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How To Pair Salicylic Acid with Niacinamide in Your Skincare Routine

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We’re all fond of skincare cocktails, but with the wrong recipe, you just risk messing with your skin, and can turn into a total fiasco. Mixing ingredients takes knowledge, so if you ask yourself “can I use salicylic acid and niacinamide together”, this is the right place to find out. Upfront, yes, some can mix salicylic acid and niacinamide, and pairing them might be the fast track to flawless skin. Read on to find out who can use salicylic acid and niacinamide and who should keep clear from this duo.

What is salicylic acid?

Salicylic acid is a beta-hydroxy acid (BHA), praised for reducing sebum and breakouts. Being oil-soluble, salicylic acid is able to sink beneath the epidermis, where it disperses excess sebum and unclogs congested pores. Also, salicylic acid exfoliates dead cells buildup at the skin’s surface, minimizing the chances of breakouts appearing. And if it wasn’t enough, salicylic acid has anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial benefits, diminishing inflamed pimples and pustules and helping kill acne-causing bacteria.

What is niacinamide?

Niacinamide is a form of vitamin B3 that helps keep skin protected, firm, and bouncy. Due to its antioxidant activity, niacinamide is great at scavenging free radicals, the biggest culprits for causing premature skin aging. Additionally, niacinamide has anti-inflammatory benefits — just great for papules and pustules. Moreover, niacinamide aid in retaining moisture into the skin, balancing sebum levels, and can lighten dark spots.

Who can use salicylic acid and niacinamide?

As you have noticed, salicylic acid and niacinamide have some common benefits, such as anti-inflammatory and sebum-balancing. Yep, this means niacinamide and salicylic acid make a great team for battling excess oil and acne. While salicylic acid sops up oil and prevents pore clogging, niacinamide aims to strengthen the skin barrier, repair the damage caused by pimples and brighten spots left by breakouts.

Who can’t use salicylic acid and niacinamide?

Dry and mature skin types better stay away from salicylic acid. Since this exfoliant goes deep in the pores to suck the oil — which dry and mature skis mostly lack — it can be too harsh and may lead to irritations. On the flip side, niacinamide is ideal for dry and mature skin types due to its ability to boost moisture, protect against oxidative stress, repair the barrier and encourage cell renewal. The takeaway? Dry and mature skin peeps can use niacinamide, but not salicylic acid.

How to use salicylic acid and niacinamide together

If you want to use salicylic acid and niacinamide together, here’s what you need to know. First, there are products that contain this winning duo, and those should be used as directed. However, using salicylic acid and niacinamide in different products is more challenging, as their properties don’t complement each other.

Niacinamide works wonders when layered on neutral pH (around 7), but salicylic has an acidic pH since it’s an acid, having values between 3-4. Niacinamide has a 5 to 7 pH, meaning that if combined with salicylic acid, it can lower the niacinamide’s pH, making it less effective.

Don’t freak out, there are a few ways to use salicylic acid and niacinamide together in your skincare routine. Do you want to layer salicylic acid and niacinamide at the same time? Here’s how you do it: layer your salicylic acid product, wait for 20-40 minutes, then apply the niacinamide-infused product. The theory is that skincare products with low pH go before the ones with high pH. So cleanse, apply salicylic acid, wait half an hour, then apply niacinamide and sunscreen. You’re good to go.

But what about the days you’re in a rush and don’t have the time to wait? You have two options: either you use your niacinamide product in the morning and salicylic acid at night, or you could alternate between using salicylic acid one day and niacinamide the next day. This is how I’m doing it: I smear on the Vichy salicylic acid gel serum one day and the niacinamide and zinc serum by The Ordinary the following day. I can only say that my oily, super-prone to breakouts skin loves it!

The verdict

By far, salicylic acid and niacinamide make a top combo for those who struggle with excess oil, acne, and dark spots. Mixing them might leave you with clear, maybe-she’s-born-with-it skin. Last but not least, our skincare dictionary and ingredients cheat list are great places to keep an eye on all skincare ingredients and learn how you can mix them for dramatic results.

Who wrote this?
Ana Vasilescu
Ana Vasilescu
Ana is a sociologist and feminist with a shared passion for literature, psychology, and skincare, the combo that made her determined to start Women's Concepts. With over five years of experience in dermatological research, she has now become a certified skincare consultant keen to convince others of the importance of a diligent routine. Her close relationships with dermatologists around the globe, along with years of researching, analyzing studies, and hand-testing products on a daily basis, made Ana one of the best persons you can get advice from.
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Women's Concepts relies on the latest scientific research to provide accurate, complete, and fact-based information in skincare, on which we're willing to stake our reputation. Our team includes skincare experts who are highly regarded in their fields and committed to upholding the best standards of research. We spend quality time vetting every single product we recommend and double-checking all the facts shared on Women's Concepts. We always stand on the side of inclusivity, and our mission is to help everyone fix their skin issues as they arise and leverage the products they buy to achieve their goals. You can view our expert review board and everything about our editorial guidelines here.
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