The Ordinary is known for its accessibly priced, single-ingredient skin-care products. From pure hyaluronic acid to varying strengths of vitamin C, The Ordinary’s formulas are great for anyone looking to use a single active to address one specific concern. Out of all of the brand’s offerings (many of which have earned thousands of five-star reviews on Sephora’s website), Dendy Engleman, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in New York City, can’t stop recommending its azelaic acid cream.
“Azelaic acid is a chemical compound found in grains including rye, wheat, and barley, as well as in a yeast that occurs naturally on human skin,” says Dr. Engleman. “As a skin-care ingredient, it is great for brightening, clarifying, evening out skin tone, and addressing hyperpigmentation. It also has anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties.”
The Ordinary Azelaic Acid 10% Suspension Brightening Cream ($10 to $25) is great for addressing the slew of skin-care concerns Dr. Engleman mentioned, but is touted as a solution for evening out texture, discoloration, and redness in particular. It’s a lightweight cream designed for use after you wash your face and apply water-based serums, but before you layer on any heavier oils or moisturizers.
“If you suffer from acne, azelaic acid can be an effective way to help reduce breakouts and decongest pores without causing irritation, serving as an alternative to harsher ingredients like salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide. For more serious breakouts and cystic acne, prescription products containing azelaic acid along with stronger acne-fighting ingredients are available,” says Dr. Engleman. “If your goal is brightening the skin and reducing hyperpigmentation, serums with azelaic acid are a great option and are easy to incorporate into your skin-care routine. You can also look for cleansers containing azelaic acid to use several times a week—or every day, if your skin will tolerate it—just be sure to patch-test first to make sure the formula doesn’t irritate your skin.”
While azelaic acid is a great alternative to stronger actives if you have sensitive skin, you’ll still want to proceed with caution.
“Azelaic acid is generally safe for most skin types, but people with very sensitive skin may experience irritation, a stinging sensation, or in serious cases, even develop hyperpigmentation—the opposite of this ingredient’s intended effects,” she says. “Look for products that also contain soothing ingredients to balance out the azelaic acid, and if you have any reservations about this ingredient, talk to your dermatologist and do a patch-test before applying azelaic acid to your whole face.”
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