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Should You Use Azelaic Acid and Niacinamide Together?

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When it comes to shrinking large pores look and fixing uneven skin toneazelaic acid and niacinamide are some of the most sought-after ingredients. But as the skincare loyal as you are, you probably want to know if you can use these two powerhouses together to maximize the results, right? Spoiler alert: yes, you can, and it actually could be one of the best decisions for your skin — if you use them rightly, of course. 

As both niacinamide and azelaic acid target similar concerns, they work synergically by boosting each other’s benefits. They play very well together in almost any routine and make a great team to battle a wide array of conditions. However, as with any mix of skincare ingredients, things get tricky when you have to incorporate them into your routine. This is mostly because each ingredient works at a different pH, which can cause an imbalance of your natural skin’s pH, resulting in irritations and redness. Besides, when two ingredients need to be formulated at different pH levels, they can inactivate each other, rendering them ineffective. But is that really the case with niacinamide and azelaic acid? Should you look for both in one product, or use them separately? And if so, which one goes on first?

Keep reading to learn the best ways to use azelaic acid and niacinamide together without messing up your skin’s pH.

Azelaic acid vs. niacinamide   

To kick things off, it’s important to know what each of these actives is doing for your skin and what they have in common that makes them such a terrific combo. That being said, both azelaic acid and niacinamide have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antibacterial activities. They both can regulate sebum production, reduce acne, and lessen pimples, making the two the perfect candidates for people with breakout-prone skin.[1][2]

Besides, azelaic acid also acts as an anti-keratinizing agent, working to slough off the buildup of dead cells, while niacinamide boosts skin hydration and strengthens the protective barrier by hindering transepidermal water loss.[3][4] Even more, since azelaic acid and niacinamide are both antioxidants and anti-inflammatories, they neutralize free radicals and reduce environmental damage, making them effective for relieving redness.

Another perk that azelaic acid and niacinamide have in common is their ability to diminish skin discoloration. They reduce hyperpigmentation by interfering with melanin production, brightening skin, and promoting an even tone. Finally, the two also minimize the appearance of large pores by clearing them out of oil and enhancing the skin’s texture so that the pores won’t get clogged and appear larger than they actually are.[5]

Now what you came for.

Can you use them together?

Azelaic acid and niacinamide work wonders when used together as they’re gentle, address the same concerns, and are suitable for all skin types. Yet, the best part about this combo is that both ingredients work at a similar pH level. While niacinamide is most stable at a pH of 6, azelaic acid requires formulations at a pH of 4 – 5 to deliver the best benefits. Since both work at a pH closer to the skin’s neutral pH (6), the likelihood that they inactivate each other or cause irritation is relatively low. 

However, to stay on the safe side is best not to use them one right after the other (except if they’re in the same product). This is because azelaic acid may lower the pH of niacinamide and trigger its conversion into niacin, leading to the so-called niacin flush known to cause temporary itching, burning sensation, and redness. Fortunately, there are better ways to use azelaic acid and niacinamide together safely and effectively.

How to use azelaic acid and niacinamide together

This is how you should use niacinamide and azelaic acid together in the same routine to get the best of both worlds:

Use them in the same product

The easiest way to use azelaic acid and niacinamide together is to get yourself a product containing both ingredients, as they’re professionally formulated to remain stable and effective at a specific pH level. If you’re ready to take the plunge, try one of the following products:

  • Cos De BAHA Azelaic Acid 10: This serum contains 10% azelaic acid and 2% niacinamide coupled with hyaluronic acid. It reduces redness, pigmentation from acne scars, the look of large pores, and breakouts.
  • Medik8 Blemish SOS: It’s made with a high concentration of niacinamide, azelaic acid, and salicylic acid to clear pores and minimize blemishes.
  • PCA Skin Pigment Bar: It helps fight inflammation and brighten skin with a blend of kojic acid, azelaic acid, and niacinamide.

Apply them 30 minutes apart

You can also apply your azelaic acid and niacinamide together at the same time of day by layering them 30 minutes apart. Remember to start with the one that has the lowest pH, aka azelaic acid. By layering your azelaic acid serum first and following up with a niacinamide cream, you let enough time for azelaic acid to do its magic and for the skin’s pH to return to its normal level. Besides, since niacinamide consolidates the protective barrier and increases hydration, it’s great to offset the possible irritation and dryness caused by the exfoliating power of azelaic acid.

Use one in the morning and the other at night

Finally, you can use azelaic acid and niacinamide together by applying one in the morning and the other at night. Preferably use azelaic acid in your PM routine since there’s a chance it can make your skin photosensitive.

When should you use them together?

You should use azelaic acid and niacinamide together if you’re dealing with any of the following skin conditions:

  • Large pores
  • Hyperpigmentation, uneven tone
  • Acne
  • Redness
  • Rough texture
  • Early aging signs

The takeaway

To sum it up, azelaic acid and niacinamide pack all the good stuff to protect, brighten and soften. They promise to make skin look smoother and more even while fighting acne, large pores, and discoloration. For the best, use them in the same product, 30 minutes apart, or at different times of the day.


References

  1. Stinco G, Bragadin G, Trotter D, Pillon B, Patrone P. Relationship between sebostatic activity, tolerability and efficacy of three topical drugs to treat mild to moderate acne. J Eur Acad Dermatol Venereol. 2007 Mar;21(3):320-5. doi: 10.1111/j.1468-3083.2006.01914.x.
  2. Draelos ZD, Matsubara A, Smiles K. The effect of 2% niacinamide on facial sebum production. J Cosmet Laser Ther. 2006 Jun;8(2):96-101. doi: 10.1080/14764170600717704. PMID: 16766489.
  3. Tanno O, Ota Y, Kitamura N, Katsube T, Inoue S. Nicotinamide increases biosynthesis of ceramides as well as other stratum corneum lipids to improve the epidermal permeability barrier. Br J Dermatol. 2000 Sep;143(3):524-31. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2133.2000.03705.x. PMID: 10971324.
  4. Sieber MA, Hegel JK. Azelaic acid: Properties and mode of action. Skin Pharmacol Physiol. 2014;27 Suppl 1:9-17. doi: 10.1159/000354888. Epub 2013 Nov 13. PMID: 24280644.
  5. 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. doi: 10.2165/00003495-199141050-00007.
Who wrote this?
Ana Vasilescu
Ana Vasilescu
Ana is a sociologist and feminist with a shared passion for literature, psychology, and skincare, the combo that made her determined to start Women's Concepts. With over five years of experience in dermatological research, she has now become a certified skincare consultant keen to convince others of the importance of a diligent routine. Her close relationships with dermatologists around the globe, along with years of researching, analyzing studies, and hand-testing products on a daily basis, made Ana one of the best persons you can get advice from.
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