The Top 3 Over-the-Counter Azelaic Acid Products To Buy Right Now

Azelaic acid is a boss at treating two things: (1) acne and (2) rosacea.

The thing is, up until recently, azelaic acid was only available by prescription. Don’t get me wrong, the prescription drugs (i.e. Finacea and Azalex) are still gold standard treatments, especially if you’re dealing with severe skin disorders.

On the other hand, if you aren’t dealing with severe disorders, over-the-counter products are convenient and generally cheap.

Side note: Since azelaic acid is so new, there isn’t much inventory out there—the products covered in this article pretty much cover the gamut in terms of OTC products.

1. The Ordinary 10% Azelaic Acid Suspension

the ordinary azelaic acid product image

This is probably the most popular OTC azelaic acid product on the list (which isn’t surprising considering The Ordinary’s affordable, no-frills approach to skincare).

To be honest, although this is a fan-favorite, I wouldn’t recommend it to just anybody. Since The Ordinary’s Azealic Acid dries matte (with a powdery finish), it’s better suited for oily—and maybe combination—skin types. Dry skin might find this formulation to be excessively, well, drying.

  • Percentage: 10%
  • Fragrance: No
  • Texture: Thick, silicone-based cream-gel
  • Great for: Oily, acne-prone skin
  • Size: 30mL

Check out The Ordinary’s 10% Azelaic Acid Suspension here on Amazon.

Pro tip: The formulation is very thick, so, on its own, it’s not entirely spreadable. Using it on top of your moisturizer, however, will make it spread-out like a dream.

2. Paula’s Choice 10% Azelaic Acid Booster

paula's choice azelaic acid product image

With this product, you’re not only getting the benefits of azelaic acid, but you’re also getting the benefits of salicylic acid and licorice root (which are bound to kick your post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation to the curb in no time).

While I’m not exactly sure how Paula Begoun (and her team) came up with this product, the release date leads me to believe that it was made to compete with The Ordinary’s Azelaic Acid. Since they couldn’t compete with the price—The Ordinary is always going to be cheaper—they tried to win over the battle with other things like texture and ingredients. For one, the texture offers better spreadability. Next, the ingredients, as I already mentioned, are better-suited for reducing dark spots.

Of course, because the Azelaic Acid Booster also contains BHA’s, it’s incredibly important to use a sunscreen with this product, particularly if you apply it in the morning.

  • Percentage: 10%
  • Fragrance: No
  • Texture: Lightweight cream-gel serum
  • Great for: All skin types (dries semi-matte)
  • Size: 30mL

Check out Paula’s Choice 10% Azelaic Acid Booster here on Amazon.

How to use: Paula’s Choice recommends two use cases: (1) you can mix it into your moisturizer or (2) you can spread this straight on your face before putting on your moisturizer. And, unlike The Ordinary’s Azelaic Acid, this product is easily spreadable—no excessive rubbing required.

3. Ecological Formulas Melazepam Cream

Although I don’t think this is a cosmetically-elegant azelaic acid, it’s the only 20% OTC azelaic acid product out there. So despite its gritty texture, some people still hail this as a game-changer. And some people even consider it a Finacea alternative—although I personally don’t believe that any OTC product could take the place of a prescription.

Arguably, the best thing about Melazepam is the size of the tube. All the other products on this list come in measly 30mL containers. This is generally fine when the formulation is ultra spreadable (like with the Paula’s Choice tube) or when you only want to use AA as a spot treatment. Otherwise, even OTC products can get pretty expensive with excessive use. Malezapam comes in a 50mL tube and the tube seems to last forever.

  • Percentage: 20%
  • Fragrance: No
  • Texture: Gritty cream
  • Great for: Skin that’s already used to azelaic acid
  • Size: 50mL

Check out Melazepam here on Amazon.

How to use: Unfortunately, the tube doesn’t provide you with instructions. But if this is your first time using azelaic acid, a 20% cream could shock your system—AA is notorious for being incredibly drying. So you might want to consider buffering it with a moisturizer. That is, add it on top of your moisturizer until your skin gets used to it. Then, you can maybe (just maybe) you can use it before moisturizing.  

What to Expect When Using Azelaic Acid

By all accounts, azelaic acid is safe to use. The only things that can trip you up are that it might cause dryness, itching, and stinging—especially when you use a high concentration (i.e. 20%) product right off the bat. With continued use, however, these side-effects often fall by the wayside.

Of course, before putting on a face full of azelaic acid, it’s important to spot test an inconspicuous area. Because you might be allergic/sensitive to one or more of the ingredients in the product. And you don’t want to end up with a reaction.

Final Thoughts

Here are the top 3 over-the-counter azelaic acid products:

  • The Ordinary 10% Azelaic Acid Suspension (best for oily skin)
  • Paula’s Choice 10% Azelaic Acid Booster (best for hyperpigmentation)
  • Ecological Formulas Melazepam Cream (best for budgeters)

While the over-the-counter products aren’t as well-formulated as the prescription products, they can serve a purpose.

First, considering that high doses can cause excessive dryness, working up to a full dose (with OTC products) can save your skin from shell shock.

Second, it’s fun to try new skincare—it’s a hobby for some people, including me. So although I don’t suffer from rosacea and I’m currently not dealing with acne, I still want to see what the hype is all about. I’ll buy it, test it out, and, if I like it, I’ll keep it around. And then, when one of my friends ask me about, I can tell them if Paula’s Choice Azelaic Acid Booster is worth it.

Related: Cystic Acne: What You Need to Know About the Devil

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