Azelaic acid

What does it do?
Exfoliates skin and unblocks pores
Reduces pigment formation

What’s it used for?
Hyperpigmentation, including melasma

How do I use it?
Apply once or twice daily, followed by moisturiser and sunscreen.

Stand out features
Safe in pregnancy
Very well tolerated

Evidence rating


Azelaic acid is an unsung hero of the skincare world. It’s very safe (even in pregnancy) and well tolerated by most skin types, and is fantastic for acne, rosacea, and hyperpigmentation.

What is it?

Azelaic acid is a naturally occurring acid, which helps to gently exfoliate the skin, reduce bacteria and inflammation, reduce pigment formation, and unblock pores. 

Why should I use it?

There are lots of studies showing that azelaic acid is useful for treating acne, rosacea, and hyperpigmentation including melasma. Because it’s safe in pregnancy, it’s one of the mainstays of treatment for melasma in pregnancy. It’s suitable for all skin types, so is often a good choice for acne and pigmentation if other products, such as retinoids and hydroxy acids, are too irritating. 

How should I use it?

Azelaic acid can be applied up to twice daily. It’s generally well tolerated, but may cause mild irritation. If this occurs, reduce use to every second day. 

What should I look for?

Concentrations of 10-20% have been shown to be most effective.

Fitton A, Goa KL. Azelaic acid. A review of its pharmacological properties and therapeutic efficacy in acne and hyperpigmentary skin disorders. Drugs. 1991 May;41(5):780-98. 

Schulte BC, Wu W, Rosen T. Azelaic Acid: Evidence-based Update on Mechanism of Action and Clinical Application. J Drugs Dermatol. 2015 Sep;14(9):964-8. 


Sieber MA, Hegel JK. Azelaic acid: Properties and mode of action. Skin Pharmacol Physiol. 2014;27 Suppl 1:9-17.


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Spotlight on Skin was created by award-winning Melbourne-based dermatologist, Dr Julia Rhodes.

Julia knows first-hand how overwhelming the skincare world can be, and that’s with over 10 years of experience practicing dermatology. Given that even she gets overwhelmed, she appreciates how hard it can be for those of you without a scientific background to make sense of all the information available, and choose products that are right for your skin…