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Can I Use Salicylic Acid and Niacinamide Together?

By Kaitlyn McNab, she/her

On their own, niacinamide and salicylic acid are superstar ingredients. Salicylic acid is a tried-and-true go-to for breaking down excess oil and sebum, and niacinamide is a popular quadruple threat that tightens pores, reduces inflammation, restores the skin barrier, and regulates oil production. Everyone loves when two icons link up, but sometimes, too much star power can be overwhelming. Here’s the good news: according to Dee Leung, Youth To The People’s Sales + Education Executive, this dynamic duo safely delivers. 

Niacinamide and salicylic acid paired together are ideal for people battling breakouts,” says Leung. “The salicylic acid removes and prevents future congestion and also balances oil production, while niacinamide repairs the damage created from a breakout while also strengthening the protective barrier to prevent future damage.” 

The effortless compatibility of these two ingredients is what makes for their uber-efficient results—they are more powerful together. Enlarged pores and breakouts are results of congestion: dead skin cells, oil, and impurities within the pores. Salicylic acid is a beta-hydroxy-acid (BHA) that is oil soluble, a property that allows it to penetrate and exfoliate at a deeper level. Niacinamide is a (deservedly!) trending ingredient lauded for its simultaneous brightening and restorative properties. 

“Niacinamide is a skincare powerhouse,” says Leung. “It’s a derivative of vitamin B3 which our bodies produce to grow new cells and repair damaged ones. BHAs are most commonly found in products focused on resolving acne, and niacinamide is most often found in toners and serums. These ingredients create an ideal partnership.”

Both ingredients appear in YTTP’s new Superclay Purify + Clear Power Mask, working together to supercharge clarifying results for all skin types, but especially oily, combination, and acne-prone skin. 

“Salicylic acid does the heavy lifting of exfoliating, unclogging pores, and keeping them clean,” Leung says. “Though a pore will never decrease in size, the cleaner the pore, the less noticeable it will be. The 2% niacinamide repairs visual damage on the skin’s surface, while decreasing inflammation and repairing the protective barrier. A strong, healthy barrier maintains hydration resulting in supple, smooth, and resilient skin. Together these ingredients repair the damage of the past and set the skin up for future success.”

It’s hard to believe that such potent ingredients could still be gentle, but that’s what makes this combo unique. The BHA dives deep to break down stubborn, built-up congestion while niacinamide acts as fuel for skin cells to repair and regrow on the heels of any trauma that breakouts may have caused. Using products that contain both ingredients ensures a pH-balanced formulation and reduces some of the guesswork of layering products to achieve desired results. 

While it’s safe to use salicylic acid and niacinamide together, Leung advises that it’s best not to combine BHAs with other exfoliants or retinol. “Niacinamide is relatively non-irritating when paired with actives, but when we apply ingredients like AHA or BHAs, we need to give the skin the opportunity to use them. Over-application will lead to a disrupted barrier, irritation, and problems can snowball from there.” 

Written by Kaitlyn McNab for Youth To The People