Azelaic acid used to be one of the best-kept secrets in skin care, mainly used in clinical and professional settings. Thanks to conclusive research showing how it greatly lessens the appearance of skin blemishes, helps eliminate post-acne scars, and other discolorations, refines skin’s surface, and even reduces skin sensitivity, it is now one of the more highly sought-after ingredients in skincare products [1 2].
Meanwhile, salicylic acid exfoliates dead skin cells, which lessens the appearance of wrinkles, making it one of the best anti-aging skincare products today. Additionally, it promotes collagen production, which may increase the skin’s suppleness though it still requires further research to support the claim.
These two acids are now popular because of their skin benefits that most people are raving about. In this article, let’s explore azelaic acid vs. salicylic acid in its anti-aging benefits.
What is Azelaic Acid?
Azelaic acid is a saturated dicarboxylic acid that occurs naturally in wheat, rye, and barley . It is also created by a type of fungus that is frequently found on human skin.
However, for quality control purposes, the azelaic acid used in skin care products is manufactured in a lab. Rosacea, inflammatory acne, and melasma can all be treated with azelaic acid in mild to moderate cases.
Azelaic acid is available under prescription as a 20% concentration cream, a 15% concentration gel, or a 15% concentration foam.
What is Salicylic Acid?
Salicylic acid, a skin exfoliator, and benzoic acid derivative work to dissolve the sebum that binds the blockages in our pores that cause acne, making it simpler to clear our pores of debris.
In addition to treating acne, psoriasis, ichthyoses, dandruff, corns, calluses, warts on the hands or feet, and other skin conditions like melasma, photodamage, freckles, and lentigines, it can also be used to treat conditions that cause scaling or overgrowth of skin cells.
Willow bark, sweet birch, and wintergreen leave all naturally produce salicylic acid, but they can also be made synthetically.
This potent chemical can be found in various skincare products, with over-the-counter products having a maximum of 5% concentration, including spot treatments, cleansers, toners, peels, and body washes.
Azelaic Acid Benefits
Azelaic acid has several benefits for your skin and appearance. Aside from clearing up blemishes and exfoliating your skin, here are additional benefits of azelaic acid to your body.
- Decreases bacterial growth
- Relieves inflammation
- Reduces skin irritation
- Reduces the accumulation of dead skin cells
- Lessens hyperpigmentation by tyrosinase inhibition
- Prevents melasma and a discolored complexion
- Offers antioxidant benefits
- Promotes cell renewal as it removes dead skin cells
Salicylic Acid Benefits
Salicylic acid is the sole beta hydroxy acid (BHA) used in skin care products and is an FDA-approved substance for the topical treatment of acne. Consequently, salicylic acid is ideal for oily skin and is well known for its ability to thoroughly wipe out excess oil from pores and stop further oil production. Here are additional benefits of salicylic acid to your body:
- Prevents future acne
- Cleans excess oil from pores
- Soothes inflammation
- Weakens acne bacteria
- Exfoliates dead skin cells
Mixing Azelaic Acid and Salicylic Acid
You might probably wonder if you can mix azelaic acid and salicylic acid. And the answer to that is yes, you can. In fact, combining these skin-care components is a strong and effective pair to treat blemishes and acne. Although it makes sense that combining the two acids could be terrible, you might be surprised to learn that azelaic acid can complement salicylic acid when the amount of the active ingredient is low.
You can also use each ingredient on different days to prevent any unfavourable skin responses. You can use each ingredient on the same day, but at different times in your routine, if you notice that your skin is greasy and has developed a tolerance to both powerful ingredients.
For instance, many people discover that using azelaic acid in the morning and salicylic acid in the evening is the preferred approach to using each ingredient.
How To Mix Azelaic Acid and Salicylic Acid
There are various techniques to combine azelaic acid and salicylic acid, but the most effective method depends on your product.
To reduce the risk of over-exfoliation and skin barrier damage, chemical exfoliators, like salicylic acid, should only be used 1-3 times per week. But if it’s in a multi-functional serum or cleanser, it’s usually fine.
Azelaic acid can be used 1-2 times daily, despite having a mild exfoliating effect. Azelaic acid, however, is similarly beneficial when given only once per day in some users .
While a multi-active product is probably the ideal option to combine the two substances, there are other ways to do it too. For example:
- Azelaic acid serum, moisturizers, and salicylic acid cleansers (sunscreen if it’s in the morning)
- Cleanser, azelaic acid cream on the other days and salicylic acid serum one to three times each week (sunscreen if it’s in the morning)
- Cleanser, azelaic acid in the evening, and a salicylic acid serum (1-3 times a week) (sunscreen if it’s in the morning)
It makes no difference which way you use azelaic acid and salicylic acid as serums. To introduce them, though, you must do it one at a time. This will help you decide whether one of the ingredients causes an adverse reaction on your skin and help you avoid skin barrier damage.
Which is better – Azelaic Acid vs. Salicylic Acid
If you have oily skin, you could be debating between salicylic acid and azelaic acid to treat your acne. Both substances are excellent choices, however, azelaic acid is preferable if you have sensitive or dry skin, and salicylic acid may be better if you have oily skin.
The choice between azelaic acid and salicylic acid is tricky because both compounds have a lot to offer. Salicylic acid is often preferable for people with combination or oily skin, while azelaic acid is better for people with sensitive or dry skin. Salicylic acid helps to clear pores and control sebum production, whereas azelaic acid can help reduce acne scars and hyperpigmentation.
If you can’t decide between salicylic acid and azelaic acid, know that they can be used safely in combination. But always use each of these acids with caution as with other skin care products as the effect differs for each person.
Disclaimer: This article is only a guide. It does not substitute the advice given by your healthcare professional. Before making any health-related decision, consult your healthcare professional.
Editorial References And Fact-Checking
- Breathnach AS. Melanin hyperpigmentation of skin: melasma, topical treatment with azelaic acid, and other therapies. Cutis. 1996 Jan;57(1 Suppl):36-45. PMID: 8654129.
- Graupe K, Cunliffe WJ, Gollnick HP, Zaumseil RP. Efficacy and safety of topical azelaic acid (20 percent cream): an overview of results from European clinical trials and experimental reports. Cutis. 1996 Jan;57(1 Suppl):20-35. PMID: 8654128.
- National Center for Biotechnology Information (2022). PubChem Compound Summary for CID 2266, Azelaic acid. Retrieved December 5, 2022 from https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/Azelaic-acid.
- Thiboutot DM, Fleischer AB Jr, Del Rosso JQ, Graupe K. Azelaic acid 15% gel once daily versus twice daily in papulopustular rosacea. J Drugs Dermatol. 2008 Jun;7(6):541-6. PMID: 18561584.