermatological Society. You should notice some improvement after using the product for one month. Maximum results typically occur after six months of daily use. Azelaic acid is safe to use for several years, if necessary.

Side Effects

Patients with sensitive skin or who have eczema may develop skin irritation when using azelaic acid. You should stop applying the product if you develop skin reactions, such as severe redness, dryness and scaling, itching, and burning or stinging sensations. A rash may be a sign of an allergic reaction and you should seek medical attention if this occurs.

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