Both azelaic acid and salicylic acid are popular skincare ingredients and effective acne treatments that work without excessively irritating the skin. Not only that, both of these ingredients offer anti-aging benefits as well. Since you might want to incorporate both into your skincare routine, can you use azelaic acid and salicylic acid together?
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Can You Use Azelaic Acid and Salicylic Acid Together in Your Skincare Routine?
If you are wondering if you can use azeliac acid and salicylic acid together, the answer is that you should probably use one in your morning routine and the other during your evening routine or use them on alternate days to avoid potential skin sensitivity and irritation.
Since they are both formulated at a low pH and have an exfoliating effect on the skin, using them at the same time could increase your risk of irritation, redness, dryness, and flaking.
However, you might consider trying a product formulated with both ingredients that are developed with the ideal concentrations of these two skincare acids to minimize the chances of skin sensitivity. Click here to see my pick below!
So why would you want to use these two exfoliants together in the first place?
The Benefits of Azelaic Acid in Skincare
While salicylic acid is a more popular ingredient in skincare products, azelaic acid is less well-known but worth trying if you struggle with acne. Found in grains like wheat, barley, and rye, azelaic acid is naturally produced by yeast that lives on human skin.
Unlike alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs) like glycolic acid and lactic acid, or beta hydroxy acids (BHAs) like salicylic acid, azelaic acid is a dicarboxylic acid. Like AHAs and BHAs, it offers exfoliation benefits for the skin but is milder than AHAs and BHAs.
In addition, topical azelaic acid offers these benefits for the skin:
- Antibacterial: Azelaic acid also has strong antibacterial properties to prevent and treat acne-causing bacteria (P. acnes). A 20% azelaic acid cream has been proven to be an effective acne treatment and comparable to topical tretinoin, benzoyl peroxide, or oral tetracycline.
- Anti-Comedogenic: Azelaic Acid is also anti-comedogenic, which means it can help to prevent clogged pores and breakouts.
- Anti-Inflammatory: Azelaic acid is an anti-inflammatory, making it great for those who struggle with acne. With its anti-inflammatory properties, this skincare acid can help with redness and rosacea.
- Brightens Skin: Azelaic acid is keratolytic, which means that azelaic acid helps break down the outer layers of the skin. This can help to loosen and remove dead skin cells, leading to a brighter complexion.
- Decreases Dark Spots: Azelaic acid also inhibits the enzyme tyrosinase, which is involved in producing melanin (pigment) in our skin. This can help lighten hyperpigmentation, dark spots, and uneven skin tone. It also shows benefits for lightening acne scars from post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation and melasma.
- Antioxidant Benefits: Azelaic acid is also an effective antioxidant, protecting our skin from free radicals and environmental stress like sun exposure and pollution. Antioxidants also offer anti-aging benefits to our skin by targeting collagen and elastin degradation.
As you can see, azelaic acid has multiple benefits for the skin and tends to be more gentle than AHAs or salicylic acid, so it could be a good choice if you have more sensitive skin or can’t tolerate potent AHAs.
The Benefits of Salicylic Acid in Skincare
Salicylic acid is a beta-hydroxy acid popular in skincare as an acne treatment. Unlike AHAs, which are water-soluble, salicylic acid is oil-soluble and derived from willow bark.
It works by targeting dead skin cells and exfoliating the outer layer of skin, like AHAs, while also traveling down into the pore lining to clear out pores and prevent pores from becoming clogged.
Salicylic acid is one of the few active ingredients that can penetrate hair follicles to dissolve the oil, dirt, and debris that cause blackheads and acne breakouts on the skin.
The benefits of salicylic acid include:
- Reduces Breakouts and Blemishes: Salicylic acid penetrates your pores to help unclog them, which helps to reduce acne and breakouts. Salicylic acid can also help to reduce the look of enlarged pores.
- Anti-Inflammatory: Salicylic acid is an anti-inflammatory, which helps reduce the irritation, redness, and swelling associated with acne and soothes inflamed skin.
- Decreases Hyperpigmentation and Dark Spots: Salicylic acid is a chemical exfoliant that can help remove dead skin cells and brighten the skin, reduce the appearance of dark spots and improve the texture of the skin.
- Anti-Aging Benefits: When used consistently, salicylic acid’s exfoliation properties provide anti-aging benefits, such as reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles and improving skin texture and tone.
- Does Not Cause Sun Sensitivity: Unlike AHAs, salicylic acid does not make your skin more sensitive to the sun and provides some photoprotective benefits.
2-in-1 Azelaic Acid and Salicylic Acid Product To Try
Paula’s Choice Antioxidant Pore Purifier
Paula’s Choice Antioxidant Pore Purifier harnesses the power of salicylic acid (BHA), brightening vitamin C, and acne-targeting azelaic acid, along with pollutant-neutralizing antioxidants for refined skin texture and a clearer complexion.
This serum is LOADED with antioxidants that provide anti-aging benefits and protect the skin from environmental stressors and sun damage. From ascorbyl glucoside (a vitamin C derivative) to Centella asiatica extract, the antioxidants in this very lightweight fluid neutralize airborne environmental stressors and blue light exposure for healthier skin.
Niacinamide and works to help further reduce the signs of aging and provide hydration. Sodium hyaluronate helps to bind moisture to the skin and keep it hydrated.
This is a great choice if you are looking for an antioxidant serum with the added benefits of salicylic acid and azeliac acid. By using it during the day, it will protect your skin from environmental stressors like UV rays and pollution.
Related Post: Can You Use Azelaic Acid and Niacinamide Together?
Azelaic Acid Products to Try
Azelaic acid has so many benefits for the skin that this acne-fighting ingredient may just become your new favorite skincare ingredient. Here are some azelaic acid products to try:
The Ordinary Azelaic Acid Suspension 10%
The Ordinary Azelaic Acid Suspension 10% works to target acne breakouts and reduce the look of blemishes while also evening out skin tone and texture.
Formulated for all skin types, this chemical exfoliator contains a high 10% concentration of azelaic acid. It is oil-free, fragrance-free, and non-comedogenic, making it an excellent choice for sensitive skin.
The texture is that of a lightweight gel-cream, and it absorbs quickly into the skin without leaving a sticky or greasy residue behind. A little goes a long way, so you only need a small amount to cover the face and neck area or a targeted spot.
You can use it both day and night, but be sure to patch test this and all new products before using it for the first time, and do not use it on broken skin. Alternate use with other strong actives like direct exfoliating acids, pure/ethylated Vitamin C, retinoids including retinol and benzoyl peroxide.
Be sure to apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher while using azelaic acid products.
Cos de Baha Azelaic Acid 10% Serum
Cos de Baha Azelaic Acid 10% Serum contains 10% azelaic acid to target the look of blemishes and acne while fading hyperpigmentation, sun spots, and uneven patchy skin tone. It also helps to reduce the look of scars and marks from previous acne breakouts.
This affordable 10% azelaic acid serum also contains niacinamide, a multi-tasker and anti-aging active known for its benefits for oily and acne-prone skin. Niacinamide helps balance sebum (oil) production and improves the appearance of enlarged pores, uneven skin tone, fine lines and wrinkles, while soothing and brightening the skin.
Hyaluronic acid, here in the salt form of sodium hyaluronate, is a powerful humectant, which attracts and binds moisture present in the air for optimal hydration benefits.
This serum is lightweight and oil-free and works well under makeup. It can be used alone or mixed with other skincare products like your daily moisturizer.
Salicylic Acid Products to Try
Salicylic acid is an acne-busting skincare ingredient extraordinaire. Here are some effective (and affordable) over-the-counter salicylic acid products to try:
Paula’s Choice 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant
Paula’s Choice 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant is a chemical exfoliant that zeroes in on clogged pores and is designed to provide maximum anti-aging benefits, including improving fine lines and wrinkles, skin texture and tone, while minimizing the look of enlarged pores.
It’s a leave-on formula that contains 2% salicylic acid as its active ingredient and has a pH level of 3.2-3.8. Formulated for all skin types, especially dull, congested, oily and acne-prone skin, this liquid exfoliant helps your skin shed extra layers and clears your pores for smoother, younger-looking skin.
This BHA treatment also contains Camellia oleifera leaf extract, better known as green tea extract. Green tea helps to soothe and calm the skin while also providing antioxidant benefits like visibly improving sun damage, protecting the skin from further damage, and helping to reduce the signs of aging.
The Inkey List Beta Hydroxy Acid
The Inkey List Beta Hydroxy Acid goes to work on breakouts and blackheads under the surface of your skin while reducing excess oil and unclogging your pores, making it a great choice for oily skin.
It uses 2% salicylic acid to gently exfoliate and clear away dead skin cells and improve the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, as well as fade acne scars and clear your pores while reducing their appearance. Zinc PCA helps to control oil production, while betaine moisturizes the skin.
This BHA’s anti-inflammatory properties help to soothe the skin and reduce redness. The serum also contains 1% low molecular hyaluronic acid (in the salt form of sodium hyaluronate) to improve hydration and soothe dry skin.
Related Post: AHA vs BHA vs PHA: What’s The Difference?
Final Thoughts on Using Azelaic Acid and Salicylic Acid Together
Since using more than one exfoliating acid at the same time may make your skin irritated, it’s best to alternate the usage of azelaic acid and salicylic acid. Or stick with a skincare product formulated with both salicylic acid and azelaic acid at the ideal concentrations to minimize a reaction or skin irritation.
Whether you use one or both, be sure to finish your AM skincare routine with a broad-spectrum sunscreen rated SPF 30 or greater to protect your skin from further sun damage.
Thanks for reading, and until next time, here’s to your good skin health!