Azelaic Acid for Acne

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Azelaic Acid for Acne


Generic NameBrand Name
azelaic acid Finacea

Azelaic acid is available as a gel that is spread on your skin.

How It Works

Azelaic acid is a natural material that kills bacteria in the skin. It can help clear and prevent acne that is caused by bacteria.

Why It Is Used

Doctors prescribe azelaic acid in a cream form to help clear up acne and prevent new outbreaks. This medicine kills bacteria and reduces acne inflammation.

How Well It Works

Azelaic acid works well in mild to moderate outbreaks of acne by killing bacteria. But it doesn't work well for acne that isn't infected with bacteria. Studies show that azelaic acid works as well as other creams (such as benzoyl peroxide, tretinoin, and antibiotics).1 It takes 1 to 2 months after you start applying the cream for acne lesions to start disappearing.

Side Effects

Azelaic acid can cause burning, stinging, dry skin, and redness. Try to keep the cream off skin areas that don't have acne. Wash your hands after you apply the cream. Also, keep azelaic acid away from the eyes, mouth, and inside the nose.

See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference is not available in all systems.)

What To Think About

Azelaic acid may work to treat acne in some people. But if your acne doesn't start to clear up after a couple of months, your doctor will most likely have you try another medicine.

Azelaic acid reduces the amount of pigment in skin and so can be useful for people who have acne that leaves brown marks when it heals.2

This product is not approved to treat children younger than 12.

Complete the new medication information form (PDF) (What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this medication.



  1. Thiboutot D (2008). Versatility of azelaic acid 15% gel in treatment of inflammatory acne vulgaris. Journal of Drugs in Dermatology, 7(1): 13–16.
  2. Zaenglein AL, et al. (2008). Acne vulgaris and acneiform eruptions. In K Wolff et al., eds., Fitzpatrick's Dermatology in General Medicine, 7th ed., vol. 1, pp. 690–703. New York: McGraw-Hill Medical.


By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Primary Medical Reviewer Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Alexander H. Murray, MD, FRCPC - Dermatology
Last Revised March 22, 2011

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.