Azelaic acid is a dicarboxylic acid and is a substance of natural origin. It in fact derives from Malassezia furfur, also known as Pityrosporum ovale.. It is a yeast which is normally found in human skin but can also reside in wheat, barley and rye.
Azelaic acid is used in dermatology to above all treat mild forms of acne, to stimulate hair growth and reduce pigmentation. It limits the growth of bacteria associated with acne by cleaning the pores of the skin with an antibacterial action. It also normalizes abnormal growth of skin cells, reducing inflammation and free radicals.
How azelaic acid works
When used as an agent for skin depigmentation, it reduces the production of melanin. In fact, azelaic acid appears to suppress the proliferation of melanocytes through a direct cytotoxic effects on them. It is a weak and reversible competitive inhibitor of tyrosinase. Additionally, its action reduces the formation of free radicals, which seem to be linked with the process of hyperpigmentation. Its lightening effect seems clearly evident in highly active melanocytes. It is therefore used to treat hyperpigmentation problems such as melasma.
Although it is a generally well tolerated substance, there can still be cases of hypersensitivity to the active substance. Reported side effects include itching, redness with slight erythema, desquamation and burning. It can promote dry skin and also have an irritating effect on the skin.