When it comes to building an effective skincare routine, it’s essential to understand the unique qualities of various ingredients. Two popular ingredients, azelaic acid and salicylic acid, have gained considerable attention for their remarkable skin-enhancing properties. In this article, we’ll delve into the differences between azelaic acid vs salicylic acid, explore their individual benefits, address whether they can be used together, and shed light on who can benefit most from their exceptional qualities.
In this article, Registered Dietitian Gaby Vaca-Flores delves into the world of skincare acids to help clarify whether azelaic acid or salicylic acid is right for your skincare routine.
Azelaic Acid Vs Salicylic Acid
Azelaic acid and salicylic acid are both compounds that offer impressive benefits, particularly for those who are acne prone. However, each offer a unique set of benefits and using both is usually not necessary. Understanding how each acid works can help you decide whether azelaic acid or salicylic acid is the best choice for you.
Azelaic Acid Skin Benefits
Azelaic acid is a naturally occurring compound found in grains like wheat, rye, and barley. This multi-talented ingredient boasts an array of skin care benefits and is particularly well-suited for those with sensitive or acne-prone skin.
Here are the top skincare benefits of azelaic acid:
Azelaic Acid Skin Care Benefits:
1. Acne Control
Azelaic acid exhibits potent antimicrobial properties, effectively targeting the bacteria that contribute to acne development. It also helps to normalize the shedding of dead skin cells, preventing the clogging of pores.
2. Brightening and Hyperpigmentation Reduction
This acid inhibits the production of excess melanin, which can lead to dark spots and uneven skin tone. Regular use of azelaic acid can help fade hyperpigmentation and promote a more radiant complexion.
3. Rosacea Relief
People with rosacea often experience redness and inflammation. Azelaic acid’s anti-inflammatory properties can help reduce these symptoms and improve overall skin texture.
4. Mild Exfoliation
Although not as potent as other exfoliants, azelaic acid gently exfoliates the skin, resulting in a smoother, more even skin surface.
Salicylic Acid Skin Benefits
Derived from willow bark, salicylic acid is a beta-hydroxy acid (BHA) known for its ability to penetrate the pores deeply. It’s a skincare superhero, particularly for those with oily or acne-prone skin.
Here are the top skincare benefits of salicylic acid:
1. Exfoliation and Pore Cleansing
Salicylic acid’s unique structure allows it to penetrate the skin and break down excess sebum, dead skin cells, and debris. This exfoliating action unclogs pores, minimizing blackheads, whiteheads, and acne breakouts.
2. Oil Control
By regulating sebum production, salicylic acid helps keep shine under control and reduces the likelihood of developing clogged pores.
3. Anti-inflammatory Properties
In addition to exfoliation, salicylic acid possesses anti-inflammatory qualities, soothing irritated skin and reducing redness associated with acne or other skin conditions.
4. Skin Texture Refinement
Regular use of salicylic acid can lead to a smoother, more even skin texture, thanks to its exfoliating properties.
Can Azelaic Acid be Used with Salicylic Acid?
There isn’t a clear consensus as to whether or not azelaic acid should be used with salicylic acid. Some experts agree to layering the two together, while others warn that it can increase risk for skin irritation – despite them targeting different aspects of the skin.
Salicylic acid primarily focuses on exfoliation and unclogging pores while azelaic acid’s antimicrobial and brightening properties can help those with redness and hyperpigmentation.
Choosing Azelaic Acid or Salicylic Acid
Both azelaic acid and salicylic acid offer a wealth of skin benefits, making them suitable for a broad range of individuals. However, dermatologists generally advise against using both azelaic acid with beta-hydroxy acids like salicylic acid..
Here is a breakdown to help individuals choose between azelaic acid and salicylic acid based on their specific skin concerns:
Acne Prone Skin
People struggling with acne, including blackheads, whiteheads, and inflamed breakouts, can find relief and improved skin clarity by incorporating either azelaic acid or salicylic acid into their routine.
Individuals with post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, melasma, or sun spots can benefit from azelaic acid’s brightening abilities. Salicylic acid can also contribute to a more even skin tone by gradually fading dark spots.
Rosacea and Redness
Azelaic acid’s anti-inflammatory properties make it an excellent choice for those with rosacea or sensitive skin prone to redness.
Salicylic acid’s oil-controlling properties can be a game-changer for individuals with excessively oily skin, helping to balance sebum production and minimize pore congestion.
Regardless of the acid that you choose, it’s important to introduce them slowly into your routine to ensure your skin adjusts well and doesn’t become overly irritated. As always, patch testing and consulting with a dermatologist are advisable when adding new ingredients to your routine.
In the world of skincare, azelaic acid and salicylic acid stand out as powerful ingredients with distinct benefits. Azelaic acid’s gentle yet effective antimicrobial and brightening properties make it a go-to for those with sensitive or acne-prone skin, while salicylic acid’s pore-purifying and exfoliating prowess makes it an excellent choice for oily or acne-prone individuals.
Finally, it’s essential to listen to your skin’s needs, introduce new products gradually, and consult with a dermatologist for personalized advice.
Gaby Vaca-Flores is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist based in Santa Monica, CA. In merging her passions for nutrition and skin, Gaby created Glow+Greens to provide her readers with science-backed education + digestible wellness tips.