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Azelaic Acid vs Lactic Acid: Battle of the Brighteners!

by Ella Goodman 01 Dec 2023

Hey, skincare enthusiasts!

Are you ready to dive into the epic showdown between azelaic acid and lactic acid?

Both are skincare superheroes in their own right, but which one deserves a spot in your beauty routine?

Let's break it down!

Which is Better: Azelaic Acid or Lactic Acid?

Azelaic Acid: The Multitasker

The Swiss Army Knife of Skincare

Think of azelaic acid as your skincare Swiss Army knife.

It’s a multitasking marvel, renowned for its versatility.

This wonder ingredient is derived from grains like wheat, rye, and barley, and it's a maestro at managing a medley of skin woes.

Acne, Meet Your Match

For the acne warriors out there, azelaic acid is a godsend.

It battles acne in two ways: by killing acne-causing bacteria and by keeping those pesky pores clear of blockages.

And for those red, angry post-acne marks? Azelaic acid steps in to fade them away gracefully.

Sensitive Skin? No Problem!

What makes azelaic acid a crowd favorite is its gentle nature.

Even the most sensitive skin types can get along with it. It's anti-inflammatory, reducing redness and rosacea, and its antibacterial properties help prevent future breakouts. It's like having a personal skin guardian.

The Dark Spot Diminisher

Hyperpigmentation doesn't stand a chance against azelaic acid.

It targets the melanocytes, those cells responsible for dark spots, evening out your skin tone for that flawless, photo-ready look.

Lactic Acid: The Gentle Exfoliation Maestro

The Softer Side of AHAs

Lactic acid is your gentle giant in the AHA family.

Derived from milk, it’s milder than its cousins like glycolic acid, making it ideal for those with sensitive or dry skin.

Exfoliation with a Side of Hydration

Here’s where lactic acid truly shines.

It not only exfoliates the surface of your skin, whisking away dead skin cells for a brighter complexion, but it also hydrates.

While it’s doing its thing, it increases the skin’s natural moisturizing factors, leaving you with a plump, dewy glow that feels just as good as it looks.

Anti-Aging Ally

Mature skin types, listen up!

Lactic acid is not just about hydration; it's also a wrinkle warrior.

By promoting cell turnover, it helps diminish fine lines and gives your skin a firmer, more youthful appearance. It's like turning back the clock, one application at a time.

So, Who’s the Champion?

It’s All About Your Skin’s Needs

Choosing between azelaic acid and lactic acid is like picking a dress for an occasion - it all depends on what you need.

If acne, rosacea, and hyperpigmentation are your main concerns, azelaic acid is your hero.

But if you’re after gentle exfoliation, hydration, and anti-aging benefits, then lactic acid is your best bet.

Listening to Your Skin

The key to making the right choice?

Listen to your skin. It’s the best judge of what it needs.

Whether you go for azelaic acid’s versatility or lactic acid’s gentle touch, remember, it’s all about what makes your skin feel and look its best.

Can You Pair Azelaic Acid with Lactic Acid?

But why choose one when you can have both?

Pairing azelaic and lactic acid can be like having the best of both worlds - think of it as a skincare power couple.

The Power Duo in Action

Azelaic Acid: The Deep-Acting Dynamo

Azelaic acid is like the strategist in a game of chess, working methodically beneath the skin's surface.

It targets the root causes of acne, rosacea, and hyperpigmentation by attacking inflammation and bacteria, and regulating pigment production. It's the ingredient that doesn't just fight the symptoms but goes after the underlying issues.

Lactic Acid: The Surface-Level Superstar

Lactic acid steps into the ring with a different approach.

It’s like the flashy forward in a soccer team, making immediate impacts on the skin's surface.

As a milder AHA, it gently exfoliates, sweeping away dead skin cells, and brings hydration to the forefront, keeping your skin supple and glowing.

Creating the Perfect Skincare Routine

Step One: Lactic Acid Enters the Ring

Kick off your routine with lactic acid. Think of it as the opening act that sets the stage.

By gently exfoliating the skin, it removes the outer layer of dead cells, which can be a barrier to other products. This not only immediately brightens your complexion but also makes it more receptive to the following steps.

Step Two: Azelaic Acid Takes the Spotlight

Once your skin is prepped with lactic acid, it’s time for azelaic acid to shine.

With the path cleared, azelaic acid can penetrate more effectively, working its magic in the deeper layers of your skin.

This is where the real transformation happens – calming, treating, and preventing skin issues from the inside out.

The Synergistic Symphony

Addressing Multiple Concerns

Together, azelaic and lactic acids address a spectrum of skin concerns. They’re like a well-coordinated dance duo – each with their own moves but perfectly in sync.

Lactic acid’s exfoliation and hydration paired with azelaic acid’s deep treatment create a comprehensive skincare routine that tackles everything from texture and tone to acne and aging.

Customization is Key

Everyone’s skin is unique, like a fingerprint.

So, while this dynamic duo can work wonders, it’s crucial to tailor their use to your skin’s needs and reactions.

If you’re new to these ingredients, start slow and observe how your skin responds. It’s all about finding the right rhythm for your skincare dance.

Should I Use Lactic Acid Before Azelaic Acid?

Absolutely! This is the skincare sequence you didn’t know you needed.

But as in any great performance, timing and order are everything. So, let's explore why using lactic acid before azelaic acid might just be your ticket to glowing, healthy skin.

The Logic Behind the Layering

Setting the Stage with Lactic Acid

Picture lactic acid as the opening act in your skincare concert. It's the gentle, yet effective, AHA (Alpha Hydroxy Acid) that works to exfoliate the skin.

By whisking away dead skin cells and smoothing the skin's surface, lactic acid is essentially rolling out the red carpet for the products that follow.

Think of your skin as a canvas. Just as a painter needs a smooth, clean surface for their masterpiece, your skin needs to be primed and ready to absorb the full benefits of the skincare products you apply.

That's where lactic acid steps in - it’s not just exfoliating; it's prepping your skin for the main event.

Why Exfoliation Matters

Exfoliation is a critical step in any skincare routine.

It's not just about instant gratification and that immediate glow. Regular exfoliation with lactic acid can help improve skin texture, promote hydration, and even out skin tone.

It’s a long game, with benefits that accumulate over time, leading to healthier, more radiant skin.

Introducing Azelaic Acid: The Star of the Show

After the stage is set by lactic acid, it's time for azelaic acid to shine.

This multifaceted performer works deep within your skin to tackle a range of concerns, from acne and rosacea to hyperpigmentation.

The Deep Impact of Azelaic Acid

Azelaic acid doesn’t just work on the skin's surface; it delves deeper.

It targets the deeper layers of the epidermis, calming inflammation, killing bacteria, and regulating pigmentation. This deep action is significantly more effective on freshly exfoliated skin – all thanks to the prep work done by lactic acid.

The Overnight Transformation

Imagine this: you apply lactic acid, followed by azelaic acid, and then you hit the hay.

While you’re dreaming, these two ingredients are hard at work, transforming your skin. You wake up to skin that's not just brighter and smoother, but also visibly healthier.

It’s skincare magic at its finest!

Sunscreen: The Essential Finale

A word of caution – while this dynamic duo does wonders for your skin, it also makes it more sensitive to the sun.

Enter sunscreen, the unsung hero of any skincare routine.

Applying a broad-spectrum sunscreen in the morning is not just a step – it’s a non-negotiable. It protects your freshly pampered skin from UV rays, ensuring that the benefits of your nighttime routine are not undone by sun damage.

What is Stronger than Azelaic Acid?

Looking for something with a bit more punch?

While azelaic acid is a fantastic all-rounder, sometimes your skin needs an extra boost.

The Alternatives

Salicylic Acid: The Deep Pore Cleaner

Imagine salicylic acid as a deep-sea diver, plunging into the depths of your pores.

It's a BHA (Beta Hydroxy Acid) renowned for its ability to penetrate oil and unclog pores, making it a superhero for oily and acne-prone skin.

Salicylic acid doesn’t just stop at the surface; it gets down and dirty, tackling blackheads, whiteheads, and everything in between.

Why It's a Contender:
  • Deep Exfoliation: It goes beyond the surface, providing a deep exfoliation that clears out excess oil and dead skin cells.
  • Anti-Inflammatory Powers: Besides just cleaning out pores, it’s also an anti-inflammatory agent, reducing the redness and swelling often associated with breakouts.
  • Preventative Action: Regular use can prevent future acne flare-ups, keeping your skin clear in the long run.

Glycolic Acid: The Age-Defying Exfoliant

Next up, glycolic acid – think of it as the time traveler of skincare acids.

It’s an AHA (Alpha Hydroxy Acid, remember?) that works its magic on the skin's surface.

It’s known for its small molecule size, allowing it to penetrate deeply and work effectively in reducing signs of aging and sun damage.

Why It's a Heavy Hitter:
  • Powerful Exfoliation: Glycolic acid is excellent at exfoliating dead skin cells, revealing brighter, younger-looking skin.
  • Collagen Boost: It goes beyond exfoliation, stimulating collagen production, which helps in reducing fine lines and wrinkles.
  • Skin Texture Improvement: Regular use can lead to improved skin texture, giving you a smooth, even complexion.

Combination Serums: The Skincare Ninja Move

Some serums combine azelaic acid with other acids like salicylic and kojic acid, offering a cocktail of benefits.

These are fantastic options if you’re looking for a multi-tasking product with maximum brightening power.

We happen to have one right here at home in the form of our Ultra-Potent Brightening Serum!

Synergy with Vitamin C

And don’t forget the synergy with vitamin C.

When used together, they can significantly boost each other’s brightening effects. It’s like adding a vitamin boost to your skincare smoothie! Mmmm.


In conclusion, azelaic acid and lactic acid both have their unique superpowers in the skincare world.

Whether you choose one over the other or decide to team them up, you’re on your way to achieving your skin goals.

Remember, the best skincare routine is the one tailored to your specific needs.

So, experiment, have fun, and let your skin enjoy the journey to radiance and health!

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