Salicylic Acid and Niacinamide Together

Can You Use Salicylic Acid with Niacinamide?

The sheer count and diverse array of skincare products in the market make selecting the right one for your skincare regime difficult. If, on top of that you also have to worry about whether ingredients might react with one another or with your skin, putting your finger on the best skincare cream, gel, or serum becomes challenging.

A very common question rises whether you can use salicylic acid with niacinamide. Separately, they both are exceptionally helpful. The word in the wind says when you mix them together, they cancel out one another’s benefits and worse can potentially cause your skin to redden. But believing anything without tracing facts is an absurdity.

To begin with, let’s first understand the benefits of each of these ingredients and the reason behind the belief that they cannot be used together.

What Are the Benefits of Niacinamide and Salicylic Acid?

Be it niacinamide or salicylic acid, both are advantageous to the well-being of the human skin. This is the reason you see them being a part of the composition of several cosmetics. But you’re genuine to be concerned if you’ve heard that the combination can cause redness on your skin. 

Salicylic Acid and Niacinamide combined cause skin redness.

The idea that niacinamide should not be combined with BHA stems from the fact that they seemingly work in opposite directions. But this very fact causes the two ingredients to complement one another simultaneously. Salicylic acid acts by expanding the pores to remove impurities while niacinamide – an exfoliant – acts by soothing the skin.

So here’s the breakdown of these ingredients;

Benefits of Niacinamide and Salicylic Acid

Before we answer the question uppermost in everyone’s mind, – which is whether you can use both salicylic acid and niacinamide together for skincare, – let’s look at the individual benefits of salicylic acid and niacinamide.

Benefits of Niacinamide

A topical form of vitamin B3, niacinamide is water-soluble and strengthens the skin barrier. That is, it toughens the lining of your pores and tightens them to give your skin a smooth look.

benefits of niacinamide

This is the top-notch reason for its popularity. Other benefits include skin brightening, anti-inflammatory properties, and speeding up the cell renewal process.

Niacinamide assists in reducing dark spots, blotches, and hyperpigmentation. Moreover, it smoothens fine wrinkle lines by improving the skin’s elasticity and stimulating collagen production. These benefits combine to make niacinamide a powerful anti-aging ingredient.

Benefits of Salicylic Acid

A Beta Hydroxy Acid (BHA) extracted from sweet birch, willow bark, and wintergreen, salicylic acid is an exfoliating agent. According to a study published in the Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology, salicylic acid has antibacterial properties and potential for treating acne.

acne treatment

It works by penetrating the skin through its pores and unclogging them and removes any dirt, dead cells, sebum, and other impurities giving your skin a clean and clear look and feel. Moreover, it is recommended as an exfoliant by the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD). That’s why it is popular among people with oily skin prone to breakouts.

So, can the two be used together? Thankfully yes. Apart from the provenance of the benefits of these two wonderful ingredients, research has shown that the combination of the two does not harm the skin.

Risk of Using Salicylic Acid with Niacinamide

Although both niacinamide and salicylic acid work differently, when used in combination, they create a synergistic effect that helps achieve a clearer, more balanced complexion. Both ingredients work well for sensitive, oily, acne-prone, or inflamed skin. Indeed, when used correctly, this powerful combination brings a wealth of benefits for skincare.

Nevertheless, using these wonder ingredients together is not quite as simple as applying one followed by the other or packaging them into a single product. That’s because of the pH factor of these two ingredients with regard to the pH factor of human skin.

Human skin has a pH ranging from 4.7 to 5.8.

The pH factor of niacinamide ranges from 5.0 to 7.0 while salicylic acid has a pH factor between 3.0 and 4.0, meaning that niacinamide has a pH closer to that of the skin as compared to salicylic acid.

When salicylic acid is applied to human skin, it will reduce the pH and disrupt the skin barrier. Nicinamide on the other hand will soothe the skin and raise the pH factor.

When you apply salicylic acid and niacinamide together, the effect of both is nullified as one is acidic while the other is alkaline. Moreover, extensive use or higher concentrations of salicylic acid can cause mild burning and redness on the skin because of its low pH. Skincare specialists, therefore, advise using the two actives alternatively.

Niacinamide or Salicylic Acid – Which To Use First?

Layering is a technique in which the two ingredients are applied one after the other to prevent strong skin reactions.

The question is, should you apply niacinamide or salicylic acid first?

It’s simple logic. The low pH of salicylic acid makes it a good cleansing and whitening agent while niacinamide helps restore the skin barrier and block the exposed pores.

For best results, therefore, first apply salicylic acid – after you’ve cleansed your skin of course. Then wait for about half an hour for it to work. Rinse the area and then apply niacinamide which will counter the dryness caused by salicylic acid and reduce skin irritation. Finish up your routine with moisturiser and sunscreen. 

How to use Salicylic Acid with Niacinamide together

That is if you are using both together. You can also consider using niacinamide and salicylic on alternate days or at different times during the day. You should also bear in mind the concentration levels of salicylic acid and niacinamide.

Over-the-counter products containing salicylic acid typically use lower concentrations. While higher concentrations are more effective it is important to remember that not all skins have the same tolerance for irritants.

As far as niacinamide is concerned, concentrations of over 5% may cause some irritation. So it’s a good idea to check product labels for concentration levels before you buy them.


So, Can you use niacinamide with salicylic acid? Absolutely! All you’ve got to do is take a little precaution to maintain your skin pH. Once you’ve got that, you can enjoy the multitude of benefits this powerful combo brings from pore-cleaning to skin brightening. If you have oily skin that is prone to eruptions, this powerhouse of salicylic acid and niacinamide is a must-have.

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