Combining Azelaic Acid and Retinol: Benefits and How To Use It Safely

Many skincare enthusiasts are familiar with azelaic acid and retinol and their ability to address acne, dark spots, and other skin issues. So, can these two powerful products be used together? The answer is yes.

When combined, they can offer impressive support and improved results. However, there are certain things you should learn before doing so. 

This article will inform you about azelaic acid and retinol and why they may be the ideal skincare combination.

What is azelaic acid?

Azelaic acid is an anti-inflammatory skincare component and belongs to the dicarboxylic acid family. This ingredient’s antibacterial properties can help keep the skin free from bacteria and microorganisms. 

It is also a milder option when compared to salicylic acid, which is why it is usually prescribed to treat skin problems such as acne, rosacea, and hyperpigmentation.

Furthermore, azelaic acid is a tyrosinase inhibitor, which can slow the production of keratin – a protein responsible for the structure of our skin, hair, and nails. 

However, when the skin is damaged, keratin molecules bind together as a protective means, which can cause oil to accumulate and lead to outbreaks. Azelaic acid can help clear out blocked pores and prevent acne breakouts by reducing keratin production. 

What does azelaic acid do for the skin?

Azelaic acid has become a preferred skincare ingredient because it is mild and does not cause severe reactions. It helps manage the oil production on your skin, which helps keep your pores clear and stops blemishes from forming. 

Additionally, it has a calming effect, which decreases redness and inflammation of skin affected by rosacea. This acid also acts as an exfoliant, removing dead skin cells, and gradually improving the texture of your complexion. 

Furthermore, it can block tyrosinase enzymes like melanin. Melanin is a naturally-occurring element that impacts skin tone and defends it from UV radiation. 

Although melanin is essential to your skin’s overall health and hue, too much production could lead to hyperpigmentation. 

Skincare experts typically suggest using products of azelaic acid concentration ranging from 10-15%. These proportions are potent enough to offer the advantages of azelaic acid while also unlikely to cause skin irritation. 

Lower concentrations can be helpful too, but they require more time to display visible results.

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Benefits and side effects of azelaic acid

Some of the main advantages that azelaic acid offers your skin are:

  • Reduced inflammation
  • Removal of bacteria, dirt, and oil from pores
  • Antibacterial effects
  • Improved redness and rosacea
  • Improved appearance of acne and acne marks
  • Diminishing the appearance of melasma
  • Reduced skin sensitiveness
  • Improved skin texture

Azelaic acid is an excellent choice for sensitive skin as it is one of the most gentle skincare ingredients available. 

Even though adverse reactions are not likely, some people may experience minor side effects as their skin gets used to a new product. These could include mild irritation, such as redness or itchiness, as well as slight stinging or tingling sensations. 

Thankfully, these reactions are usually temporary and will disappear as the skin adjusts to the azelaic acid.

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Who should use azelaic acid?

Azelaic acid is suitable for various skin types, including acne and sensitive skin. It’s a particularly gentle skincare acid due to its larger molecular size. 

People with dry skin may find it beneficial as it doesn’t interfere with oil production. However, individuals with very delicate or reactive skin may occasionally experience mild irritation.

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What is retinol?

Retinol is a fantastic member of the retinoid family derived from vitamin A, a micronutrient renowned for its anti-aging capabilities and ability to combat acne. 

This essential nutrient is not only beneficial for optimal skin health, but it also helps to promote collagen production and encourages the skin cell turnover process. 

This procedure assists in pushing dirt, bacteria, and other impurities out of the skin’s surface, thus making it clear and less susceptible to acne. 

Additionally, vitamin A keeps free radicals from damaging collagen molecules, which are responsible for maintaining the skin’s structure and elasticity intact.

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What does retinol do for the skin?

Retinol can have a transformative effect on your skin. It helps to improve the production of collagen and elastin, proteins essential for maintaining the structure of your skin and its texture. 

As a result, retinol can help to reduce the appearance of wrinkles and enlarged pores, making it a potent anti-aging ingredient. 

On top of that, it can also fight off free radicals – the pesky culprits responsible for premature wrinkles and dark spots. You can find topical retinol products in gels, creams, and liquids, many of which you can purchase without a prescription.

It is essential to be aware that retinol and retinoic acid are not the same, as retinoic acid is much more potent and can only be obtained with a prescription. 

If you are considering using both azelaic acid and retinol, be aware that the stronger the retinoid, the more likely it is to cause skin irritation, so if you decide to use them together, start with a lower dose.

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Benefits and side effects of retinol

Retinol is a powerful skincare ingredient scientifically proven to impact your skin at a cellular level positively. It helps treat a variety of skin concerns. Retinol has a range of benefits.

  • Increases collagen production
  • Reduces inflammation
  • It assists in preventing acne scarring.
  • It helps unclog pores and treat acne.
  • Reduces pigmentation by discouraging melanin production and getting rid of existing pigmentation by improving skin cell turnover.
  • It improves the formation of fine lines and wrinkles.

Retinol is suitable for most skin types, but it could take some time before any improvement is visible. You must be mindful not to overuse it, as high dosages can have adverse effects. 

Common side effects are dryness, reddening, irritation, and flaking. Although these reactions are normal, some people might think they should discontinue using retinol when they become apparent. 

In reality, this is just a purge as the skin adjusts, and it can last from a few days to a few weeks. The discomfort will eventually disappear as the skin adjusts to the concentration of the product.

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Who should use retinol?

Retinol is an ideal skincare product for most skin types and is especially good for people wanting a more even skin tone. Depending on individual skin sensitivities, a few people may mix retinol with some hydrating and calming ingredients. 

Retinol is an excellent option if you aim to reduce wrinkles, acne, and hyperpigmentation and your skin can tolerate it.

Azelaic acid vs. retinol: What’s the difference?

Azelaic acid and retinol are two skincare elements that can help rejuvenate your skin. 

Azelaic acid works as a gentle exfoliant and is beneficial for those who suffer from acne and inflammation-related issues. On the other hand, retinol goes the extra mile and helps reduce fine lines and wrinkles while treating hyperpigmentation. 

Both azelaic acid and retinol offer anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and antioxidant properties, though they differ in cell turnover. 

They both promote cell regeneration, though azelaic acid can also help exfoliate the pores, while retinol enhances cell renewal and repair.

Despite both azelaic acid and retinol having potential side effects such as skin irritation, retinol can cause further dryness and photosensitivity. 

If your skin is sensitive or you’re suffering from rosacea, then azelaic acid may be a better option than retinol. 

Can you use azelaic acid and retinol together?

YES! Azelaic acid and retinol can be great for your everyday skincare plan. 

Even though azelaic acid and retinol help treat the same skin issues, they work in distinct ways, so when used together, they can create a powerful combination to address common skin problems. 

Let’s look at a few scenarios to determine how azelaic acid and retinol can combine effectively.

Combating Acne

Using retinol or a medication-based retinoid such as tretinoin is an effective way of managing acne, as it encourages the development of new skin cells. 

These cells can clear away oil and dirt while replacing damaged cells, resulting in a smoother skin tone. Unfortunately, retinol can cause mild irritation and redness, but that’s where azelaic acid comes in. 

Thanks to its anti-inflammatory effects, azelaic acid can help ease discomfort and safeguard against possible redness or dry skin damage.

Treating Hyperpigmentation

Retinol can be a valuable resource for generating new cells in the skin, consequently replacing those troubled by hyperpigmentation. Incorporating azelaic acid into your skincare routine can also be beneficial in diminishing the visibility of hyperpigmentation. 

By controlling melanin production, azelaic acid lessens the emergence of dark spots and may even lighten them with time.

Potential side effects of using azelaic acid and retinol together

Retinol is a highly effective ingredient, yet it can produce specific harsh side effects such as dryness, redness, peeling, and irritation. On the other hand, azelaic acid is much more tolerable, even for sensitive skin, and it rarely elicits extreme reactions. 

Everyone’s skin is different, so when reading research about combining ingredients, it’s essential to consider these results. If you have severe acne and sensitive skin, the combo of azelaic acid and retinol could help you heal faster, although it might irritate you. 

Nevertheless, the benefits of mixing azelaic acid and retinol could be worth it – and don’t forget to apply moisturizer to soothe any dryness or discomfort.

How to layer azelaic acid and retinol?

If you’re using products with retinol and azelaic acid, you don’t need to worry about combining them. 

If they’re in different products, apply the thinner one first and then the thicker one. On the other hand, if azelaic acid and retinol have the same consistency, like if they’re both serums, then it doesn’t matter which one you apply first. 

It may be best to introduce one product at a time to notice how your skin responds. Generally, azelaic acid should be applied twice a day and retinol once a day, but as retinol is affected by sunlight, you should limit its use to the night. 

Remember to hydrate your skin after applying retinol, as it can cause dryness. To complete your skincare routine, use sunscreen when you are out in the sun.

How often can you use azelaic acid and retinol together?

When using active ingredients like azelaic acid and retinol, we recommend applying azelaic acid up to twice a day. In contrast, retinol should be used only once daily – preferably in the evening. However, you can adjust your routine depending on the dosages of each. 

Azelaic acid is accessible up to 10% without a prescription, and retinol is accessible up to 1% without a prescription. Whichever you choose to use these products, remember to apply sunscreen.

Wrapping Up

Azelaic acid and retinol have been proven more effective when combined than when used individually. 

They are suitable for all skin types, assisting in treating conditions such as acne and hyperpigmentation. Therefore, consider adding azelaic acid and retinol to your skincare regime if you face issues like acne, wrinkles, and age spots. 

We recommend you consult your dermatologist when considering incorporating a new product into your skincare regimen.

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