Salicylic Acid Willow Bark and Niacinamide ingredients are combined in SLMD Skincare

How to Combine Salicylic Acid & Niacinamide in Your Skincare Routine

Learn how to make the most out of this potent power couple.


3 minute read

Salicylic acid and niacinamide are two of the most talked-about skincare ingredients today. Though each is a superstar in its own right, this anti-aging power couple also works in tandem to battle dullness and strengthen your skin barrier. Here’s a closer look at these two potent ingredients — and how to make the most out of pairing them.


How does salicylic acid benefit skin?

This oil-soluble beta hydroxy acid (BHA), is renowned not only for its ability to penetrate deeply into pores but also for its calming effects — since it contains the same active ingredient as aspirin.

  • Exfoliation: helps remove dead skin cells, promoting cell renewal, which can prevent pore clogging and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH)
  • Anti-inflammatory: reduces the redness and swelling that can come with acne and other skin irritations, making it excellent for sensitive skin types
  • Oil control: helps control oiliness and shine by regulating sebum production, contributing to clearer skin
  • Anti-aging: can improve skin texture and diminish signs of aging, such as dark spots, wrinkles and skin dullness

Why is niacinamide good for skin?

Niacinamide, or vitamin B3, is a versatile and gentle ingredient suited for almost all skin types and a wide array of skin concerns.

  • Reduces redness: anti-inflammatory properties can significantly reduce redness and blotchiness
  • Improves skin barrier: enhances the skin’s natural barrier, increasing resilience and moisture retention
  • Brightening effects: helps to even out skin tone by reducing hyperpigmentation and regulating oil production for a smoother, clearer complexion
  • Antioxidant effects: protects against environmental damage like UV rays and pollution, preventing collagen degradation and skin aging

Dr. Pimple Popper's Salicylic Acid & Niacinamide Picks

What are the benefits of combining salicylic acid and niacinamide?

Pairing salicylic acid and niacinamide in your skincare regimen can lead to remarkable improvements in skin health and appearance. Here are five compelling reasons why combining these two powerhouse ingredients could be beneficial for your skin:

#1 Refining and fortifying

Salicylic acid’s deep exfoliating capabilities work seamlessly with niacinamide's skin-strengthening effects to maintain healthy, balanced skin.

#2 Diminishing fine lines and wrinkles

Together, these ingredients promote skin renewal. Salicylic acid facilitates the shedding of surface cells, while niacinamide improves skin elasticity, effectively reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.

#3 Reducing hyperpigmentation

Niacinamide is known for its ability to lighten skin discolorations and even out skin tone, which is complemented by salicylic acid’s ability to enhance this effect by removing the outermost layers of skin.

#4 Soothing inflammation and redness

Both ingredients have anti-inflammatory properties that help to calm the skin and reduce redness, making this combination ideal for sensitive skin prone to irritation.

#5 Minimizing pores

Salicylic acid helps clear out clogged pores, while niacinamide improves skin texture and regulates oil production. You can’t “shrink” your pores, but this can make them look less noticeable.

How to layer salicylic acid and niacinamide

Layering salicylic acid and niacinamide correctly can maximize the benefits of both ingredients without overwhelming your skin. Here’s how to effectively incorporate these powerful actives into your skincare regimen:

  • Sequential application. Begin your routine with salicylic acid to cleanse and exfoliate the skin, which helps clear the way for better absorption of subsequent products (try: SLMD Salicylic Acid Cleanser). Afterwards, apply niacinamide to soothe and repair the skin. This order ensures that each ingredient functions optimally without interference.
  • Adjust for your skin. if you notice your skin becomes sensitive with daily use of both products, consider alternating between salicylic acid one day and niacinamide the next. This strategy helps manage sensitivity while still delivering the benefits of both ingredients.
  • Patch test. If you have sensitive skin, always perform a patch test with new skincare products, particularly when introducing active ingredients like salicylic acid and niacinamide. Apply a small amount to your skin in a discrete area and monitor for any adverse reactions over 24 hours before applying more broadly.
Dr Sandra Lee

Dr. Lee's Last Word

Salicylic acid is one of my favorite dermatological ingredients — because those same exfoliating and anti-inflammatory benefits are effective for managing acne and addressing the signs of aging. And when you combine that with niacinamide — a potent antioxidant that improves skin texture and tone — you’re going to see even more improvement.


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