CAN I USE SALICYLIC ACID WITH NIACINAMIDE?
Salicylic acid and niacinamide are two of the most highly regarded and popular ingredients in skincare today. And for good reason.
Each offers benefits for a range of skin concerns, especially for blemish-prone skin and in anti-ageing routines. But there is also a degree of overlap in what they do. So, is it worth combining both salicylic acid and niacinamide into the same skincare routine, and if so, how do you use them together optimally?
'Yes!' is the answer to the first part of that question. But there are certainly some important things to keep in mind when combining them, which we go into detail below.
NIACINAMIDE FOR SKIN
Let's start with niacinamide. Also known as vitamin B3, topically applied niacinamide is an immensely versatile skincare ingredient with all kinds of benefits, especially for mild acne-prone skin or for an anti-ageing skincare routine.
- It helps build essential skin lipids such as ceramides to strengthen the skin's moisture barrier and reduce dehydration.
- It boosts collagen production to visibly reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles and improve skin elasticity.
- It helps regulate excess oil production.
- It helps reduce dark spots and other pigmentation concerns.
- It helps visibly reduce areas of redness and blotchiness.
To top things off, it's also been shown to have antioxidant properties that reduce the visible effects of environmental aggressors for more radiant skin.
“Just about the only thing missing from its repertoire is acting as an exfoliant to remove dead skin cells and boost skin cell turnover,” I hear you say...
Step forward salicylic acid.
SALICYLIC ACID FOR SKIN
Salicylic acid is a beta hydroxy acid (BHA) derived originally from salicin; a compound found in willow bark.
Dermatologists and other healthcare professionals often recommend salicylic acid as a gentle exfoliating ingredient suitable for helping to shed dead skin cells from the surface of the skin, prevent clogged pores, and reduce the likelihood of breakouts in mild acne-prone skin.
Oil-soluble salicylic acid is also able to penetrate deep into clogged pores and mix with the sebum (natural skin oil) found both there and on the skin's surface. There it helps to regulate sebum production and remove excess oil.
All these attributes are beneficial for individuals with an oily skin type or blemish-prone skin.
Having said that, all skin types can benefit from salicylic acid. Its gentle exfoliating benefits also promote skin cell turnover and improve skin texture, helping to address other skin concerns such as rough or bumpy skin, dull complexion, dark spots, and other pigmentation issues.
Individuals with dry or sensitive skin should use salicylic acid with care. Salicylic acid is appropriate for any skin tone but can cause increased sun sensitivity. Always apply a high SPF broad spectrum sunscreen each morning.
Why Do Salicylic Acid and Niacinamide Work Well Together?
Apart from covering off on some different skin concerns, niacinamide and salicylic acid work particularly well together because of the overlapping but complementary effects they have on targeting excess sebum. Niacinamide reduces oil on the surface of your skin while salicylic acid penetrates pores to regulate oil production from within. They each work via different pathways, so by using both, you can target the issue in two different ways for optimal results.
The moisture barrier-strengthening effect of niacinamide is also a good hydration countermeasure to the possible increased dryness and skin discomfort from salicylic acid.
HOW TO USE SALICYLIC ACID AND NIACINAMIDE TOGETHER CORRECTLY
MIXING AND LAYERING
Mixing together a salicylic acid product and one containing niacinamide or layering one on top of the other at the same time, is NOT recommended. That's mainly because the two are at their most effective at quite different pH (acidity) levels.
For optimal absorption and effectiveness, salicylic acid products are formulated with an acidic pH between 3 and 4. However, niacinamide works best at a more neutral pH - typically around 6. Mixing the two together or layering one straight on top of the other compromises the penetration ability and performance of one or both.
Instead, here are our recommended options for best results using both salicylic acid and niacinamide together.
OPTION 1: APPLY AT DIFFERENT TIMES OF DAY
The preferred option to take full advantage of both these ingredients is to apply at different times of day.
We always recommend that exfoliating ingredients such as salicylic acid are applied in the evening. Its low pH requirement for full skin absorption means waiting around 30 min before applying anything else like a hydrating serum or moisturising night cream, and most people have more time for this at night.
This allows for niacinamide application in the mornings. Its more neutral pH requirement matches those of most moisturisers and sunscreens and means these can be applied afterwards without waiting between layers or affecting performance.
OPTION 2: APPLY ON ALTERNATE DAYS (RECOMMENDED)
Another approach would be to apply salicylic acid and niacinamide on alternate days, keeping salicylic acid for night-time and niacinamide the mornings.
There may be practical restrictions to your skincare routine that, regardless of the above advice, necessitate applying salicylic acid and niacinamide at the same time of day (again, evening recommended), so here are some ways you could manage this:
CONSIDER AN ALL-IN-ONE PRODUCT
Although taking two separate products and mixing them together at home or layering one on top of another at the same time isn’t recommended, a commercially-formulated product that combines both ingredients in a stabilised format could still be an option. However, the pH level may well be a compromise for one or both ingredients, resulting in less potent results than using the two separately.
APPLY AT LEAST 30 MINUTES APART
If you don't want to compromise on individual ingredient performance by using an all-in-one product, then you should use a salicylic acid serum first and leave for AT LEAST 30 minutes to allow full absorption before applying the niacinamide (or anything else).
This waiting period also allows time for the skin pH to return from an acidic state to its normal level.
LISTEN TO YOUR SKIN
Regardless of the approach you take, it's important to listen to your skin, and if you experience any skin irritation or other side effects, take a pause, and consider changing your approach. If side effects persist, see a healthcare professional.
SKINCEUTICALS BEST SALICYLIC ACID AND NIACINAMIDE PRODUCTS
SALICYLIC ACID PRODUCTS
Blemish + Age Defense Salicylic Acid Serum is a targeted, oil-free serum for ageing skin prone to breakouts that contains a blend of both alpha and beta hydroxy acids, including 1.5% salicylic acid. It reduces excess sebum production and unclogs pores to improve the appearance of blemishes, fine lines, wrinkles, and uneven skin tone. Ideal for acne-prone, oily, combination, and ageing skin types, and best applied in the evening.
Blemish and Age Cleansing Gel is an exfoliating cleanser featuring a conditioning surfactant and blend of acids including salicylic acid, plus glycerin and sorbitol, to remove excess oils and makeup, while unclogging pores and brightening skin. Formulated for oily, combination, and ageing skin prone to breakouts. Suitable for use in your morning regime.
ALTERNATIVE SYNERGISTIC COMBINATION WITH SALICYLIC ACID
The Salicylic Acid and Hyaluronic Acid Routine Set combines the power of a salicylic acid serum with hyaluronic acid, targeting blemish prone and dehydrated skin. Blemish+Age Defense serum contains a potent blend of salicylic acid, glycolic acid, and citric acid to exfoliate dead skin cells, target clogged and enlarged pores, regulate excess oil production, and improve the visible appearance of wrinkles. And Hydrating B5 serum contains hyaluronic acid, a powerful humectant (which means it draws moisture from its surroundings and holds onto it) that hydrates without clogging pores. Suitable for normal, combination and oily skin types.
Utilising a lightweight aqueous emulsion to deliver a high concentration of 5% niacinamide combined with a tripeptide concentrate and 15% pure glycerin, Metacell Renewal B3 skin firming cream addresses early signs of skin ageing. Helps increase cell turnover, clarifies, and evens skin tone, and improves the appearance of wrinkles and surface elasticity.
ALTERNATIVE SYNERGISTIC OPTIONS WITH NIACINAMIDE
The Vitamin C And Niacinamide Routine Set combines C E Ferulic and Metacell Renewal B3 to enhance radiance and prevent premature signs of ageing. C E Ferulic serum combines Vitamin C with additional antioxidants to increase firmness. Follow with Metacell Renewal B3 for delivery of a high concentration of niacinamide in a lightweight emulsion. Suitable for a normal, dry, combination, or oily skin type.
You can also pair niacinamide and hyaluronic acid together, since both are water-based ingredients. Remove excess oil and deliver intense day and night hydration without leaving the skin feeling heavy using the Niacinamide and Hyaluronic Acid Routine Set. Hydrating B5 serum is formulated with hyaluronic acid to increase hydration in an oil free serum formula. Then Metacell Renewal B3 supports the skin’s moisture barrier with an emulsion of niacinamide and firming peptides to maintain youthful looking skin. Suitable for normal, dry, combination, or oily skins.
Target fine lines, wrinkles, and other premature signs of ageing with the Niacinamide and Retinol Routine Set. Containing niacinamide, a tripeptide complex, and glycerin, Metacell Renewal B3 promotes skin cell turnover, strengthens the skin’s moisture barrier, and improves the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, and uneven skin tone. Pair this with Retinol 0.3% to promote skin cell renewal, promote collagen synthesis and minimise the appearance of imperfections. Suitable for normal, dry, combination, or oily skins.
Where can I find out more?:
To discover the ideal products for your own skin type and get advice about how to use them, use our online Routine Finder, or visit one of the SkinCeuticals Authorised Australian clinic locations.