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How To Pair Salicylic Acid and Niacinamide in Your Skincare Routine

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I often came across Can I use salicylic acid and niacinamide together question, so I’ve decided to add this combo to our ingredients cheat sheet. Upfront, yes, you can mix salicylic acid and niacinamide, and pairing them in your daily skincare regimen might be the fast track to flawless skin. Briefly, by mixing salicylic acid and niacinamide, your skin stays free of oil and pimples, still hydrated, luminous, and healthy. Salicylic acid exfoliates at a deeper level and unclogs pores from dead cells, oil, and other gunks, while niacinamide is touted for replenishing moisture, repair cells, brighten, and protect against free radicals. Does it sound like they make a perfect team? Because they do. But as with any other ingredients mix, there are a few things you should know before you start experimenting.

What is salicylic acid?

A naturally occurring compound, salicylic acid is a beta-hydroxy acid (BHA), praised for reducing sebum and breakouts, having deeply exfoliating and pores-cleansing powers. This is possible due to its oil-soluble structure, which makes it able to penetrate the pores and dissolve skin debris that clogs pores. Salicylic acid has anti-inflammatory effects, meaning it helps diminish inflamed pimples and pustules before they pop up through the skin. For fair reasons, salicylic acid is the number one ingredient all derms recommend for excess oil and acne because it’s antibacterial, helping kill acne-causing bacteria, balances oil, sheds away dead cells buildup, and diminishes dark spots left by pimples.

What is niacinamide?

Niacinamide, also called nicotinamide, is a form of vitamin B3, water-soluble that helps keep skin protected, firm, healthy and bouncy. Niacinamide is well-known for increasing antioxidant activity and fighting free radicals that may damage the skin. Since niacinamide aids in building cells in the skin, it protects against sunlight and pollution and also has inflammatory effects, great for papules and pustules. On top of everything, niacinamide can help balance sebum levels, retain moisture into the skin, minimize pores look, and lighten dark spots. 


Who can use salicylic acid and niacinamide?

As you have noticed, salicylic acid and niacinamide have some common properties, such as anti-inflammatory and sebum-balancing effects. Yes, this means they are great for oily and acne-prone skin types. Salicylic acid and niacinamide make an excellent combination for people who struggle with breakouts and excess sebum. While salicylic acid sops up oil and prevents pore clogging, niacinamide aims to strengthen the 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 skin types mostly lack — it becomes too harsh for the skin and leads 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 skin barrier and encourage cell renewal. You got the takeaway, dry and mature skin types 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 unique 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 add salicylic acid and niacinamide to your skincare routine. Suppose you want to layer salicylic acid and niacinamide at the same time. In that case, this is how you should do it: apply your salicylic acid product, wait for 20-40 minutes, then layer niacinamide. The theory says 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 vice-versa), or you could alternate between using salicylic acid one day and niacinamide the next day. This is how I’m doing it: I apply 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 loooves it!


The verdict

By far, salicylic acid and niacinamide make a top combo for those who struggle with excess oil, acne, and dark spots. Combining them might leave you with clear, maybe-she’s-born-with-it skin.

Are you a skincare freak in the making and looking to learn the right way to layer your skincare ingredients? Here’s how you can mix your favorite ingredients in your skincare routine:

  1. How to Use Retinol and Vitamin C Together
  2. Hyaluronic Acid and Retinol: How to Use Them Together
  3. Hyaluronic Acid and Glycolic Acid Together: Can We Mix Them?
  4. How To Use Glycolic Acid and Retinol Together for Skincare
  5. Niacinamide and Retinol Together: Does it Work?
  6. Benzoyl Peroxide vs. Salicylic Acid
  7. Lactic Acid vs. Glycolic Acid
  8. Can You Use Vitamin C and Glycolic Acid Together
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