REVIEW The exact mechanism of action of azelaic acid is not known. It is thought that azelaic acid manifests its antibacterial effects by inhibiting the synthesis of cellular protein in anaerobic and aerobic bacteria, especially Staphylococcus epidermidis and Propionibacterium acnes. In aerobic bacteria, azelaic acid reversibly inhibits several oxidoreductive enzymes including tyrosinase, mitochondrial enzymes of the respiratory chain, thioredoxin reductase, 5-alpha-reductase, and DNA polymerases. In anaerobic bacteria, azelaic acid impedes glycolysis. Along with these actions, azelaic acid also improves acne vulgaris by normalizing the keratin process and decreasing microcomedo formation. Azelaic acid may be effective against both inflamed and noninflamed lesions. Azelaic acid's antimicrobial action may be attributable to inhibition of microbial cellular protein synthesis. Specifically, azelaic acid reduces the thickness of the stratum corneum, shrinks keratohyalin granules by reducing the amount and distribution of filaggrin (a component of keratohyalin) in epidermal layers, and lowers the number of keratohyalin granules.
Koeckritz, Angela; Martin, Andreas Synthesis of azelaic acid from vegetable oil-based feedstocks European Journal of Lipid Science and Technology (2011), 113(1), 83-91.