Does Azelaic Acid Cause Purging?

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purging with azelaic acid

Does Azelaic Acid Cause Purging

Azelaic acid has been one of the most buzzed-about new skincare ingredients in recent years. Often hailed as a “miracle” for acne, rosacea, redness and texture, it’s a do-it-all ingredient that’s suitable for all skin types. While azelaic acid is generally considered to be gentle and non-irritating, since it’s an exfoliant, many people wonder if it will make things worse before it gets better. This is referred to as skin purging and is common among many active ingredients. So does azelaic acid cause purging? Let’s take a look!

Things are not always smooth sailing when introducing a new product to your skincare routine. Especially when you’re using an active ingredient like azelaic acid that exfoliates the skin. Many people experience what’s known as skin purging when they start using azelaic acid or other actives like retinol or glycolic acid. This is when the ingredient causes an initial outbreak of acne or worsening of existing breakouts. While it may sound scary, skin purging is actually a good sign that the product is working!

So if you’re wondering if azelaic acid causes skin purging then keep on reading to find out.

What Is Skin Purging?

Let’s say you started using a new skincare product that contains azelaic acid. You hope to see smoother and glowing skin, but suddenly you notice that you’re breaking out more than usual. Your skin looks red and inflamed and you feel like you’re back at square one.

Don’t worry, this is likely just skin purging and it’s usually only temporary!

Skin purging occurs when an active ingredient causes an initial outbreak of acne or worsening of existing breakouts. This happens because the ingredient is working to speed up the skin’s natural turnover process, and as a result, it will bring all the dirt, oil and bacteria that’s clogging your pores up to the surface, which leads to an increase in acne and pimples. But only temporarily.

While it may be tempting to give up and ditch the product, it’s important to remember that this is only temporary and things will eventually get better. In fact, purging is actually a good sign that the product is working!

The term “purging” refers to the common side effect many people experience when using active ingredients like azelaic acid, retinol or glycolic acid. These ingredients work to speed up the skin’s natural turnover process, and as a result, they will bring all the dirt, oil and bacteria that’s clogging your pores up to the surface and leads to pimples, rough skin texture and inflammation.

Although annoying, skin purging is actually a good sign that the product is working doing its job and rest assured, you will have clear skin before you know it.

Purging severity and duration can vary from person to person. Some may experience closed comedones or blackheads, while others may get whiteheads, cystic acne or other inflammatory types of acne.

What is Azelaic Acid?

Azelaic acid is a naturally occurring compound that is found in grain like barley wheat and rye, but synthetic azelaic acid is more commonly used in skincare products.

Azelaic acid is FDA approved to treat acne and rosacea, but it also has many other benefits for the skin. In addition to being an anti-inflammatory, azelaic acid is also an antibacterial, antioxidant and keratolytic agent, which means it helps to break down dead skin cells and improve skin texture.

There are many different OTC azelaic acid products that can help to tackle texture, redness, roseacea, inflammation, scarring and mild to moderate acne. And seeing as it has so many amazing benefits, it’s no wonder why azelaic acid is such a popular skincare ingredient!

And even though azelaic acid is so powerful, it’s actually very gentle on the skin and is one of the best exfoliants for those with sensitive skin. It’s much more gentle than other exfoliants like salicylic acid and retinols.

Azelaic acid typically comes in creams, gels, lotions or serums. Prescription forms usually contain 15-20% azelaic acid, while OTC products usually have 5-10%.

Azelaic Acid Benefits: What Does Azelaic Acid Do to Your Skin?

Azelaic acid can work wonders on your skin. Its acne-fighting capabilities, anti-inflammatory properties and exfoliating powers combine to create an effective ingredient that any one can use and benefit from.

  • Anti-Bacterial – Azelaic acid has natural antibacterial properties that make it great for acne-prone skin. It helps to kill the bacteria that cause acne which helps to not only treat active acne, but prevent future acne from forming
  • Anti-Inflammatory – Azelaic acid is also an anti-inflammatory, which means it can help to reduce redness, swelling and inflammation. This makes it ideal for those with sensitive skin or conditions like rosacea or eczema, but it can also help to reduce inflammation associated with acne and pimples (like cystic acne)
  • Smooths Texture – Since azelaic acid is an exfoliant, it’s great for improving skin texture. It helps to break down the bonds that hold dead skin cells together, which results in smoother, brighter and softer skin
  • Keratolytic – Azelaic acid’s keratolytic properties help to break down dead skin that that can lead to clogged pores and acne. This can help with closed comedones and other textural issues
  • Treats Roseacea – Rosacea is a common skin condition that causes redness, inflammation and sometimes acne like lesions. Azelaic acid is one of the most effective ingredients for treating rosacea as it helps to reduce redness, swelling and bumps associated with rosacea
  • Fades Hyperpigmentation – Azelaic acid can also help to fade dark spots and hyperpigmentation, including acne scarring by inhibiting the production of an enzyme called tyrosinase, which is involved in the production of melanin (what creates pigment)
  • Treats & Prevents Acne – Last but not least, azelaic acid is great for treating and preventing acne. It helps to unclog pores, kill bacteria and reduce inflammation, all of which are important for keeping breakouts at bay

Azelaic Acid Side Effects

So azelaic acid sounds pretty great, right? And for the most part, it is! Azelaic acid is generally considered to be safe and well-tolerated by most people.

However, as with any skincare ingredient, there is always the potential for side effects. The most common side effect of azelaic acid is mild skin irritation. This is usually temporary and will go away after several weeks of use.

Azelaic acid also may cause burning or tingling, flaky skin and redness. If this happens, just make sure you keep your skin well moisturized and take a couple days off from using it or use it less often.

Does Azelaic Acid Exfoliate?

Yes, azelaic acid is classified as an exfoliant, but it’s much more gentle than other types of exfoliants like glycolic acid or retinols.

And although it is considered an exfoliant, it works in a different way than other exfoliants.

Does Azelaic Acid Cause Purging?

does azelaic acid cause purging

So can azelaic acid cause purging? The answer is yes!

Azelaic acid can cause purging because it’s an exfoliant and speeds up skin cell turnover. As we discussed above, this causes everything to come to the surface and you’ll initially experience an increase in breakouts.

However, this is usually only temporary and your skin should adjust within a few weeks.

Keep in mind that purging should be temporary and if you continue to experience breakouts after several weeks of using azelaic acid, you may need to discontinue use.

Purging should only happen in places that you normally break out. So if you’re experiencing breakouts in places you don’t normally get them, this can be a sign that you’re experiencing a breakout vs purging and should stop using azelaic acid.

Related post: Does Benzoyl Peroxide Cause Purging?

Does Azelaic Acid Cause Acne?

Once you experience purging, you may be wondering “can azelaic acid cause more acne??”

No, azelaic acid does not cause acne. Azelaic acid can actually help to treat and prevent acne and it’s FDA approved to treat it!

Azelaic acid helps to unclog pores, kill bacteria and reduce inflammation, all of which are important for keeping breakouts at bay.

However, if you experience breakouts when using azelaic acid and it’s not purging, it could be that your skin is sensitive or reacting to another ingredient in the product and not the azelaic acid itself.

How Long Does Azelaic Acid Take To Work?

Generally, you should start seeing an improvement within 4-6 weeks but full results generally aren’t seen for 3-4 months. Of course, this can all depend on your skin type and issue you are treating.

The key is to stay consistent and be patient!

Related post: Azelaic Acid With Benzoyl Peroxide For Acne

How Long Does Azelaic Acid Cause Purging?

Purging typically starts within a few weeks of starting azelaic acid and can last anywhere from 4-6 weeks to several months. However, it’s important to keep in mind that this is only temporary and you should gradually see improvements over the course of several weeks.

If you continue to experience breakouts after 3 months, you may need to discontinue use.

How to Tell If It’s Purging Vs Breakout?

Skin purging can look a lot similar to regular breakouts; hence it’s difficult to differentiate between the two. Which is why many people give up on using azleiac acid or retinols because they think it’s making their skin even worse.

Luckily, there are a few key things to look out for when determining if you are experiencing purging vs breakout with azelaic acid.

In general, if the breakouts start soon after starting azelaic acid, chances are it’s purging.

But if you experience an increase in acne that you normally don’t break out in, then it could certainly be a breakout. For example, if you tend to get acne on your forehead and chin, but are suddenly experiencing acne all over your cheeks, that’s a good indication it’s a breakout and not purging.

The type of acne can also be an indicator. Purging will typically produce the same type of acne that you normally have. So if you normally get a lot of whiteheads or pustules and then start experiencing closed comedones, this can be a sign it’s a breakout.

If you continue to use azelaic acid and things just aren’t getting any better (or are even getting worse) several weeks after starting, this can also be an indication that it’s not just purging that’s going on.

The breakouts are in areas where you
normally experience them
Breakouts occur in new areas where you usually don’t experience breakouts
Breakouts clear faster than your
regular acne or pimples.
Your skin takes longer to heal and clear up and feels or inflamed
Breakouts start all at onceThese breakouts start and don’t seem to stop
Breakouts seem to be getting betterAcne breakouts keep happening and don’t seem to be improving

Is Skin Purging Avoidable?

Short answer: No. You cannot do anything to avoid purging or the initial breakout when using azelaic acid. It’s inevitable if you’re going to use active ingredients that cause it. However, you can minimize purging with a few simple tips!

How To Reduce Purging From Azelaic Acid

purging with azelaic acid

Nobody wants to experience a purge, but it’s important to remember that it is only temporary and will eventually subside. In the meantime, there are a few things you can do to help manage and reduce the purging process.

Start with a lower concentration: When first starting out with azelaic acid, it’s always best to start with a lower concentration. Whether you are using OTC products or prescription, try to stick with the lowest concentration available, and then you can work your way up once your skin adjusts

Ease into it: Similar to starting with a lower concentration, you also want to ease into using azelaic acid. Start by using it every other day or even just a few times a week. Once your skin gets used to it, you can increase frequency as needed. Azelaic acid can be used 2x daily, but you definitely don’t need to start out using it that often

Give your skin time to adjust: Just like with any new product or active ingredient, your skin needs time to adjust. Be patient and give it at least 4-6 weeks before you start seeing results. And remember, the purging process can last up to 6 weeks, so don’t give up too soon!

Pamper your skin: it’s important to also keep up with your regular skincare routine. This means cleansing your skin and making sure you remove all makeup. Moisturize twice daily. And you can even use more soothing products to help reduce inflammation associated with purging.

Related post: Can You Use Azelaic Acid With Niacinamide?

Does Azelaic Acid Cause Purging FAQ’s

Is azelaic acid making my skin worse?

Although it may seem like azelaic acid is only making things worse when you’re going through the purge, it’s important to remember that this is only temporary and means that it’s doing its job! Stick it out and give your skin time to adjust and you will start seeing results!

It’s important to remember that azelaic acid won’t cause acne. It’s only clearing up your skin and getting rid of all those pimples that you’ve would’ve gotten eventually, anyway!

What does purging look like?

Purging looks different on everyone, so it’s hard to say. But generally, purging will look like your normal acne. So if you normally get whiteheads on your chin, that will be what you experience with purging.

Purging can cause redness, inflammation and an increase in acne in places that you normally breakout. But everything should look what you usually experience with breakouts.

How long does it take to see results from azelaic acid?

This varies from person to person. But in general, it takes 4-6 weeks of using azelaic acid before you start seeing results. And the purging process can last up to 6 weeks or longer, so don’t give up too soon! But it can also depend on your skin and what issue you are treating. Acne usually takes longer to treat than other issues.

How long does it take for azelaic acid to work on acne?

This also varies, but you should start seeing improvements in 4-6 weeks, but remember it can take up to 3-4 months to see full results!

Does Azelaic Acid Cause Purging Wrap Up

Is there purging with azelaic acid? Unfortunately, it’s definitely a risk! Azelaic acid has so many benefits for the skin and is a great way to treat acne, rosacea, texture issues and scarring, but it can cause purging no matter what you’re using it for. This is temporary and will eventually subside and you’ll be left with clear, glowing skin and glad you stuck it out! Be patient and give your skin time to adjust!  

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