Azelaic acid for skin: what it is and how it helps with clogged pores

This pore-unclogging powerhouse busts blackheads, acne, and inflammation

3 minute read

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We’re here to tell you what we know, but don’t take it as medical advice. Talk to your medical provider about your specific health concerns.

Did you know that wheat — something you may eat every day — contains a powerful acne-busting ingredient? Azelaic acid occurs naturally in several whole grains, and when applied to the skin, effectively battles acne, clogged pores, dark spots, and inflammation. (It’s even safe to use topically for those with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity!) Azelaic acid has racked up an impressive resume of clinical trials, and is FDA-approved as a prescription topical cream or gel. (Sorry, you can’t just cover your face in flour.) Let’s dig into how it works.

• • •

Restoring balance when acne strikes

Black oblong figure with a white background, below a line with surrounding shapes and eyeballs, all against a green background

Remember — your skin is an ecosystem. It thrives when natural processes (like skin cell production) and native organisms (like bacteria) are kept in balance. Azelaic acid maintains order and corrects acne-causing imbalances.

How does azelaic acid work?

1. Regulates the production of new skin cells.

Picture a factory assembly line. Without proper regulation, new skin cells can pile up faster than they’re needed, blocking up the whole system! Azelaic acid keeps things running smoothly — helping clear acne, whiteheads, and blackheads.

2. Keeps bacteria from spreading

Azelaic acid prevents the spreading of Propionibacterium acnes and Staphylococcus epidermidis, which are both found inside acne lesions.

3. Fights dark spots

Believe it or not, azelaic acid does even more. This impressive ingredient also cleans up the mess left by acne or sun exposure. It lightens dark spots by:

  1. Slowing the production of melanin, or skin pigment.

  2. Blocking abnormal melanocytes, pigment-producing cells that have gone haywire.

4. Soothes inflammation

This multi-talented ingredient also calms the inflammation that causes rosacea and bumpiness. Ever take anti-inflammatories for a swollen knee? Azelaic acid reduces swelling and redness in your skin.

Azelaic acid side effects

Azelaic acid is non-toxic and safe to use. Most people experience no significant side effects beyond mild stinging or itching at first. If these sensations are irritating you, let your provider know.

Where can I get azelaic acid?

Illustration of a phone showing a provider; a skin photo; a prescription; an unbranded bottle against a green background

Here’s the thing: azelaic acid is powerful enough that it’s prescription-only, according to the FDA. Meaning you can’t get it over the counter. You’ll need to chat with a dermatologist — which you can do in person, or check out the online team at!

• • •

Learn more

Curious about other acne-fighting ingredients? Check out our guides to clindamycinzinc pyrithione, and tretinoin. See you around!


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