“Skin-vestment” is the new trend! When it comes to skincare routines, many concerns pop up in our minds. So let’s look at one of the infamous skincare questions: Can salicylic acid and niacinamide be used together?

Both niacinamide and salicylic acid are great skincare active substances with a variety of uses. Is it possible to combine salicylic acid and niacinamide in a beauty routine?

It may not appear to some that niacinamide vs salicylic acid is a matter that requires debate. “Why is this such a common search?” “Their names aren’t comparable, and they don’t seem to target the same thing (or at least aren’t promoted to treat the same thing).”

If such questions keep popping your mind, let us actually look at the qualities of the two and their popularity on the beauty care charts!

Can Salicylic acid and Niacinamide be used together?

Both Salicylic acid and Niacinamide have similar and complementary skin effects, and when implemented properly, they can be a great addition to your regular skincare regimen. 

Here’s some more information about them and what they can do for your skin. Let’s take a look at each one separately first.

Salicylic acid as a skincare ingredient

When it comes to skincare, salicylic acid’s primary goal is exfoliation of the skin. 

It’s a critical feature in the treatment of sensitive skin, and it’s even regarded as a necessary component in the treatment of acne.

Salicylic acid seems to be a beta-hydroxy acid (BHA) that exfoliates the skin and is obtained from willow bark, wintergreen, and sweet birch [1]. Because it is oil-soluble, it can easily penetrate and unclog pores, removing sebum, debris, dead skin cells, and other impurities while enhancing skin texture and gloss.

Salicylic acid is, therefore, a favorite of people with oily skin and those who frequently encounter breakouts and acne, as it works on both whiteheads and blackheads. Salicylic acid also has anti-inflammatory effects, which is another interesting aspect of treating acne since it helps to reduce inflammation [2].

It’s important to remember that salicylic acid isn’t a multi-tasking component in this comparison. Its main purpose is to exfoliate the skin chemically. It can assist your other products to perform better by keeping your skin clear, making it less oily, evening out skin tone and texture, and keeping it clear.

Side effects of Salicylic acid

People with acne can apply topical salicylic acid to help cure and reduce pimples and skin blemishes. 

Psoriasis (a skin illness in which red, scaly patches appear on various parts of the body), ichthyoses (inborn disorders that cause skin dryness and scaling), dandruff, cracked skin, calluses, and warts on the feet and hands are all treated with topical salicylic acid [3].

Salicylic acid can be a cause of concern for people with: 

  • genital warts, 
  • warts on the face, 
  • warts with hair sprouting from them, 
  • warts in the nasal passage, 
  • moles, or 
  • birthmarks. 

These should not be treated with topical salicylic acid [3].

Niacinamide as a skincare

For people who are under the assumption that “niacinamide” is only a chemical, this is for you! Niacinamide is a water-soluble form of vitamin B3 that has outstanding humectant capabilities, which means it can pull in moisture from the environment and lock it into the skin. 

As a result, the skin appears moisturized and fresh, with a youthful bounce. Niacinamide also aids in the formation of collagen. Niacinamide also boosts the antioxidant capacity of the skin [4]. Many skin problems are addressed, such as dry, flaking areas of dead skin cells, and all symptoms of skin aging, such as fine lines and wrinkles, are considerably decreased [5]. Niacinamide possesses anti-inflammatory qualities and can help reduce irritation and redness in people with sensitive skin. 

As if that wasn’t plenty, niacinamide can also benefit people with oily or acne-prone skin. Niacinamide aids in the reduction and regulation of sebum production, as well as the appearance of enlarged pores [6].

Side effects of Niacinamide

Niacinamide has many advantages as a skincare ingredient. It has a high antioxidant effect, helps improve your skin’s protective barrier, and reduces concerns like skin pigmentation, according to research [4].

When niacinamide-containing topical products are applied to your skin, they may produce burning, itching, or redness. These adverse effects can range in intensity and may fade over time as your skin adjusts to the niacinamide’s effects.

Salicylic acid v/s Niacinamide

Alright, so after the great dive, it’s time to surf! You might still be perplexed since salicylic acid and niacinamide perform the same things.

Yes, they share some characteristics in terms of the end result, but they arrive at it in distinctive ways. This depends on the type of skincare product you use, as both of these components can be present in a variety of formulations. 

If you’re new to them and are just getting started with them in your routine, especially salicylic acid, the best option is to use a face cleanser or wash that has active amounts of the BHA. 

Face washes and cleansers, on average, spend the shortest amount of effort on the skin, making them a simple product to use when establishing skin tolerance. Here are the most effective ways to utilize skincare products containing these active components depending on your skin type to offer you a better idea of how to use them.

1. Dry skin

Scaling, itching, and cracking are all symptoms of dry skin, which is a bothersome condition. It can happen for several reasons. You may have naturally dry skin. Even if your skin is naturally oily, you may have dry skin from time to time. Any region of your body might be affected by dry skin. Hands, arms, and legs are the most usually affected areas. 

In many cases, simple lifestyle changes and over-the-counter moisturizers will suffice. If such remedies aren’t working, you should see a doctor. It is well known that salicylic acid, when administered inappropriately, can cause irritation and redness in individuals with dry or sensitive skin. In general, if your skin looks dry and prone to irritation, you should avoid using this acid.

If you have any concerns, talk to your doctor about the best way to incorporate BHA into your daily skincare routine.

Niacinamide, when applied topically, improves skin texture and strengthens the skin’s protective barrier function, which helps to reduce inflammation, which is commonly manifested as dry, itchy, or flaky skin. It accomplishes this by boosting natural lipids on the skin’s surface and lowering water loss.

2. Oily skin

When both components are combined, sebum production is regulated, allowing those with blemish-prone skin to control breakouts. It will help to minimize blemish size and frequency with the help of the blemish-fighting salicylic acid. 

All of this happens as niacinamide prevents your skin from losing all of the vital oils it requires to stay healthy by sealing moisture in and keeping the complexion refreshed and pleasant.

3. Combination skin 

When it comes to combination skin types, it’s ideal to use salicylic acid in a more targeted, topical application to the areas of the face that are prone to blemishes, as this will keep the other dry sections of the skin from becoming tight and irritating.

Niacinamide, on the other hand, can be used all over the face because it is a brilliant humectant that will leave you with a hydrated, happy complexion.

Niacinamide or Salicylic acid for acne scars? Which is best? 

There’s a reason why it’s called “common acne”: almost everyone has pimples at some point in their lives. They turn into a concern when they leave behind their footprints!

Salicylic acid aids in the cleansing of pores, the reduction of irritation, and the gentle exfoliating of the skin. It’s an excellent component for acne-prone skin, particularly if you have an oily skin appearance. When paired with niacinamide, salicylic acid is more effective [7].

Niacinamide is an antioxidant that helps with acne and decreases inflammation. Using salicylic acid in a cleanser or a face mask and layering it with niacinamide is always a wise choice. You can also give a try to castor oil for scars. It can help you get naturally rid of acne.

How do you use Niacinamide with Salicylic acid?

Sadly, applying a salicylic acid treatment and then a niacinamide product isn’t as simple as it sounds. The rationale for this begins with a discussion of the pH of the skincare product. As you know the pH scale ranges from 0 to 14, with 7.0 being the neutral pH. (pure water). Acidic values are less than 7.0, while alkaline measurements are greater than 7.0.

The normal pH of skin is a little around 5.0, according to a study, however, it is usually between 4.7 and 6.0. Our skin’s natural pH is somewhat acidic, and the acid shield helps to maintain that balance [8].

For maximum efficiency and exfoliation, salicylic acid is commonly prepared with a pH of 3.0-4.0. As a result, salicylic acid lowers the pH of the skin for it to function properly. Niacinamide, on the other hand, has a pH range of about 5.0-7.0, with 6.0 being the best solution for stability. On days when you aren’t applying a chemical exfoliator, you might simply apply the niacinamide. Alternatively, apply niacinamide in the morning and salicylic acid at night.

What to use: Niacinamide or Salicylic acid first?

You have a lot of alternatives when it comes to exfoliants, depending on what your skin demands. Though salicylic acid is a common component that can be obtained at the drugstore, there are myriad factors to consider when employing the acne-fighting substance to treat acne, so it should be used with care.

If niacinamide is applied to the skin too quickly after salicylic acid, it will raise the pH of the acid, making the products less beneficial or causing a skin reaction like redness or burning.

Wait around 30 minutes after using salicylic acid to let your skin’s pH level return to normal for optimal effects. Then use niacinamide, whether it’s in the form of a niacinamide serum or another type of skin cream, such as a niacinamide moisturizer.

What can you not mix with salicylic acid?

It’s best to avoid mixing salicylic acid with retinol, a powerful skin ingredient. Both of these potent substances provide tremendous skin benefits, especially for people with acne or blemish-prone skin. 

Using both at the same time, on the other hand, can be too much for the skin, causing irritation, rashes, redness, flakiness, and general discomfort. If you wish to apply both, separate the products and apply salicylic acid in the morning and retinol in the evening, just like you would with vitamin C and niacinamide.

What can you not mix with Niacinamide?

Niacinamide can work with nearly all of the skincare products available except for vitamin C. That isn’t to say you can’t use them together; nevertheless, both vitamin C and niacinamide are antioxidant-rich, and when used all at the same or without the proper gap of time in between, they will oppose each other, rendering both ingredients worthless. Experts recommend taking vitamin C in the morning and niacinamide in the evening to get the best advantages from both compounds.

Wrapping up

You can incorporate both niacinamide and salicylic acid in your skincare routine and employ them at distinct intervals of the day, such as morning niacinamide and evening salicylic acid.

Alternatively, on different days of the week, swap salicylic acid with niacinamide. We hope we have solved your question “Can salicylic acid and niacinamide be used together?” in a simpler way.

But all of it being said, do not forget to contact your dermatologist before applying anything to your skin as it is the most crucial organ of your body.

What next?

  1. Can You Use Niacinamide With Retinol?
  2. Hyaluronic acid v/s Retinol For Skin

FAQs

Q: Can I use salicylic acid with hyaluronic acid and niacinamide?

A: Yes, you can! The ability of niacinamide and hyaluronic acid to provide moisture and protection to the skin is the key benefit of taking them together. Using salicylic acid is simple with this moisturizing combination, and the danger of irritation or skin dryness is considerably decreased. Leaving you with a clear, moisturized complexion.

Q: How to use niacinamide and salicylic acid together?

A: The method of action is the most significant distinction between them. Furthermore, salicylic acid does not moisturize the skin as niacinamide does. Salicylic acid may aid the effectiveness of your moisturizer, but it cannot hydrate the skin on its own. You can read the blog to find the best way of using them.

Q: Can I use the ordinary salicylic acid and niacinamide together?

A: Yes, niacinamide and salicylic acid complement each other quite well. All you have to do is use them in the right order.

Q: Should I use niacinamide or salicylic acid first? 

A: After cleansing your skin, use salicylic acid for your first step. After that, wait 30 minutes before administering topical niacinamide. This restores the pH of your skin to 5.5 or higher, which is optimal for niacinamide use.

References

  1. Decker, Ashley, and Emmy M Graber. “Over-the-counter Acne Treatments: A Review.” The Journal of clinical and aesthetic dermatology vol. 5,5 (2012): 32-40.
  2. Lu, Jin et al. “Salicylic acid treats acne vulgaris by suppressing AMPK/SREBP1 pathway in sebocytes.” Experimental dermatology vol. 28,7 (2019): 786-794.
  3. “Salicylic Acid Topical”, Medline Plus, (2021)
  4. Levin, Jacquelyn, and Saira B Momin. “How much do we really know about our favorite cosmeceutical ingredients?.” The Journal of clinical and aesthetic dermatology vol. 3,2 (2010): 22-41.
  5. Bissett, Donald L et al. “Niacinamide: A B vitamin that improves aging facial skin appearance.” Dermatologic surgery: official publication for American Society for Dermatologic Surgery [et al.] vol. 31,7 Pt 2 (2005): 860-5; discussion 865.
  6. Draelos, Zoe Diana et al. “The effect of 2% niacinamide on facial sebum production.” Journal of cosmetic and laser therapy: official publication of the European Society for Laser Dermatology vol. 8,2 (2006): 96-101.
  7. Fox, Lizelle et al. “Treatment Modalities for Acne.” Molecules (Basel, Switzerland) vol. 21, (2016), 8-1063.
  8. Lambers, H et al. “Natural skin surface pH is on average below 5, which is beneficial for its resident flora.” International Journal of cosmetic science vol. 28,5 (2006): 359-70.