Once upon a time, there lived two azelaic acids. Both came from prominent brands, and each of them was well-loved by consumers. With both products boasting a 10% azelaic acid concentration, it can be hard to decide which product to choose. The Ordinary Azelaic Acid Suspension 10% vs. Paula’s Choice 10% Azelaic Acid Booster is a battle not to be taken lightly. (Can you tell how serious I am about this? Extremely serious.) Can one azelaic acid be better than the other? Am I even able to choose? (As you’ll soon find out, I definitely can.)
I should note that this is my subjective opinion for what works best for my skin, and what is ideal for me may not be for you. I have extremely sensitive, dehydrated, combination skin. I deal with rosacea too, which is one of the reasons I was drawn to azelaic acid in the first place. After hearing that it helped alleviate rosacea symptoms, I was extremely interested to try it. I started my azelaic acid journey with Paula’s Choice 10% Azelaic Acid Booster, then I moved on to try The Ordinary’s Azelaic Acid Suspension 10%. My experiences with each were entirely different, which I will now detail for you in this grand tale of the azelaic acids!
The Purpose of Azelaic Acid: A Short Summation
Azelaic acid has a variety of benefits! It is able to fight acne as well as diminish post-acne marks. It is a gentle exfoliant that addresses dull skin and aids in clearing pores. One of the benefits that I find most interesting is its ability to decrease skin sensitivity over time. This, along with its capacity for relieving inflammation, making it an ideal ingredient to tone down rosacea.
The positive effects of azelaic acid make it good for people with acne, rosacea, and/or sensitive skin. Since I have rosacea and regularly experience inflammation and/or sensitivity, I was drawn to this ingredient and its benefits. The possibility of finding something that could reduce my redness AND make it easier to use retinol appealed to me greatly.
Paula’s Choice 10% Azelaic Acid Booster
Here is the ingredients list from the Paula’s Choice website:
Water (Aqua), Azelaic Acid (skin-brightening/tone-improving), C12-15 Alkyl Benzoate (emollient), Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride (skin-replenishing), Methyl Glucose Sesquistearate (emollient), Glycerin (skin-replenishing), Cetearyl Alcohol (texture enhancer), Glyceryl Stearate (texture enhancer), Dimethicone (hydration/texture enhancer), Salicylic Acid (exfoliant), Adenosine (skin-restoring), Glycyrrhiza Glabra (Licorice) Root Extract (skin-soothing), Boerhavia Diffusa Root Extract (skin-soothing), Allantoin (skin-soothing), Bisabolol (skin-soothing), Cyclopentasiloxane (texture enhancer), Xanthan Gum (stabilizer), Sclerotium Gum (stabilizer), Propanediol (hydration), Butylene Glycol (hydration), Phenoxyethanol (preservative)
I love that they put an explanation for each ingredient along with it. It makes things easy to understand, and importantly, it saves us all time on research!
Their booster aims to even out the skin by reducing redness, blemishes, and post-acne marks. It has the addition of salicylic acid, which is not present in The Ordinary Azelaic Acid Suspension. Salicylic acid is especially effective at fighting breakouts. It penetrates deeply into the skin to clear debris and unclog pores.
Paula’s Choice 10% Azelaic Acid Booster was the first of the two products that I tried. You’re able to use it by itself, or you can mix it with a moisturizer. I chose to mix a pea-size amount with my moisturizer, as using it alone felt like it might make the tube go empty fast! The texture blended into my moisturizer well, and I didn’t even notice the addition!
Unfortunately, I didn’t see much positive change in the level of redness of my skin. At times I felt like the product was actually perpetuating the irritation because of the salicylic acid. I believe that the salicylic acid did help when I was dealing with breakouts, but this wasn’t the sensitivity-reducing product I had hoped it would be. After a somewhat lackluster first impression of azelaic acid, I decided to try another option!
The Ordinary Azelaic Acid Suspension 10%
The ingredients list from The Ordinary is as follows:
Aqua (Water), Isodecyl Neopentanoate, Dimethicone, Azelaic Acid, Dimethicone/Bis-Isobutyl PPG-20 Crosspolymer, Dimethyl Isosorbide, Hydroxyethyl Acrylate/Sodium Acryloyldimethyl Taurate Copolymer, Polysilicone-11, Isohexadecane, Tocopherol, Trisodium Ethylenediamine Disuccinate, Isoceteth-20, Polysorbate 60, Triethanolamine, Ethoxydiglycol, Phenoxyethanol, Chlorphenesin
You’ll notice that there are some silicones in the formulation, which are quite obvious in the product’s texture. Tocopherol is a fat-soluble antioxidant that helps protect our skin from UVB rays. The rest of the list is primarily solvents, emulsifiers, and ingredients that allow the formula to penetrate deeper into the skin.
I had chosen to try the Paula’s Choice booster first because I had seen a lot of reviews saying that The Ordinary’s product pilled terribly. People shared that they couldn’t find a way to layer it well, no matter how hard they tried. I was nervous that I would experience the same, especially when I realized how silicone-y it felt. To my surprise (and excitement) I found that I had few issues with pilling. The only time that it pilled badly was when I accidentally squeezed out more than my usual pea-size amount. It didn’t pill right away that morning, but rather much later in the day. I sometimes will get a small amount around my hairline, but it’s only once in a while.
The silicones work to fill in lines and large pores, making my skin look smooth. It has a mattifying effect as well, which works to keep oiliness away throughout the day. The first time I used this, I experienced a slight stinging sensation, but it was cooling at the same time. That’s the only time my skin felt this way after using it; since then I haven’t felt anything after applying it. I use it usually in the daytime, but sometimes at night too.
Within a week, I began noticing a significant redness reduction in my skin. It has also helped me get back to using an AHA/BHA toner or vitamin C serum in the mornings, which I had to stop doing for a while in months prior. I notice minimal stinging when I apply my retinol, and my face doesn’t turn red after. I still get some flushing when I’m out in the heat after a long day in the dry environment that I work in, but otherwise, it is so much better!
I feel like using this product regularly has made retinol use so much easier. It has practically eliminated the side effects, which I’m thrilled about. I’m hoping that it will help me eventually move up to a mid-level retinol in the future. (I’ll be sure to update you if I do!)
Which Azelaic Acid Product Is Better?
The Azelaic Acid Suspension sells at a much lower price of $7.90 for 30ml (1oz). The Paula’s Choice Booster is $36 for the same amount of product. Depending upon your budget, this may not make a difference. If you don’t mind paying a little more for a product, then that’s great too!
Paula’s Choice 10% Azelaic Acid Booster and The Ordinary Azelaic Acid Suspension 10% are both quality products in their own right. The better product for you depends upon your skin concerns. If you are looking to address acne, I think the Paula’s Choice Booster would be a good option with its addition of salicylic acid. If you want to reduce sensitivity and redness, in my experience the Azelaic Acid Suspension is much better. (The Ordinary carries several other products that I love: the Hemi-Squalane Oil, the Multi-Peptide Serum for Hair Density, and the Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution.)
I hope this review has given you all the info that you need to help you choose a product with azelaic acid! Is there another one that you’ve tried that has worked well for you? Let me know in the comments!
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