Azelaic acid

J Am Acad Dermatol. 1987 Dec;17(6):1033-41. doi: 10.1016/s0190-9622(87)70294-1.


This review is an update on the literature accumulated over the past 10 years following the original observation that azelaic acid, a naturally occurring and nontoxic C9 dicarboxylic acid, possesses significant biologic properties and a potential as a therapeutic agent. These studies have shown that azelaic acid is a reversible inhibitor of tyrosinase and other oxidoreductases in vitro and that it inhibits mitochondrial respiration. It can also inhibit anaerobic glycolysis. Both in vitro and in vivo it has an antimicrobial effect on both aerobic and anaerobic (Propionibacterium acnes) microorganisms. In tissue culture it exerts a dose- and time-dependent cytotoxic effect on malignant melanocytes, associated with mitochondrial damage and inhibition of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) synthesis. Tumoral cell lines not containing tyrosinase are equally affected. Normal cells in culture exposed to the same concentrations of the diacid that are toxic for tumoral cells are in general not damaged. Radioactive azelaic acid has been shown to penetrate tumoral cells at a higher level than normal cells of the corresponding line. Topically applied (a 20% cream), it has been shown to be of therapeutic value in skin disorders of different etiologies. Its beneficial effect on various forms of acne (comedogenic, papulopustular, nodulocystic) has been clearly demonstrated. Particularly important is its action on abnormal melanocytes, which has led to the possibility of obtaining good results on melasma and highly durable therapeutic responses on lentigo maligna. It is also capable of causing regression of cutaneous malignant melanoma, but its role in melanoma therapy remains to be investigated.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acne Vulgaris / drug therapy
  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Dicarboxylic Acids / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Skin Diseases / drug therapy*
  • Skin Neoplasms / drug therapy*


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Dicarboxylic Acids
  • azelaic acid