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Is Using Salicylic Acid And Retinol On The Same Day A Good Idea?

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In a world of skincare cocktails, where combining ingredients is a daily thing, choosing the right ones to mix can be quite challenging. Not to say, combining the wrong ones can turn into potential irritants or cancel each other out, making them ineffective. 

Salicylic acid and retinol are two powerhouses in skincare, researched and proved a million times to have myriad benefits for acne and aging signs, respectively. So, either you’re struggling with adult acne or want to prevent wrinkles while fighting breakouts, you want to know if you can use salicylic acid and retinol. Stay tuned; you’re about to find out.

Salicylic acid vs. retinol

Retinol is a vitamin A derivative. It’s added to skincare products to encourage cell renewal, brighten the skin, reduce acne, boost collagen production, and also works as an antioxidant. It removes dead cells, helps unclog pores, giving the complexion a healthy glow. 


Salicylic acid is a beta-hydroxy acid (BHA), mega-popular for its acne-reducing power. It works by exfoliating skin, unclog pores, and regulating sebum secretion, keeping pores clear and pimples away.

At a close look, you can see that retinol and salicylic acid have some things in common: they shed away dead cells, unclog pores and encourage skin exfoliation. Also, both salicylic acid and retinol have small molecular weights, meaning they penetrate beneath the epidermis. 

Can you use salicylic acid and retinol together?

To make sure you’re avoiding any skincare pitfalls, don’t use salicylic acid and retinol together by layering one after another. The thing when you use retinoids with salicylic acid is that you risk over-exfoliating your skin. Both cause exfoliation and can make the skin sensitive or even lead to irritations if layered together. Don’t be disappointed. There is still a way to use salicylic acid and retinol together. 

How to use salicylic acid and retinol on the same day?

Yes, you can use salicylic acid and retinol on the same day by alternating them. I know you know it, but I’ll say it anyway: you should use retinol only at night since the sun breaks it down and makes the skin more prone to sun damage. So you’ll always leave your retinol products for the PM skincare routine. As you may have guessed, this means using your salicylic acid product in the morning. Voilà! You get double benefits by using salicylic acid and retinol on the same day, but separately: salicylic acid in the morning and retinol at night.

There’s an exception, though. If you use a salicylic acid cleanser or salicylic acid toner, you can apply your retinol treatment afterward. Cleansers and toners usually contain small concentrations of active ingredients, thus it’s unlikely to interfere with retinol and cause irritations.

Since both salicylic acid and retinol tend to dry the skin, ensure to give your skin hydration too. Pick one of these moisturizers to use after retinoids. And apply sunscreen daily!


There’s another way you can safely use salicylic acid and retinol together: use them compounded in one product. We like these ones:

Dermalogica Multivitamin Thermafoliant

Dermalogica Multivitamin Thermafoliant

If you want to refine skin texture and enhance firmness, this self-heating polisher is what you want. It blends physical and chemical exfoliants, antioxidants, and botanical oils to retexturize, defend against free radicals damage and nourish the skin. Salicylic acid and retinol are among the first ingredients, one right after another, making the product pretty strong, so never use it more often than three times a week.

Murad Intensive Age Diffusing Serum

Murad Intensive Age Diffusing Serum

This serum is ideal for helping you regain skin thickness and combat dehydration. The mix of acids, glycolic, salicylic, and ascorbic, work with powerhouses like retinol and hyaluronic acid to smoothen the skin, unclog pores and promote a youthful glow. The addition of urea, amino acids, green tea, and zinc strengthen the protective barrier for more resilient skin.

Dr. Dennis Gross Extra Strength Daily Peel

Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Peel Exfoliator

Dr. Dennis Gross’s two-step daily peel pads are fueled with skin-loving ingredients that’ll reveal a smooth, hydrated, and youthful complexion — one of the best ways to use salicylic acid and retinol together. The first step infuses the skin with glycolic, salicylic, mandelic, lactic acids to reduce the look of wrinkles, acne scars, and pores, while the second step is pre-dosed with retinol resveratrol, adenosine, and copper for anti-aging benefits.

Clinique Fresh Pressed Overnight Booster

Clinique Fresh Pressed Overnight Booster

Salicylic acid and retinol meet in this booster to refresh your skin and get it in its best condition. While collagen, resveratrol, vitamin E, ceramide, and hyaluronic acid plump and moisturize, retinol, salicylic, tartaric, and ferulic acids resurface the skin. This is how luminosity is revealed.


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