Today, we’re going to compare two skin-saviors you might have come across before on your quest for clear, vibrant skin: Niacinamide and Azelaic Acid.
But what do these actives actually do, and which is the right choice for you and your skin? Also, can we use them both? Let’s dive straight into the comparison.
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What is Niacinamide?
Niacinamide is a form of vitamin B3 which is naturally occurring in many of our favorite foods, including meats, eggs, dairy, and cereals. To put it simply: our body uses Niacinamide to keep our cells healthy.
While eating a balanced diet to make sure you are ingesting enough Niacinamide is great, you should apply it directly to the skin to take advantage of all the beauty benefits!
Most Niacinamide products deliver Niacinamide to the skin in the form of a serum.
Generally, Niacinamide benefits the skin by helping to build proteins and holding in the moisture of the skin, protecting it from environmental damage.
Niacinamide enthusiasts use this product for a slew of benefits including treating acne-prone skin, minimizing the appearance of pores, regulating the skin's natural oils, keeping skin firm, retaining moisture, reducing fine lines and wrinkles, and minimizing redness and blotchiness.
This makes it a fantastic ingredient for those with acne, eczema, mature skin- or even those with normal skin looking for a bit of a boost in tone and smoothness.
While Niacinamide is mostly found in serum form, it can also be found as an additional ingredient in certain cleaners and creams. This is a great route to take if you don’t want any extra steps in your skincare routine.
If used as a serum, however, it should be applied to the skin after your toner, and before moisturizing. It’s very important to get that right!
What is Azelaic Acid?
Azelaic Acid is a natural product of our skin, made from a yeast called Malassezia furfur. No, yeast living on our skin isn’t entirely gross (certain types, at least)- it’s completely normal, and we need them!
Azelaic acid is most commonly used for acne-related conditions. It works by stopping the growth of bacteria in follicles, normalizing disordered cell growth, and reducing inflammation.
While mostly used for acne, Azelaic acid may also help with abnormal pigmentation such as acne scars, dark spots, or Rosacea.
Azelaic acid is meant for topical use, and is available in creams, gels, and foams. It should be used after cleaning the face with a mild cleanser and patting the skin dry, and can usually be used twice daily.
Remember, it's important not to use anything containing Azelaic Acid in combination with harsh or medicated soaps and cleansers.
Side effects can occur when using Azelaic acid. These include skin dryness, redness, burning, and peeling.
It also makes the skin more sensitive to the sun, so it’s particularly important to apply daily sunscreen when using products with this ingredient!
This is true of most topical acne treatments out there, and as far as acid serums are concerned, Azelaic is one of the milder options.
This active isn’t for everyone, and it’s best to seek the advice of a dermatologist to figure out the course of treatment that is best for your skin type, symptoms, and expectations.
Niacinamide vs Azelaic Acid: what's the difference between the two?
Both of these actives are antioxidants and naturally-occurring. Niacinamide is a vitamin found in our foods, and Azelaic acid is a compound produced on our bodies.
While Niacinamide can be used for acne, it benefits the skin in multiple distinct ways. Azelaic acid is more specifically used for acne, and while natural, acts more as a medicated treatment.
Niacinamide will be gentler on your skin, but there is more documentation to support the effects of Azelaic acid for medical treatment of skin conditions.
Can Niacinamide and Azelaic Acid Be Used Together?
Niacinamide and Azelaic Acid can absolutely be used together.
This combination is a great option for those looking to fight hyperpigmentation due to issues with acne scarring, age spots, or dark marks.
They work in different ways, so you’re essentially tackling the issues from two sides!
In fact, there are even products that contain both ingredients. However, if you wish to use them as two separate products here’s how you do it:
How to use them together
Start by using one product before using them in combination. This way, if your skin reacts adversely, you’ll know what the culprit is.
Once you are ready to start the second product, decide which product has the thinner consistency.
This will depend on what form you’ve chosen for each product, but generally, a serum will be thinner than a cream or gel. Apply the thinner product first, as it will absorb more quickly into the skin.
You can apply both twice daily, but you’ll also see the benefit of only using it once per day. If you go this route, the easiest way would be to use one in the morning, and the other at night.
Our Product Recommendations
If you are after a Niacinamide Serum, try Sephora’s Glow Recipe, Watermelon Glow Niacinamide Dew Drops. It’s a vegan and plant-positive formula with a high-shine finish.
If you’d rather a moisturizer containing a high percentage of Niacinamide to save yourself that extra step in the morning, give Niacinamide Gel Cream a go.
It contains 5% Niacinamide- a potent level- to balance healthy hydration, reduce pores, soften skin and give you a dewy look!
If you're after Azelaic Acid, you’ll need to go to your doctor for anything of clinical strength. It is recommended to use a higher strength to treat acne, and likely in conjunction with other treatments.
However, if you’d like to use Azelaic acid to even out skin texture and improve skin tone, there are over-the-counter options with lower concentrations you can try. The Ordinary Azelaic Acid Suspension is a creamy formula with 10% Azelaic acid.
Lastly, if you want a combination product to brighten your skin and fight pigmentation in two ways, try Baha’s Azelaic Acid 10% Facial Serum with Niacinamide. This is great for folks with acne scars, rosacea, hyperpigmentation, or just wanting to brighten their skin.
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