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Glycolic Acid and Azelaic Acid: A Star-Studded Skincare Match-Up!

by Yu-Jun Park 24 Oct 2023

First things first. 

We've all heard of skincare ingredients being touted as the next big thing.

And with the K-beauty wave taking over, two ingredients are totally stealing the spotlight: glycolic acid and azelaic acid.

But the million-dollar question is, how do they stack up against each other?

Can they play nicely together?

And, most importantly, how can you make them work for your skin?

Can I Use Azelaic Acid and Glycolic Acid?

Why, we're thrilled you asked!

It’s the beauty question buzzing everywhere. If glycolic acid and azelaic acid were on a dating app, their relationship status would be: "It's complicated, but totally worth it!"

Let’s break it down scientifically. Don’t worry, it’ll still be fabulous.

Glycolic Acid: The Exfoliation Maestro

Meet glycolic acid, a star player hailing from the sugar cane family.

Being an alpha hydroxy acid (AHA), it boasts of a tiny molecular size, which lets it penetrate deeper into the skin layers.

The result? It's like your skin’s personal exfoliating genie, gently dissolving the bonds between dead skin cells. This process reveals the fresher, brighter skin layers underneath.

Imagine you're at a fabulous party, and there’s a DJ that gets everyone on the dance floor. Glycolic acid is that DJ for your skin, ensuring the old, tired cells move out, making room for the fresh and glowing ones to party all night!

Azelaic Acid: The Skincare BFF You Didn’t Know You Needed

Enter azelaic acid, sourced from our trusty grains - barley, wheat, rye, and the like.

Now, while it’s not as famous as some of its acid siblings, this underdog packs a punch.

Its superpower? Fighting a range of skin issues from acne to rosacea to those annoying dark spots.

If glycolic acid is the DJ, then azelaic acid is like the bouncer – it regulates who gets in and ensures that trouble-causing elements like pimples and redness are kept in check. Plus, it's brilliant at fading post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.

Hello, even-toned skin!

Marrying The Two: A Skin Love Story

Now, on their own, both glycolic acid and azelaic acid have their claims to fame.

But can they form a skincare super duo? Absolutely!

However, with great power comes great responsibility. Here's where the art of layering comes into play.

When using both in your regimen, always remember:

  1. Exfoliate First: Glycolic acid should be your lead-off. With its ability to clear the skin's surface, it preps the stage for other products to penetrate more effectively. So, post-cleansing, swipe on a glycolic acid toner or serum.
  2. Pacify and Treat: After the glycolic acid has had its moment (let it sink in for a few minutes), bring in azelaic acid. It will help calm the skin, targeting issues like acne, inflammation, and dark spots.
  3. Frequency Matters: While both acids can be fabulous, overuse can be overkill. Start slow – maybe 2-3 times a week. See how your skin reacts, then adjust accordingly.
  4. Sunscreen, Always: Using acids can make your skin more sensitive to the sun. Never skimp on the SPF, darling! Even if you’re rocking that korean moisturizer, ensure there’s sun protection in your routine.

What Goes First: Glycolic Acid or Azelaic Acid?

Alright skincare enthusiasts, let’s play a game of “Which Comes First?”

No, we aren’t talking about the chicken or the egg (that’s an age-old debate we'll leave for another day).

Picture this: your bathroom counter is spread with both these star products, and you’re scratching your head, wondering about the perfect order.

Fret not, we’ve got you!

Glycolic Acid: The Grand Opening Act

Ever been to a concert where the opening act just sets the mood and amps up the excitement? That's glycolic acid for your skin.

Here's a bit of the science behind its exfoliation powers: its small molecular size ensures it dives deep, gently loosening the grip between dead skin cells.

By doing so, it unveils a smoother canvas, clearing the pathway for subsequent skincare products to seep in seamlessly.

Think of glycolic acid as the preparatory step that clears away the debris. So, after you cleanse, massage in a product enriched with glycolic acid - something like an enriching glycolic acid face cream will do the trick nicely.

Wait, Don't Rush! Timing is Everything

Now, you don't want to slap on the next product immediately. Good things come to those who wait, right?

Give the glycolic acid a moment. Let it sink in, serenading your skin. A pause of a few minutes will ensure it has done its job of exfoliating and your skin is ready for the next layer.

This intermission is like letting your tea steep to perfection before taking a sip.

Azelaic Acid: The Main Event

With the stage set by glycolic acid, it's time for azelaic acid to shine.

This multitasker, derived from grains like barley and wheat, steps in to combat acne, reduce inflammation, and fade hyperpigmentation. When applied after glycolic acid, it can penetrate more effectively and work on a deeper level, targeting skin concerns with precision.

It's like following up an appetizer with a gourmet main course that hits all the right spots!

Seal the Deal with Moisturization

Now, while these acids are doing their combined wonder-work, let's not forget the importance of hydration.

After all, skincare without moisturization is like a party without music!

Lock in all the goodness with a luxurious Korean face moisturizer. And if the Sahara Desert vibes remind you of your skin, be sure to opt for a face moisturizer specifically for dry skin.

What Not to Mix With Glycolic Acid?

Alright, let’s break it down.

We all have that one friend who’s a blast at parties but tends to rub certain folks the wrong way.

In the world of skincare, that fun-loving friend is glycolic acid.

A rockstar in its own right, there are certain ingredients it can clash with on the dance floor, leading to not-so-great reactions.

But hey, understanding these interactions is all a part of mastering the skincare DJ booth. Let's get into the nitty-gritty of the tracks you might not want to play simultaneously with glycolic acid.

1. Vitamin C: The Power Ballad Overload

Alright, we’re pretty deep into our music analogy by now, so let’s commit.

Imagine you're at a concert, and suddenly, two of your favorite artists start belting out their greatest hits at the same time.

Overwhelming, right?

That's kind of what happens when glycolic acid meets Vitamin C.

Both are phenomenal for the skin individually. Vitamin C is known for its antioxidant properties, fighting free radicals, and brightening up your complexion. Glycolic acid, as we've covered, is a maestro at exfoliation.

But when you bring these two together, there's potential for irritation, sensitivity, and even some redness.

The takeaway? Let each have its solo performance on your skin, spaced out between your AM and PM routines.

2. Retinol: Too Many Headliners, Not Enough Stage

Everyone loves a dynamic duo, but sometimes two lead performers are just too much for one stage.

Enter glycolic acid and retinol.

Separately, they're the stuff of legends. Retinol, derived from Vitamin A, is applauded for its anti-aging benefits, speeding up cell turnover and boosting collagen production. On the flip side, glycolic acid, our beloved exfoliant, is working on shedding dead skin cells.

But, mesh them together, and you might just have a skincare clash of the titans. This can result in over-exfoliated, dry, and peeling skin.

Not the encore we were hoping for!

3. Benzoyl Peroxide: A Skincare Mashup That Might Miss the Beat

Next on our list is benzoyl peroxide, the acne-fighting champ.

Super effective at killing acne-causing bacteria, it's a go-to for many battling breakouts.

However, combine it with glycolic acid and it's like trying to blend two completely different music genres - it might just miss the beat.

This mix can lead to an increased potential for dryness, redness, and a burning sensation. Talk about a skincare remix gone awry!

Can I Use Niacinamide, Azelaic Acid, and Glycolic Acid Together?

Ever fantasized about the perfect skincare trio that could be the answer to all your skin prayers?

Drum roll, please!

The power trio of niacinamide, azelaic acid, and glycolic acid might just be the superhero squad we've all been yearning for.

But as with any star-studded team-up, understanding the dynamics is crucial.

Niacinamide: The Versatile Virtuoso

Alright, let’s talk niacinamide.

Often referred to as the peacemaker in the volatile world of skincare, niacinamide, a form of Vitamin B3, is known for its adaptability.

What’s the magic behind this ingredient?

Well, niacinamide has a talent for minimizing enlarged pores, soothing any redness, and combating dullness. It’s like that versatile musician who can jump between genres without missing a beat.

Because niacinamide plays so well with others, introducing it to other active ingredients is like bringing a calm mediator to a heated debate.

The result? More harmony, less drama.

Glycolic Acid: The Energetic Exfoliator

Ah, our trusty glycolic acid!

As we know well by now, this superstar derived from sugar cane boasts impressive exfoliating powers. By bidding adieu to those pesky dead skin cells, glycolic acid sets the stage for other ingredients to perform optimally.

Still feeling musical? Think of it as the opening act at the music festival – it sets the tone and prepares the crowd for the main event.

Azelaic Acid: The Sensitive Soul

Enter azelaic acid – the sensitive artist of the skincare world. Remember, this key player shines when it comes to reducing inflammation, fading hyperpigmentation, and keeping breakouts at bay. It’s like that soulful ballad that hits right in the feels, addressing the deeper skin issues that sometimes go unnoticed.

The Grand Finale: Orchestrating the Dream Team

You’re probably wondering, “Can these three chartbusters harmonize together in one epic concert?”

You bet! But there's a method to this melodious madness.

  • Opening Act: Start with glycolic acid. As our crowd-warmer, this exfoliator ensures that your skin is prepped and primed, ready to absorb the goodness of the next ingredients.
  • The Ballad Break: Next in line is niacinamide. With its calming and balancing attributes, it gently serenades your skin, ensuring that any potential irritation from glycolic acid is soothed.
  • Headliner: Last but not least, allow azelaic acid to take center stage. With its anti-inflammatory and brightening properties, it adds the finishing touches to this skincare symphony.

Let’s Wrap It Up!

Who knew the world of glycolic acid and azelaic acid could be so fascinating, right?

With the right knowledge, approach, and products (hey there!), you can truly harness the powers of these ingredients and give your skin the glow-up it deserves.

By now, we hope you’re thinking, “wow, I didn’t know that, that was really useful”.

And if you're as stoked as we are, hit that share button!

Let's make skincare not just a routine, but a revolution.

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