Can You Use Niacinamide With Salicylic Acid?

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Should I apply niacinamide or salicylic acid first?

Niacinamide and Salicylic Acid are two skincare incredible skincare ingredients that can offer a wide range of benefits for almost everyone. But with so many different products and ingredients, it can be hard to figure out how to layer and mix everything. Can you use niacinamide and salicylic acid together? In this blog post, we’ll cover the benefits of using niacinamide and salicylic acid together, and how to do it correctly!

What Is Niacinamide And What Are The Benefits?

Niacinamide is a multi-purpose ingredient that has quickly become one of the most popular skincare ingredients in the last few years. And for very good reason. Niacinamide is a multi-tasking ingredient that’s suitable for all skin types and can help to target a number of skin issues.

Niacinamide is a form of vitamin B3 that works by inhibiting melanosome transfer from melanocytes to keratinocytes. In layman’s terms, this vitamin prevents hyperpigmentation by stopping the transfer of pigment-producing enzymes to skin cells where hyperpigmentation begins. Side note: this is why products with niacinamide can also lighten dark spots and treat melasma.

It’s also been shown that it can help reduce signs of aging like fine lines and wrinkes.

But that’s not all! Niacinamide can also help to protect the skin against free radicals, strengthen the skin barrier, reduce inflammation, improve elasticity, and increase ceramide levels.

And for all you oily skin and acne-prone skin folks, niacinamide is the ingredient for you! It can help to reduce sebum (oil) production, minimize pores and kill acne causing bacteria.

  • Anti-inflammatory – Niacinamide is a great anti-inflammatory ingredient that can reduce redness and irritation from acne or sensitive skin. It also helps to calm acne breakouts, rosacea and other inflammatory skin conditions
  • Antioxidant – Niacinamide is an incredible antioxidant that can help to protect the skin against free radical damage
  • Strengthens skin’s barrier – Niacinamide is known for its ability to strengthen the skin’s barrier which can prevent transepidermal water loss that leads to dehydrated and dry skin. A healthy skin barrier is essential for healthy skin
  • Fades hyperpigmentation – Niacinamide can help to fade the appearance of hyperpigmentation scars and dark spots and other pigmentation issues by inhibiting melanosome transfer from melanocytes (essentially it stops pigment from forming)
  • Minimizes pores – it’s known for its ability to minimize and reduce the look of large pores. It does so keeping the skin hydrated which can diminish the look of texture and pores
  • Regulates oil production – Niacinamide can be used to balance the production of sebum/oil in the skin making it perfect for those with oily, combination and acne-prone skin types. It’s also great for those who struggle with excess oil on their t-zone or other parts of their face
  • Helps acne – because niacinamide can reduce oil production, it can help to reduce acne. It also has anti-inflammatory properties which can decrease the size and swelling of blemishes as well as reduce redness
  • Smooths fine lines & wrinkles – Niacinamide can help to treat and improve the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles in aging skin. It does so by stimulating collagen production which gives the skin a plumper appearance
  • Increases hydration – niacinamide can help to increase the skin’s moisture levels which prevents transepidermal water loss. This is especially great for those with dry, dehydrated or mature skin types

What Is Salicylic Acid And What Are The Benefits?

Salicylic Acid is a Beta Hydroxy Acid (also known as BHA) that is often used for it’s exfoliating properties and ability to penetrate and clear clogged pores.

Like other chemical exfoliants, salicylic acid helps to exfoliate the top layer of skin to remove any dead skin cells. This helps to smooth texture and reduce clogged pores.

It’s commonly found in products targeted toward oily skin types, as well as acne prone skin because salicylic acid is oil soluble and can penetrate through the oil and travel deeper into the pore to remove any impurities and kill acne causing bacteria.

Salicylic acid is also a potent anti-inflammatory agent that can reduce the appearance of redness and calm irritated skin, which means those pesky, red pimples can really benefit from salicylic acid in your routine!

Salicylic acid is mainly derived from Willow Bark, but can also be derived from other plants as well.

  • Treats active acne – salicylic acid has anti-inflammatory properties which helps to decrease inflammation associated with pimples and can help to heal them quicker
  • Prevents acne – BHA can treat active acne, but it also prevents new acne from forming by killing acne causing bacteria, balancing oil production and unclogging pores. It’s a comedolytic agent which means it prevents comedolytic acne like blackheads or closed comedones
  • Smooths skin – salicylic acid is a keratolytic agent which means it can break down the outer layer of dead skin. This can help with closed comedones and smooth out rough skin texture
  • Decreases oil production – BHA’s are known for their ability to help regulate and balance oil production. They do so by regulating sebocytes which are the cells that produce the sebum/oil in your skin
  • Minimizes pores – keeping pores clean can help them appear smaller

So How Do Niacinamide And Salicylic Acid Work Together?

how to layer niacinamide with salicylic acid

Niacinamide and salicylic acid work in complete harmony when used together, which is why they’re often found in skincare products targeting acne and blemish prone skin.

When it comes to oily and acne-prone skin, salicylic acid and niacinamide can make the perfect anti-acne duo.

Salicylic acid helps to unclog pores and exfoliate the skin, while niacinamide helps to fade hyperpigmentation and reduce pore size. Both ingredients help to kill acne causing bacteria, regulate oil production and reduce redness and inflammation associated with pimples.

Can You Use Niacinamide With Salicylic Acid?

So, now that we know all about these ingredients and how they make make the ultimate acne-fighting combo, can you use niacinamide with salicylic acid in your routine?

The good news is that yes, you can use niacinamide and salicylic acid together, but with one little caveat. And that has to do with timing of application when you are using them one after another in your routine.

A Note About pH Of Actives

Niacinamide and salicylic acid are both considered “actives” in the skincare world. Actives usually have a pH that they work best at.

optimal pf of salicylic acid and niacinamide

For salicylic acid, it works best at a pH of 3-4.

Niacinamide works best around 6.

So, the issue is when you apply you salicylic acid product, it temporarily lowers the pH of your skin. Which is completely normal and that’s just what needs to happen for it to work on your skin.

Why pH Matters

But the issue is that when you apply your Niacinamide on top, while the pH of your skin is much lower than Niacinamide’s optimal pH of 6, this can cause the product to become less effective and even cause some serious flushing (temporarily). The flushing occurs when the niacinamide’s pH is lowered and it’s then converted into niacin, which causing what’s known as the niacin flush.

On the other hand, the niacinamide will raise the pH of the salicylic acid, which causes it to be less effective.

So, if you want to use salicylic acid and niacinamide together, it’s best to space them out. Now there are a few ways you can do this, which we will get into below.

Using Niacinamide With Salicylic Acid In Your Routine

layering niacinamide with salicylic acid

The safest to options (to avoid any flushing or weakening of the ingredients) are to space out the time or day you use each ingredient.

For example, you could use salicylic acid in the morning and then niacinamide in the evening parts of your routine. Or you can alternate days you use each – salicylic acid one day, niacinamide the next, etc.

So, can you layer salicylic acid and niacinamide? If you want to keep things as simple as possible, you can still use both niacinamide and salicylic acid together at the same time, but you’ll need to space them out slightly.

Since BHA’s optimal pH is lower than that of Niacinamide, you’ll need to apply that first, then wait at least 30 minutes (1 hour to be extra safe) before applying your niacinamide product on top.

The time allows for your skin’s pH to return to a more optimal level that’s close to the pH of niacinamide. This helps to keep both actives doing their thing and reduces the risk of flushing.

It’s also important to note that there are some products on the market that have both niacinamide and salicylic acid in them. While it’s totally fine to use a product like this, just keep in mind that these two ingredients both have optimal pH’s they work best at. So these combination products likely don’t have the right pH for both products to be as effective. That’s not to say they aren’t effective, but they just aren’t as effective as they would be if you were using two separate products (like a BHA serum and a Niacinamide serum).

Can You Use Niacinamide With Salicylic Acid: FAQ’s

Should I Use Niacinamide Or Salicylic Acid First?

Because salicylic acid has a lower pH, you’ll need to apply that first before your niacinamide. Additionally, acids like BHA or AHA’s work best when applied before anything else (such as other serums or toners). In general, you want actives to be applied on bare skin for optimal efficacy.

Can You Use Niacinamide With Salicylic Acid Cleanser?

Absolutely! A cleanser with salicylic acid is considered a wash off product, meaning it does its thing, you rinse it off and there’s no longer salicylic acid sitting on your skin. You’re free to go in and apply you niacinamide product like normal!

Cleansers also have a higher pH than a salicylic acid serum does, so the pH of your skin after cleansing won’t be as low as it would be had you just applied a regular BHA.

Can You Use Niacinamide With Salicylic Acid Mask?

Yes you can! A masque is a wash-off product so once you leave it on and let it work, you’ll either rinse or wash it off the skin. A mask won’t affect the pH of your skin as much, so you can apply your niacinamide after rinsing off the mask.

Can I Use Niacinamide With Salicylic Acid Toner?

Yep! A toner is meant to lower your skin’s pH back to its normal range (cleansing slightly raises your skin’s pH) and if the toner has any AHA’s or BHA’s, it will likely lower it even more. You can still use Niacinamide with a BHA toner, but just be sure to wait about 30 minutes before applying the niacinamide on top.

Can I use Niacinamide with Salicylic Acid Moisturizer?

Yes you can and it’s completely fine to do so. A moisturizer (even if it contains BHA) will not have a low pH like a salicylic acid serum does, so it’s completely fine to use a niacinamide serum and layer it with a salicylic acid moisturizer (or vice versa).

What Happens If You Mix Niacinamide And Salicylic Acid?

Although you can mix niacinamide and salicylic acid, it’s probably not the best idea. Because these two ingredients work at different pH’s, when they combine they are no longer at their optimal pH, which means they become less effective and cannot do their job as well. Additionally, as we talked about earlier, when the pH of niacinamide is lowered, it can cause flushing (redness) of the skin that can sometimes last for a few hours.

Can I Use Salicylic Acid With Niacinamide And Hyaluronic Acid?

Yes you can! Luckily, hyaluronic acid is not an active ingredient so you don’t have to worry about mixing it with other products. You can add in your hyaluronic acid serum anywhere in your routine and be A-ok.

Should You Use Both Niacinamide And Salicylic Acid?

Believe it or not, you don’t have to choose between niacinamide or salicylic acid! Both ingredients can safely be used together and create quite the powerful duo! Niacinamide and Salicylic acid are great ingredients for those with oily and acne prone skin types. And when combined? You get even more acne fighting and oil controlling powers. So if you ask me, you should definitely be using both niacinamide and salicylic acid together (safely of course!).

Best Niacinamide Products

Paula’s Choice CLINICAL Niacinamide 20% Treatment

Why We Love It

A super concentrated Niacinamide serum with a whopping 20% Niacinamide to help control oil production, minimize pores, smooth texture and fight acne like nobody’s business. It’s one of the most highly concentrated Niacinamide products on the market.

Ingredients We Love

  • Niacinamide
  • Allantoin
  • Green Tea
  • Glycerin

Notes: Cruelty-free, fragrance free

Glossier Super Pure Niacinamide + Zinc Serum

Why We Love It

A power-packed hydrating gel-serum to help reduce oil production, minimize pores, brighten the skin, calm redness and irritation and leave skin hydrated without feelin greasy.

Ingredients We Love

  • Niacinamide
  • Allantoin
  • Hyaluronic Acid
  • Zinc PCA

Notes: Cruelty-free, fragrance free

Good Molecules Niacinamide Brightening Toner

Why We Love It

A lightweight, brightening toner packed with ingredients to even skin tone, fade hyperpigmentation and acne scarring, plus hydrating ingredients to provide lightweight moisture.

Ingredients We Love

  • Niacinamide
  • Vitamin C
  • Licorice Root
  • Hyaluronic Acid
  • Arbutin

Notes: Cruelty-free, fragrance free

The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%

Why We Love It

A powerful combo of 10% Niacinamide and Zinc PCA that helps to regulate oil production, kill acne causing bacteria, minimize pores and brighten the skin. It’s incredibly affordable and is a cult-favorite for a reason.

Ingredients We Love

  • Niacinamide 10%
  • Zinc PCA

Notes: Cruelty-free, fragrance free

Best Salicylic Acid Products

Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant

Why We Love It

A cult-favorite BHA liquid that sweeps away dead skin cells and pore-clogging impurities for clearer, brighter and smoother skin. Plus hydrating and soothing ingredients to avoid over-exfoliation or irritation

Ingredients We Love

  • Salicylic Acid
  • Green Tea
  • Methylpropanediol

Notes: Cruelty-free, fragrance free

The Inkey List Beta Hydroxy Acid (BHA) Blemish + Blackhead Serum

Why We Love It

An oil-busting serum with BHA and Zinc to reduce excess oil production, unclog and minimize pores and smooth skin texture. Hyaluronic acid helps to instantly plump the skin and keep skin from getting dry.

Ingredients We Love

  • Salicylic Acid
  • Zinc PCA
  • Hyaluronic Acid

Notes: Cruelty-free, fragrance free

Farmacy Deep Sweep 2% BHA Pore Cleaning Toner with Moringa + Papaya

Why We Love It

An gentle, exfoliating toner that helps to smooth skin texture, brighten and clarify. Papaya enzymes and BHA smooth texture and unclog pores while Glycerin and other plant extracts soothe, hydrate and refresh the skin.

Ingredients We Love

  • Salicylic Acid
  • Papaya Enzymes
  • Moringa Seed Extract

Notes: Cruelty-free, fragrance free

Naturium BHA Liquid Exfoliant 2%

Why We Love It

BHA and fruit extracts combine to exfoliate away dead skin, smooth texture and unclog pores to fight acne and discolorations. This non-drying formula leaves skin soft, brighter and clear.

Ingredients We Love

  • Salicylic Acid
  • Fruit extracts
  • Glycerin

Notes: Cruelty-free, vegan, fragrance free

Salicylic Acid And Niacinamide Together: Wrap Up

If you’re looking for a way to improve your skin and manage acne, niacinamide and salicylic acid may be the perfect combination. The two ingredients can help balance oil production, minimize pores and treat acne without drying out or irritating your skin. But if you want this treatment duo to work at its best, it’s important that you space them out in your skincare routine so they don’t overlap with each other and cause flushing or cause one another to be less effective.

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