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Azelaic Acid Before or After Moisturizer? Here’s the REAL Answer

by Ella Goodman 04 Dec 2023

Hey there, skincare enthusiasts!

Today, let's unravel the mystery around azelaic acid, a buzzworthy ingredient in the beauty world.

Specifically, WHEN to use it in your routine for maximum glow-up!

Are you ready to dive into the nitty-gritty of using azelaic acid effectively?

Buckle up, because we’re about to embark on a skincare journey that will not only answer your burning questions but also elevate your beauty game!

Should You Apply Moisturizer Before or After Azelaic Acid?

The Layering Lowdown

Alright, let’s get down to the brass tacks of skincare layering.

You’ve got your azelaic acid and your moisturizer lined up, but what goes on first?

Here’s the skinny: It’s all about the texture, baby!

Azelaic acid typically has a lighter, more gel-like consistency, while moisturizers are usually thicker.

So, in the world of skincare, where it’s all about layering smart, azelaic acid should ideally strut onto your skin’s stage before the moisturizer makes its grand entrance.

Just remember: The golden rule is “thinner to thicker.”

Why Azelaic Acid Should Take the Lead

  • Direct Skin Contact: Azelaic acid loves to be upfront and personal with your skin. It’s kind of a diva in that way, demanding direct contact without any barriers. By applying it before your moisturizer, you’re giving it VIP access to your skin, allowing it to work its magic more effectively.
  • Absorption Game Strong: Think of azelaic acid as the opening act in your skincare concert. It sets the stage for what’s to come. By applying it right after cleansing (and toning, if that’s your jam), you’re ensuring that your skin absorbs it fully and reaps all its benefits.

Why Sequence Matters: A Deeper Dive

Let’s dig a bit deeper into why this order of application is critical for your skin’s health and happiness.

  • The Science of Skincare Absorption: Your skin’s outer layer, the stratum corneum, is notoriously picky about what it allows through. Thinner, water-based products like azelaic acid can navigate through these layers more easily than thicker, oil-based products like many moisturizers.
  • Layering Logic: It’s all about enhancing the effectiveness of each product. Azelaic acid applied first can penetrate the skin unhindered, doing its job of treating, soothing, or exfoliating. Following up with a moisturizer then helps to lock in the azelaic acid and hydrate the skin, creating a double-whammy of skincare goodness.

Maximizing Azelaic Acid's Potential

  • Prepping Your Canvas: Always start with a clean, dry face. This ensures that azelaic acid isn’t competing with oils, dirt, or makeup for attention.
  • Application Technique: Gentle does it. Apply azelaic acid in a thin, even layer. No need to rub vigorously - a soft, loving touch is all you need.
  • Wait Time: After applying azelaic acid, give it a moment or two to sink in before moving on to moisturizer. This brief intermission allows your skin to fully absorb the azelaic acid, ensuring you get the most out of it.

What Order Do You Use Azelaic Acid in Your Skincare Routine?

Step-by-Step Skincare Symphony

Navigating the skincare world can sometimes feel like you're a maestro conducting a symphony.

Every product, like every instrument, has its specific part to play, coming in at just the right moment to create a harmonious masterpiece.

So, how do you ensure azelaic acid hits the right note in your skincare routine?

Let's break it down step-by-step, so you hit every beat flawlessly.

1. Cleansing: Setting the Stage

  • The Opener: Think of cleansing as the opening act of your skincare routine. It's essential to start with a clean canvas. Why? Because applying products on unclean skin is like trying to paint over a dusty canvas - the end result won't be as crisp or clear. A gentle cleanser will remove dirt, oil, and makeup, prepping your skin for what's to come.

2. Toning: Fine-Tuning the Skin

  • Balancing Act: Next up, toner - it's like the tuning of the orchestra before the performance. Toning helps to rebalance your skin’s pH levels after cleansing, which can sometimes strip your skin of its natural oils. A good toner will also help to refine pores and create a more receptive base for the azelaic acid.

3. Azelaic Acid Application: The Star Performance

  • Spotlight on Azelaic Acid: Now for the main event – azelaic acid. Why does it get the solo? Because it's a potent performer. This power-packed ingredient is known for its ability to combat a range of skin issues - from acne to rosacea, and even hyperpigmentation. Apply it evenly, but don’t overdo it. A little goes a long way with this star player.
  • Timing is Key: Give azelaic acid a moment to bask in the spotlight. This brief pause allows your skin to fully absorb the product, ensuring maximum effectiveness.

4. Moisturizing: The Harmonizing Act

  • Locking in the Benefits: After the azelaic acid has had its solo, it’s time to bring in the moisturizer. This step is like the harmonizing chorus following the solo. A good moisturizer will not only hydrate your skin but also lock in the benefits of azelaic acid. It’s about enhancing and supporting the star ingredient, ensuring your skin stays hydrated and happy.

5. Sun Protection: The Encore

  • The Non-Negotiable Final Step: In your morning routine, the performance isn’t complete without sunscreen. UV protection is like the encore that protects the integrity of the entire show. Sunscreen will shield your skin from harmful UV rays, preventing sun damage and helping to maintain the benefits of azelaic acid. Think of it as the standing ovation at the end of a well-performed skincare symphony.

Timing is Everything

Patience is a virtue, especially in skincare. Give each product a moment to absorb before moving to the next. This ensures each product works effectively without interfering with others.

What is the Correct Way to Use Azelaic Acid?

Maximizing Benefits, Minimizing Irritation

Using azelaic acid correctly is crucial for reaping its benefits while avoiding potential irritation.

Here’s how to ace it:

Amount Matters: The Golden Rule of Azelaic Acid

  • Pea-Size Perfection: When it comes to azelaic acid, think ‘less is more’. A pea-sized amount for your entire face is the sweet spot. This isn’t a case of ‘the more, the merrier’ – overdoing it won’t get you faster results but might lead to irritation or dryness. It’s all about that perfect dab, spreading the goodness evenly without overwhelming your skin.

Gentle Application: The Art of Azelaic Acid

  • Soft Touch Technique: Applying azelaic acid isn’t a race. It’s an art. Gently smooth it over your skin in an even, thin layer. There’s no need for vigorous rubbing or harsh spreading – let your skin embrace it gracefully. Think of it as a tender caress, ensuring every inch of your targeted area gets its share of azelaic love.

Frequency: Finding Your Skin’s Rhythm

  • Starting Slow: When introducing azelaic acid to your skincare routine, it’s like introducing a new dance partner to your skin. Start with a slow waltz – maybe every other night. This gives your skin time to adjust to the new rhythm.
  • Listening to Your Skin: Pay attention to how your skin responds. Some might experience a bit of tingling or redness initially, which usually subsides. If your skin sings and dances along happily, you can gradually increase the frequency, stepping up to a nightly routine.

Consistency is Key: The Ongoing Azelaic Serenade

  • Regular Rendezvous: Consistency in using azelaic acid is like keeping a regular date with your skin. It's the ongoing care and attention that lead to real, visible results. Regular use of azelaic acid can transform your skin, improving texture, tone, and overall clarity.
  • Patience Pays Off: Remember, skincare isn’t an overnight sensation. It’s a journey. With consistent use, azelaic acid can reveal its full potential, but it takes time. Results can become noticeable over weeks or even months, so patience is indeed a virtue here.

Beyond Application: Embracing Azelaic Acid as a Lifestyle

  • Part of a Bigger Picture: Using azelaic acid correctly isn’t just about the application. It’s about embracing it as part of a holistic approach to skincare. It plays well with most other ingredients but truly shines when it’s part of a thoughtfully curated routine.
  • The Big Picture: Remember to complement your azelaic acid routine with a balanced diet, adequate hydration, and proper sleep. Your skin is a reflection of your overall lifestyle, so treat it with care both inside and out.

Consistency is Key

As with any skincare product, consistency is the secret sauce for success.

Regular use of azelaic acid can, and usually does, lead to visible improvements in skin texture, tone, and clarity.

What Should You Not Mix with Azelaic Acid?

The Art of Combining Ingredients

While azelaic acid plays well with most skincare ingredients, there are a few you might want to avoid to ensure the best results:

Overly Harsh Exfoliants: Walking the Fine Line

  • Understanding Exfoliation: Exfoliants are the opening acts that prep your skin for the main performance. They sweep away dead skin cells, setting the stage for products like azelaic acid. But here’s the catch - not all exfoliants are the same.
  • The Gentle vs. Harsh Debate: While azelaic acid can work in harmony with gentle chemical exfoliants (think AHAs and BHAs in low concentrations), it’s best to avoid a mosh pit scenario with harsh physical scrubs. These gritty contenders can create micro-tears in your skin, leading to irritation. When azelaic acid enters this roughed-up environment, it might lead to an encore of redness and sensitivity, which is not the kind of ovation you want for your skin.

Alcohol-Based Products: Avoiding the Dry Spell

  • The Dehydrating Duo: Alcohol in skincare can be like that one party guest who takes the fun a notch too high, leaving a trail of dryness. When azelaic acid meets alcohol-based products, it's a combination that can lead to dehydration central. The result? Your skin might feel as parched as a desert, and nobody wants that.
  • Balancing Act: It’s all about maintaining the harmony of your skin’s natural oils and hydration levels. If you’ve got azelaic acid playing its tune, skip the alcohol-based toners or treatments to avoid stripping your skin of its much-needed moisture.

Strong Benzoyl Peroxide: The Delicate Dance

  • The Power Couple with a Caution Sign: Benzoyl peroxide and azelaic acid can be effective in tackling acne, but this duo needs to be approached with caution. While some skin types might choreograph this dance beautifully, for others, it’s a tango that’s a tad too intense.
  • Reading Your Skin’s Cues: Benzoyl peroxide is known for its strong, bacteria-busting properties, but when paired with azelaic acid, the combo can sometimes crank up the skin’s sensitivity volume. If you’re a fan of both, consider alternating their use rather than layering them together, or use benzoyl peroxide in a lower concentration to keep the peace.

Embrace the Synergy

Looking for a blend that comes pre-perfected with just the right ratios of ingredients?

Our ultra-potent Brightening Serum combines azelaic acid with glycolic, salicylic, kojic, and lactic acids, plus vitamin C, in a harmonious blend — so you can feel confident and safe using it as part of your routine!

The Final Takeaway

In the end, azelaic acid is more than just a skincare ingredient; it’s a lifestyle choice for those who are serious about their skin health.

By using it correctly – before moisturizer, in the right order, and in harmony with other skincare products – you’re setting yourself up for a radiant, healthy complexion.

So go ahead, give your skin the love it deserves with azelaic acid, and watch as your skin thanks you with a glow that doesn’t go unnoticed!


Remember, while azelaic acid is a fantastic addition to your skincare routine, always listen to your skin. If you experience any discomfort or irritation, consult a dermatologist. Your skin’s health is paramount!

Stay fabulous and glow on!

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