Azelaic Acid and Retinol: Can They Be Used Together?

Written by: Carly Sanchez



Time to read 6 min

Diving deeper into the realms of  azelaic acid  and  retinol , let's explore how these active ingredients can be masterfully woven into an effective skin care routine, addressing a spectrum of skin concerns from acne breakouts to the appearance of fine lines, and ensuring the best results for a radiant, clear skin.

Azelaic Acid: A Multifaceted Skincare Hero

Azelaic acid , a naturally occurring dicarboxylic acid, boasts a plethora of skin benefits. Notably, its anti-inflammatory properties make it an excellent choice for treating rosacea-prone skin and reducing redness. Additionally, azelaic acid is a formidable opponent against acne-causing bacteria , making it an essential component in the arsenal for combating acne vulgaris. Its ability to regulate sebum production further cements its status as a go-to ingredient for those grappling with oily skin.

Beyond its acne-fighting prowess, azelaic acid shines in addressing hyperpigmentation. It acts as a tyrosinase inhibitor, effectively reducing the production of melanin, which in turn, diminishes dark marks and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, especially prevalent in skin of color. The benefits of azelaic acid extend to improving skin texture and promoting an even skin tone , making it a cherished ingredient for anyone seeking to combat dark spots and achieve a luminous complexion.

Azelaic Acid: Powerhouse Ingredient for Acne

Azelaic acid is antibacterial and anti-inflammatory, making it an effective ingredient for rosacea-prone skin and acne-prone skin. Unlike mandelic acid, Azelaic acid is not an alpha hydroxy acids or a beta hydroxy acid (BHA) like salicylic acid making it a great option for acne treatments with less skin irritation. 

How Does Azelaic Acid Work?

Azelaic acid works by decreasing dihydrotestosterone (DHT) and controlling excess sebum in the oil glands. DHT is an androgen (hormone) five times more potent than testosterone. Men and women both produce DHT each day; this takes place in the testes and prostate (in men), in the ovaries (in women), as well as the SKIN and liver. Clinical studies have shown that those of us with acne-prone skin have more DHT in our pores, especially those of us who get hormonal breakouts. Azelaic acid suppresses the enzyme that converts testosterone into DHT. This process works by causing the enzyme to “eat up” the azelaic acid instead of free testosterone, so it cannot turn into DHT, making it an effective treatment for acne-causing bacteria. Azelaic acid is also a tyrosinase inhibitor (melanin production) It will fade the appearance of dark spots, age spots, uneven skin tone, and acne scars.

Our Products with Azelaic Acid

This light weight gentle yet powerful exfoliating acid serum, this alpha hydroxy acid serum features chirally correct versions of L-mandelic acid, l-lactic acid, and azelaic acid as the key ingredients, with hydrating hyaluronic acid and sodium PCA to support the skin's moisture barrier. It's all the acids with no irritation for all skin types. Even the most sensitive skin can use this to flush out dead skin cells, clear acne impactions, and reduce uneven skin tone and dark spots caused by blemishes or breakouts. This mandelic acid serum is also a good product for age management to even out skin texture, reduce the appearance of fine lines, exfoliate dry skin, and provide skin hydration, so active ingredients can give you the best results.

Retinol: The Gold Standard in Skincare

Retinol, a derivative of vitamin A, is lauded for its unparalleled ability to stimulate collagen production, a critical factor in diminishing the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines. Its role in accelerating skin cell turnover is pivotal in not just anti-aging efforts but also in the effective treatment of acne. By shedding dead skin cells more efficiently, retinol helps prevent the clogging of pores, thereby reducing acne breakouts and improving skin texture.

Moreover, retinol's antioxidant properties provide a shield against free radicals, agents known to contribute to skin aging and damage from sun exposure. This aspect of retinol, combined with its ability to enhance cellular turnover, makes it a cornerstone in the fight against visible signs of aging and sun damage, promoting a more youthful, resilient skin barrier.


Synergy and Safety: Using Azelaic Acid and Retinol Together

The magic lies in the synergy between azelaic acid and retinol when used in tandem within a skincare routine. Azelaic acid's soothing, anti-inflammatory benefits can help offset the potential irritation and skin sensitivity commonly associated with the initiation of retinol use. This complementary relationship allows individuals with acne-prone skin or rosacea-prone skin to enjoy the comprehensive benefits of both ingredients, from combating severe acne to improving the overall appearance of wrinkles and skin texture.

To harness these benefits effectively and safely, it's crucial to pay heed to the order of application and the concentration of these active products. After cleansing with a gentle cleanser, apply a thin layer of an azelaic acid product, focusing on areas with hyperpigmentation or active acne. Once absorbed, follow up with a retinol formulation, starting with a lower concentration to minimize adverse reactions. Incorporating a moisturizer with hyaluronic acid can provide necessary hydration and reduce the risk of dry skin, a common side effect when integrating active ingredients like retinol and azelaic acid into your regimen.

Personalization and Professional Guidance

Given the plethora of skincare products available, from over-the-counter options to prescriptions like tretinoin cream, personalization becomes key. Not everyone's skin will respond the same way to azelaic acid or retinol. Factors such as skin type, underlying skin conditions, and even the climate you live in can influence how your skin reacts. For instance, those with dry skin may need to incorporate additional hydrating ingredients like glycolic acid or lactic acid, both alpha-hydroxy acids known for their gentle exfoliation and moisture-retaining properties.

Seeking the guidance of a skincare professional is invaluable in crafting a routine that addresses your unique skin concerns while ensuring the safety and efficacy of using potent active ingredients like azelaic acid and retinol. An Esthetician can also recommend retinol alternatives for those with extremely sensitive skin types, ensuring everyone can enjoy the benefits of these transformative skincare ingredients.

The Cumulative Effect for Lasting Results

Achieving clear skin and a youthful glow is not an overnight feat. Consistency and patience are paramount when incorporating active ingredients such as azelaic acid and retinol into your skincare regimen. Over time, the combined effect of these ingredients can lead to significant improvements in skin health and appearance, from reducing the severity of acne and mitigating acne scars to enhancing the skin's natural luminosity and smoothness.

Furthermore, protecting your skin from further damage is crucial. Always include a broad-spectrum sunscreen in your morning routine to guard against sun damage and prevent the undoing of the hard-won benefits achieved through your dedicated use of azelaic acid and retinol.

Embracing New Ingredients and Innovations

The landscape of skincare is ever-evolving, with new ingredients and formulations constantly emerging. Staying informed about these innovations can provide additional tools in your skincare arsenal, offering similar benefits or complementing the actions of azelaic acid and retinol. Whether it's the latest beta-hydroxy acid (BHA) for gentle exfoliation or a novel antioxidant with protective properties, the inclusion of new, efficacious ingredients can elevate your skincare routine to new heights.

Conclusion: A Balanced Approach to Skincare

Integrating azelaic acid and retinol into your skincare routine offers a multifaceted approach to addressing a wide range of skin concerns. From reducing acne breakouts and lightening dark spots to smoothing out fine lines and bolstering the skin's defense against environmental aggressors, the combined power of these ingredients can lead to transformative results. However, the key to harnessing their full potential lies in a balanced, thoughtful application and the guidance of a healthcare professional to ensure compatibility with your skin type and concerns.

Remember, the journey to optimal skin health is personal and dynamic. As you navigate through the myriad of skincare ingredients and products, always listen to your skin and adjust your routine as needed. With azelaic acid and retinol as part of your skincare toolkit, you're well-equipped to face the challenges of acne, aging, and beyond, paving the way for clearer, more radiant skin.

Carly Pilar Sanchez Holding Pro B5 Wash

Carly Pilar Sanchez

Your go-to acne specialist and esthetician based in the vibrant heart of Austin, Texas.  Armed with a unique blend of expertise in cosmetic chemistry and a specialization in tackling acne holistically. With over a decade of experience and hands-on training, Carly created cutting-edge, skin-safe products tailored to address even the most stubborn acne.