The Ordinary vs Paula’s Choice: Azelaic Acid

Is this the new glycolic acid? I’ve been an avid user of useful acids for years now. I thought I had achieved a good balance in what I used, the concentrations I used and how often I used them. Hence, I hadn’t been looking for a new one to add to my routine. The consideration just wasn’t there and then azelaic acid came along.

To make this easier here is a breakdown of some important facts you’d need about the two best (in my opinion) azelaic acid products on the market right now. They are on either end of the spectrum (cheap and expensive).

The Ordinary Paula’s Choice
£5.50 for 30 mL£37.00 for 30 mL
10% azelaic acid 10% azelaic acid
Ingredients: 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. Ingredients: Aqua, Azelaic Acid (skin brightener/antioxidant), C12-15 Alkyl Benzoate (texture-enhancing), Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride (hydration/skin replenishing), Methyl Glucose Sesquistearate (texture-enhancing), Glycerine (hydration/skin replenishing), Cetearyl Alcohol (texture-enhancing), Glyceryl Stearate (texture-enhancing), Dimethicone (hydration), Salicylic Acid (Beta Hydroxy Acid, exfoliant), enisonedA (skin-restoring), Glycyrrhiza Glabra (Licorice) Root Extract (skin-soothing), Boerhavia Diffusa Root Extract (antioxidant), Allantoin (skin-soothing), Bisabolol (skin-soothing), Cyclopentasiloxane (hydration), Xanthan Gum (texture-enhancing), Sclerotium Gum (texture-enhancing), Propanediol (hydration), Butylene Glycol (hydration), Phenoxyethanol (preservative).

So, I’m gonna take a wild guess and assume your first questions is why is the price so different if the size and concentration is the same? The answer is down to the fact that Paula’s Choice doesn’t have too many other ingredients padding out the formula. Too many ingredients before azelaic acid can mean the affect of the acid can be reduced. Whenever I think about buying skincare I look at the first couple of ingredients. You’ll notice azelaic acid is NOT in the top three ingredients for The Ordinary version. However, Aqua (Water), Isodecyl Neopentanoate, Dimethicone are.

Aqua is the first ingredient for both, so lets say they cancel out. Dimethicone is an organic, silicon polymer which is widely used in skincare but can also be found in contact lenses and shampoo. It’s used to soften and moisturize the skin. Isodecyl Neopentanoate is also used in skincare for the same purpose.

Slightly off topic but something worth mentioning, I ADORE the way Paula’s Choice tells you why the ingredient is in the product, I.E Salicylic Acid (Beta Hydroxy Acid, exfoliant), enisoned A (skin-restoring). That’s all I’ve ever wanted from a brand – JUSTIFICATION. Justification means I understand what this will do for my skin and why it costs as it does.

Paula’s choice has provided this very clearly with this booster. Just the fact the azelaic acid is the second ingredient proves that it’s worth the extra money because you will be able to clearly see what affect the acid has on your skin. Also, I’m really glad to see some salicyclic acid in there to help boost the properties of the azelaic acid.

However, if your budget or skin curiosity doesn’t allow for something like the booster from Paula’s Choice than The Ordinary is a good place to start because it has the padding out from dimethicone that won’t allow the product to be too harsh on your skin. Plus, it’s only a fiver. If you’re looking to buy azelaic acid because you have intense acne and/or want to move away from using benzoyl peroxide, then Paula’s Choice will be worth the investment.

2 thoughts

  1. Just a comment- both formulas contain the same concentration of azelaic acid, so it’s a little misleading to claim different efficacy based solely on the ingredient list.

    Also, the Paula’s Choice descriptions of their ingredients are often misleading. Case in point: the propanediol and butylene glycol are listed under hydration near the bottom of the list. But given their apparent concentrations (and the presence of glycerin far higher on the list) these ingredients are almost certainly included there as hygroscopic agents to improve preservative function. But hydration sound better, so here we are.

    1. Hi! Thank you for your comment. The comparision of efficacy was based on the fact that the higher up on the ingredient list something is the more of that ingredient is in the product. So, it’s kind of irrespective of the concentration of acid.

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