Can You Mix Niacinamide With Salicylic Acid?

Niacinamide and salicylic acid are one of the best skincare combination that can help improve issues such as excessive oiliness, inflammation, and acne, as well as some mild hyperpigmentation; therefore, yes, you can totally mix them together and use them in the same skincare routine multiple times a week.

However, as always, even though these two actives are very gentle and relatively easy to use and tolerate, you still need to be aware that potential side effects may occur.

Therefore, in this article, we will talk about the benefits and risks of using niacinamide and salicylic acid together as well as how to properly combine them for best results and no unwanted reactions.

Can You Mix Niacinamide With Salicylic Acid - The Skincare Culture

NB: If you’re someone with oily/acne-prone skin, you need my new book “The Ingredients Handbook for Acne-Prone Skin“. Download it here.

How Does Niacinamide Work?

Niacinamide Benefits for Oily Skin - The Skincare Culture

Niacinamide, or vitamin B3, is an incredibly efficient anti-inflammatory ingredient found in many skincare products from cleansers, serums, moisturizers, and even sunscreens.

Vitamin B3 is also an essential nutrient for your body, and some reports suggest vitamin B3 deficiency can lead to various disorders of the skin as well as kidneys and brain.

While topically applied niacinamide won’t do anything for your kidneys and brain function, it can still help balance the skin function and prevent some inflammatory conditions.

Niacinamide is ideal for treating blemishes caused by inflammation due to its anti-inflammatory properties and can suppress the skin’s inflammatory response to calm redness, sores, and even rashes.

Niacinamide also encourages the production of ceramides which are an important part of a strong skin barrier and are an essential component when it comes to preventing moisture loss and irritation.

Lastly, niacinamide inhibits melanosome transfer from the pigment-producing cells to skin cells, which means it will stop the uneven deposition of pigment on a cellular level and help brighten hyperpigmentation on the skin’s surface.

Some benefits of using niacinamide include:

  • Balanced oil production.
  • Normalized skin function.
  • Less inflammation and irritation on the skin.
  • Improved acne breakouts.
  • Hydration and softness.

RELATED: Can You Mix Niacinamide with Benzoyl Peroxide?

How Does Salicylic Acid Work?

2% Salicylic Acid Cleanser – The Skincare Culture

Salicylic acid is a very basic ingredient with a straightforward action but can help address several skin concerns with regular use.

Salicylic acid is a BHA and an oil-soluble ingredient that can cut through the superficial skin oil and travel deeper into the pores, where it will dissolve the gunk made up of dead skin cells, white blood cells, oil, and other cellular debris, that’s causing a stiff clog.

This will, in turn, allow for our natural oil to flow freely out of the pores instead of remaining stuck inside and causing issues such as blackheads and acne.

Salicylic acid is truly an amazing ingredient; however, the catch with it is that you have to continue using it to continue seeing results as your skin is likely to come back to the same old if you stop using it for a longer period of time.

Some benefits of using salicylic acid include:

  • Instantly soothes inflammation on the skin.
  • Cuts through the surface oil and deeply cleanses congested pores.
  • Makes the pores appear smaller and clear.
  • Can clear even moderate to severe acne breakouts.
  • Dissolves blackheads and sebaceous filaments.
  • Soothes deeply inflamed cysts and picked spots.

RELATED: Can You Mix Salicylic Acid With Benzoyl Peroxide?

Benefits of Using Niacinamide with Salicylic Acid

Both niacinamide and salicylic acid are useful against acne.

When using them together to address this particular condition, niacinamide will be the ingredient that’ll balance out oil production, strengthen the skin barrier, and thus minimize inflammation, while salicylic acid will travel deeper into the pores and dissolve the gunk that’s causing a clog and leads to acne.

After a certain time of being consistent with using niacinamide and salicylic acid, you should expect to see drastically subsided acne breakouts, brightened and evened out skin tone, smoother texture, decreased signs of redness and irritation, and a healthier, more uniform complexion.

RELATED: Best Niacinamide Serums Under $30.

How to Use Niacinamide with Salicylic Acid?

How to Use Niacinamide with Salicylic Acid - The Skincare Culture

When using niacinamide with salicylic acid, it’s best to opt for products that contain a low concentration of both ingredients.

For example, a standard over-the-counter salicylic acid product contains 2% of the active ingredient while niacinamide can go all the way up to 20%, which can be a little intense since it’s been proven that niacinamide is very efficient at concentrations as low as 4%.

It’s also important to note that you should always watch out for signs of irritation.

Although both ingredients are safe and relatively well-tolerated by all skin types, you shouldn’t exclude the possibility of irritation that can occur by overusing these actives.

Therefore, alongside using low concentration products, it’s also best to use them in the evenings with a day or two break in between.

Exfoliating daily isn’t a good idea in the long run, and while it may give immediate results of suppleness, brightness, and evened-out complexion, continuing to use it daily will most likely result in irritation in as little as two weeks.

As for the order of using them, you should always use exfoliating products right after cleansing on clean skin and leave them to act for anywhere between 2-5 minutes.

Once the exfoliating solution is fully dried, you should then dampen the skin by spraying a little bit of thermal water and apply a small, pea-sized amount of niacinamide on damp (not wet) skin.

You can also use a salicylic acid after cleansing and follow it up with a moisturizer that contains niacinamide, such as EltaMD PM Therapy Facial Moisturizer or CeraVe PM Oil-Free Moisturizer.

Risks of Mixing Niacinamide With Salicylic Acid

As with any other active ingredient, the risk of potential irritation is present when mixing niacinamide with salicylic acid.

Bear in mind that if a reaction occurs, it will most probably be due to the strength and frequency of using both products.

For example, the risk of irritation or any other side effects such as peeling and dryness would be much smaller if you use mild strength niacinamide instead of going directly for a 10% serum.

On the other hand, using an exfoliator, especially a strong one such as 2% salicylic acid daily, can definitely lead to over-exfoliated skin.

Over-exfoliated skin usually shows signs of irritation quickly, and it starts by becoming red, itchy, painful, and irritated when applying certain products.

Once past that phase, over-exfoliated skin will likely continue to show irritations even when splashing your face with plain water.

This is a sign that you are overusing an exfoliating active and that you should definitely tone it down a little bit or, even better: cut it out of your routine for a couple of weeks until your skin strengthens and repairs itself.

OILY SKIN PRONE TO CONSTANT ACNE-BREAKOUTS?

simone sydel licensed esthetician

I've coached hundreds of clients just like you helping them tame their oily and acne-prone skin.


I've had my battle with acne. I know what it's like when your skin seems to be conspiring against you


The good news is, I can now show how to manage it!


My new book will help you understand your skin better so you can make informed decisions about what products would work best for your specific needs.

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