Azelaic Acid: A Natural Wonder for Skin Care
Azelaic acid is a naturally occurring acid found in wheat, rye and barley that is gaining popularity in the skincare world as an acne treatment. This article will explore the benefits of azelaic acid for skin, how it works, and its potential uses beyond acne.
Properties and Origins of Azelaic Acid
Azelaic acid is a dicarboxylic acid consisting of a nine-carbon chain with carboxylic acid functional groups at each end. It occurs naturally in some grain cereals and is also produced by the yeast Malassezia furfur. This yeast resides normally on human skin and overgrowth can lead to pityriasis versicolor or seborrheic dermatitis. Azelaic acid helps regulate yeast growth on the skin.
How Azelaic Acid Works
The mechanism of action for azelaic acid involves inhibition of keratinocyte melanin synthesis, which reduces hyperpigmentation. It also has antibacterial properties against Propionibacterium acnes (P. acnes), the bacteria that causes acne. Additionally, it reduces inflammation by inhibiting the release of pro-inflammatory mediators from skin cells. These combined effects make azelaic acid an effective acne treatment.
Treating Acne and Rosacea
As an acne treatment, azelaic acid can reduce non-inflammatory and inflammatory lesions like papules, pustules, nodules and cysts. It is often prescribed as a topical gel, foam or cream for mild to moderate acne. Studies show azelaic acid is as effective as topical benzoyl peroxide without the drying or irritating effects. It is also Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved for treatment of rosacea. Azelaic acid reduces inflammation and bumps associated with rosacea.
A notable benefit of azelaic acid is its ability to reduce post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation after acne lesions heal. By inhibiting melanin production, it can help fade dark spots and marks left behind from past breakouts. Regular use may help prevent or minimize future pigmentation issues from recurring acne breakouts.
Reduces Signs of Aging
Beyond acne, some preliminary studies indicate azelaic acid may help reduce signs of aging by inhibiting matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs), which are enzymes that can break down collagen. Regular use may help diminish fine lines and wrinkles over time. It could also improve skin brightening and tone. More research is still needed, but azelaic acid shows promise for anti-aging effects.
Redness, Irritation and Burning may Occur
While generally well tolerated, some people using azelaic acid Cream or gel formulated products may experience mild transient stinging, burning, irritation or redness when first applying the product, especially if the skin is sensitive, damaged or dry. Side effects are usually mild and diminish significantly after a few initial applications. To reduce irritation, it’s best to start with a low strength formula and build up usage gradually as tolerance increases. Moisturizing the skin beforehand can also help minimize any potential irritation from azelaic acid. Anyone experiencing severe reactions should speak to their dermatologist.
Precautions and Who Should Use It
Azelaic Acid is categorized as pregnancy category B by the FDA, indicating no risk in animal studies but safety for use during pregnancy has not been confirmed. Out of an abundance of caution, topical use is typically not recommended during pregnancy unless under medical guidance. It is also advisable to avoid direct exposure to sunlight or UV rays for at least 30 minutes after application due to a potential of increased photosensitivity. People experiencing significant reactions to any active ingredients in formulas should speak to a doctor before continuing use. Outside those constraints, azelaic acid is suitable and effective for most skin types dealing with acne, rosacea or hyperpigmentation concerns.
Future Potential Uses
While the acne and rosacea clearing properties of topical azelaic acid are well established, ongoing research continues exploring additional therapeutic benefits. Studies indicate it may have potential anti-cancer effects on melanoma cells, work as an anti-aging agent to fight UV induced skin damage and boost natural collagen production over time. Preliminary animal and human trials are evaluating whether oral or topical azelaic acid can help treat non-melanoma skin cancers. As research advances, azelaic acid may prove useful for an ever wider range of dermatological conditions in the future.
Azelaic acid is a safe and effective natural acid derived from grains that has multiple mechanisms of action beneficial for skin. Beyond clearing acne lesions, it provides photoprotection, reduces PIH, soothes rosacea and shows early promise as an anti-aging agent as well as novel cancer prevention applications. With its ability to target multiple issues through breakdown of melanin, suppression of inflammation and inhibition of bacteria, azelaic acid will likely continue rising in popularity as a multi-purpose skincare ingredient in years to come. For anyone struggling with acne, hyperpigmentation or redness issues, azelaic acid is a top natural choice to discuss with a dermatologist.
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