If you’ve been knocking around the skincare world for a while, chances are you have a clearer idea of what azelaic acid and hydroquinone are and how they benefit the skin. If you’re sat there scratching your head a little, don’t worry as I will explain how each powerhouse works on the skin.
The question we are left with however, is whether you can use hydroquinone and azelaic acid at the same time? Let’s investigate further and find out more about how these, or if, these ingredients work together.
What is Azelaic Acid?
Azelaic acid is a natural acid often derived from grains, such as wheat, rye, and barely. Packed with anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties, it is a highly effective ingredient at combating oily, and acne prone skin. It can work deep in the skin combating build-up of bacteria, excess sebum, dirt, debris, and impurities, all of which contribute to clogged pores and breakouts. Azelaic acid can effectively reduce the size of spots and breakouts, whilst providing skin clarity. This probably explains how azelaic acid is a dermatologist’s first choice when prescribing products to target acne, and problematic skin.
You will also find that due to the anti-inflammatory properties, azelaic acid is also able to treat rosacea and other conditions that cause skin inflammation and redness. This is something that gives azelaic acid a unique trait because of the fact it can treat acne and rosacea, two skin concerns often affecting completely different skin types.
If you wanted to find out more about azelaic acid and how it works on the skin, check out our dedicated blog post.
What is Hydroquinone?
A famous skin-lighting agent that has had a colourful past, with some back and forth about its safety for the skin. Luckily for all of us, these concerns were corrected in the early 80s, leaving it a favoured ingredient to use for targeting hyperpigmentation, dark spots, and sun damage.
The way hydroquinone works is by bleaching the skin, it does this by reducing the number of melanocytes which is responsible for creating melanin. By preventing melanocytes on the skin, you are stopping the pigmentation from becoming worse. By controlling how much melanin makes it way to the surface will leave the complexion looking brightened and more even. It is understood that hydroquinone is so potent it can improve the complexion by reducing the appearance of acne scarring, age spots, melasma, freckles, and post inflammation marks.
Because of the variety of strengths available, it is important (much like all skincare ingredients) to have a consultation with a doctor or dermatologist to determine that the ingredient is safe for you to introduce into your daily skincare routine.
Can you use hydroquinone and azelaic acid at the same time?
Yes, you certainly can, as confusing as this may feel, the two powerhouses work well together. In fact, you’ll find they both complement each other and offer a boost in how effectively they work on the skin.
Before you apply them all over the face, it is important to remember to be mindful of how to use each of their benefits to improve the health and appearance of your complexion. If you are finding anything about product formulas difficult it is best to consult with a dermatologist or trained medical professional to figure out the best routine for you and your skin.
What should you not mix with hydroquinone?
There are several factors you must take into consideration when using hydroquinone. As mentioned already, it is a highly potent ingredient that needs to be applied to the skin the correct way to avoid any unwanted skin irritations.
Due to the exfoliating benefit of hydroquinone, it is recommended that you do not mix it with chemical exfoliants, such as alpha hydroxy acids (AHA) like the popular glycolic acid, lactic acid, and the most used beta hydroxy acid, salicylic acid. If you layer too many of these acids on top of each other, it will cause increased risk of irritation, redness, flare-up in a reaction, and severe dryness to the skin.
Is azelaic acid as effective as hydroquinone?
This is something that can be difficult to determine, mainly because there are several studies still being carried out investigating both ingredients.
With hydroquinone often being used in high percentage formulations, it is recommended the most effective way of using it is applying it to specific areas on the face. This differs to azelaic acid, which is found in an array of skincare products, from face washes, toners, serums, or moisturisers. All these products can be applied to the skin with the peace of mind they will work effectively, topically on the skin, without causing dryness, irritation, or other concerns.
Deciding which is better will really boil down to you and your personal preference. Whichever ingredient you choose to include in your routine, just ensure you have performed a patch test for 24 hours before applying on product to the skin.
What can I mix with hydroquinone?
Ingredients such as azelaic acid, retinol, and tretinoin are all safe and effective to use with hydroquinone. This may feel confusing due to how potent these ingredients I have mentioned are, but you’ll find retinol, for example, can be teamed with hydroquinone allowing it to penetrate further into the skin. This is the same relationship between azelaic acid and hydroquinone, both of which boost each other’s effectiveness and ability to deliver results on the skin.
What order do I apply hydroquinone?
Ideally, you should apply hydroquinone in the evening starting off with only using it once or twice a week as this will help build your skin’s tolerance to the potent active. By using it in the evening, you’ll find it is able to work on the face undisturbed without any exposure to free radicals, such as UV light and pollution, all of which create oxidised stress resulting in long term skin damage.
Once the morning comes, use hydrating formulas enriched in hyaluronic acid, vitamin E, and other nourishing ingredients. Follow this with liberal amounts of a daily sunscreen with a SPF 30 or higher to ensure the skin is fully protected from sun damage.
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