WOW THAT TITLE IS SO CHEEZY. Sorry. Wait, no I’m totally not.
So hey, anybody who’s read Acne 101 knows that I’m a BIG BIG FAN of azelaic acid. It was in my first prescription cream, and I’ve been using non-prescription (and possibly semi-illicitly purchased) Gigi 15% Azelaic Cream once or twice daily ever since (so, for a year or so). Azelaic accomplishes a few different things for acne-prone skin : it decreases the amount of keratin your skin produces (which can contribute to clogged pores and congested skin), it attacks acne bacteria, it can lighten hyperpigmentation from breakouts, and it has anti-inflammatory properties. WOO, that’s all amazing. Does it actually work? YES IT DOES. I still have the occasional tiny, tiny surface pimple, and when I’m about a week out from the monthly Red Invasion, I’ll still get an occasional *actual zit,* but they’re far smaller and very manageable.
WAIT, WTF IS AZELAIC ACID? It’s a dicarboxylic acid which is naturally found in some grains. Its uses in medicine are primarily as a topical treatment for acne and rosacea. Most sources I’m seeing online say that at “clinical” strength (15% for rosacea, 20% for acne), azelaic acid products require a prescription. Finacea, for example, is a 15% azelaic prescription cream for rosacea. But, there’re a few non-prescription products containing azelaic currently on the market : Rodial Super Acids contains both azelaic and lactic, which sounds fantastic until you get to the $98 price tag. DermaDoctor Picture Porefect also contains azelaic, but also (since it’s primarily a pore-minimizer) has a lot of silicones, plus it’s $42. Neither of those products list the concentration of azelaic acid on their labels, so I’m going to unscientifically assume it’s below 15% since they’re OTC. But you know what? It’s 2017 and the internet exists and we can buy all kinds of shit from overseas in a semi-shady manner, if you’re brave/foolhardy, which I am.
So I started hunting down azelaic creams online, and found the aforementioned Gigi via an eBay retailer in their native Israel. Again, 20% is supposedly required to be effective against acne. However, I got great results with the Gigi 15%. (I got BAD results with The Ordinary’s 10% azelaic suspension, though — either the concentration is too low and doubling the application amount is ineffective, or it’s got another ingredient that’s not acne-friendly. Probably the polysilicone-11, as my skin loathes many forms of silicone.) The Gigi has worked well for me — the only strikes against it are A) it’s about $30 an ounce, which isn’t Unspeakably Expensive, but still, and B) it smells STRONGLY of soap. For real, putting that stuff on is like being punched in the face with a fist made of Camay.
More poking on eBay turned up a lot of results for Skinoren, which is produced (apparently at various locations) in Europe by Bayer, and boasts a 20% concentration of azelaic. Took a chance, ordered a tube (one ounce, like the Gigi) from Hungary for about $15 plus $4 shipping. Bonus points for style : the label is in Cyrillic, which pleases my little nerdy heart to no end.
WHAT’S DIFFERENT ABOUT THIS ONE?
Well, it’s a higher concentration of azelaic acid. Also, the texture is a medium-bodied white cream with a good bit of slip (by comparison, Gigi is kind of a “foamy” cream, and is thicker and drier-feeling). It has no fragrance. It’s in a roll-up-able metal tube rather than Gigi’s plastic one. On the downside, it has a screw-on lid instead of Gigi’s convenient flip-cap.
BUT HOW’S IT WORKING?
To be honest, about the same as the Gigi. I’ve been using Skinoren for around two weeks now, and I haven’t really noticed a difference. I still get occasional tiny surface pimples, and now that it’s almost Shark Week, I’ve got a couple of small actual zits — exactly what I’d gotten using Gigi. I was hoping that the increased azelaic concentration would eliminate ALL of that, but apparently not. I will, of course, update this post if my results change or improve over time!
VERDICT : Good! I’m gonna continue to use Skinoren. The texture is thinner and nicer than Gigi, and it feels better on my skin and plays better under makeup (Gigi’s thicker texture might be very slightly problematic under foundation etc, depending on your products and your application techniques — I usually didn’t have an issue, or just skipped it under makeup and applied only at night). Also, I love that Skinoren has no overwhelming soapy perfume added. Also, I like its jazzy orange Euro labeling. Also, it’s about two-thirds the cost of Gigi. WIN WIN WIN. Oren.
ETA : Let’s go ahead and list the ingredients for both of these, as so many people who have acne (or rosacea) also may have sensitivities.
SKINOREN : Azelaic acid 20%, Benzoic Acid (E210), Cetearyl Octanoate, Glycerol 85%, Glyceryl Stearate + Cetearyl Alcohol + Cetyl Palmitate + Cocoglycerides (CUTINA CBS), Propylene Glycol, Purified Water, Stearoyl Macrogolglycerides.
GIGI : Azelaic acid 15%, Water (Aqua) Azelaic Acid, Propylene Glycol, Cetearyl Alcohol & Ceteareth – 20, Capric / Capric Triglyceride, Glycerin, VP/VA Copolymer, Butylene Glycol & PEG-60 Almond Glycerides, Caprylyl Glycol Glycerin & Carbomer & Nordihydroguaiaretic Acid & Oleanolic Acid, Xanthan Gum, Benzoic Acid, a-Bisabolol, CI 77492 CI 77491 CI 77499 [Ed: those last four are coloring agents].
AND ALSO : If you really want to wade hip-deep into azelaic acid, this post here from SimpleSkincareScience is absolutely fantastic!