Can You Use Salicylic Acid with Retinol Together?

Can You Use Salicylic Acid with Retinol Together?

If you have oily skin with acne.

Welcome to the world of salicylic acid and Retinol.

But the question is- can you use salicylic acid with retinol together?


Well, it’s a describable answer. First, you have to know the basic principle of salicylic acid and retinol.

These two powerful ingredients are very popular for their acne-fighting properties. you may have heard that- they don’t work well with each other or you need to choose one or the other.

But is the statement really true?

In this post, you will learn How to use salicylic acid and retinol together and how to incorporate them into the skincare routine to address your unique needs.

Let’s dive in

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What Does Salicylic Acid Do for Your Skin?

Salicylic acid is a member of the Beta Hydroxy Acid family which is shortly known as BHA.

It is an oil-soluble exfoliant that can weaken the bond between the cells and works by removing excess oil and dead skin cells trapped in the pores.

That’s why salicylic acid is incredibly best for oily, acne-prone skin.

Here’s what salicylic acid does for your skin:

It can exfoliate skin: BHA is like all chemical exfoliants- it can loosen the bonds that stick the skin cells together so that, they can be easily shed away and this is how salicylic acid prevents acne.

It can reduce excess oil: it can regulate oil glands that produce excess sebum.

It can unclog pores: clogged pores happen when dead skin cells, excess oil, and p.acne bacteria are trapped in the pores.

salicylic acid can unclog pores by removing excess sebum, reducing bacteria, and sloughing away dead skin cells.

It can reduce inflammation: it has mild anti-inflammatory properties that can reduce swelling and redness that comes along with inflamed pimples.

What Does Retinol Do for Your Skin?

Retinol is a powerful ingredient derivative of Vitamin A one of the most effective and popular skincare tools to use against aging skin and acne.

The active form of Vitamin A(Retinoic acid) can be used only in prescription grades but milder ones like Retinol are available over the counter.

Here’s what retinol does for your skin:

It is the only thing proven to reduce wrinkles and fine lines caused by whether natural or sun damage…

Speed up cellular turnover.

Increase collagen( A protein that keeps skin thickened and firm) production.

Helps treat acne and acne scars.

Fade hyperpigmentation and PIH.

Should You Use Both Salicylic Acid and Retinol?

The simpler answer is, yes, if you struggling with acne alongside aging skin, you should definitely choose retinol with salicylic acid.

The Real Reason You Should NOT Be Using Retinol And Salicylic Acid Together

what happens when you mix both salicylic acid and retinol together? Here’s a reason why they shouldn’t use at the same time:

Can You Use Salicylic Acid with Retinol Together

Reason#1:It can increase the risk of skin irritation

We know How strong it is and gives tons of benefits to the skin both ingredients are, But it doesn’t mean you should use them together.

When you combine two potent acne-fighting ingredients, there’s a greater chance to cause irritation.

The reason is– Both salicylic acid and retinol have a reputation to be drying, especially, if you have sensitive skin and have just started your treatment and your skin hasn’t built up a tolerance to using them together.

So, applying them together can disrupt your skin barrier and leave your skin flaky, dry, and inflamed.

Reason#2:It can decrease the absorption of salicylic acid

Salicylic acid is formulated at a low pH of about pH of 3.12 to work better on the skin,

Research has shown that the higher the pH, the less the skin absorbs meaning when a product is formulated with lower pH, chances are increased to be absorbed by the skin better.

On the contrary, retinol is converted into retinoic acid when reaches the skin to work its magic. And it works better at higher pH at about 6.5.

So, Retinol has a higher pH. when you mix the two components together, retinol increases the pH of Salicylic acid and it becomes less acidic,

For this reason, the skin will not absorb it as well and this process inhibits the functioning of salicylic acid and retinol on their own.

How To Use Retinol And Salicylic Acid Together

Apply Salicylic Acid and Retinol on Alternate Nights 

I recommend using them on alternate days.

One of the effective and less irritating ways to incorporate them into your routine on different nights.

For Example, one night you would apply salicylic acid on the skin but before using it make sure you cleanse your skin with a cleanser first.

And the next night you can apply the Retinol.

You can use them in another way too by changing the frequency according to your goal and what is the tolerance level of your skin is.

Here’s the routine you can follow:

  • Use Salicylic acid and Retinol on alternate days.
  • apply salicylic acid for two nights and retinol on the third night.
  • Use Retinol for two nights and salicylic acid on the third night.
  • Apply Retinol once a week if you have super sensitive skin.

Apply Salicylic Acid in the AM and Retinol in the PM

Can You Use Salicylic Acid with Retinol Together?
Can You Use Salicylic Acid with Retinol Together?

Another option to use them together in skin care is to apply them on the same day but at different times.

The dermatologist recommended using retinol at night time only. Why?

Here is the verdict: Retinol makes the skin sensitive to the sun and decreases the efficacy of the product.

So, be mindful while using retinol.

On the other hand, add salicylic acid during day time skincare regimen.

But don’t forget to apply enough SPF to protect your face.

Start using salicylic acid and retinol in small doses:

Start adding them into your skincare routine slowly both concentration and frequency-wise.

Especially I talk about retinol because it can cause irritation, redness, and excessive dryness.

That’s why to reduce the risk of irritation, and any side effects, start adding it to your routine small concentration and once per week at first.

After then, the more your skin can build up a tolerance, the more you can increase the frequency of the product.

Yes, small concentration and lower frequency can’t give you faster results. But after all, you won’t get a better result if you damage your skin. right?

The Best Salicylic Acids to Try:

  • Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid 
  • The Inkey List Beta Hydroxy Acid
  • The Ordinary Salicylic Acid 2% Solution
  • Farmacy Deep Sweep 2% BHA Pore Cleaning Toner
  • COSRX BHA Blackhead Power Liquid

The Best Retinols to Try:

  • Paula’s Choice Resist Wrinkle Repair Retinol Serum
  • Skinceuticals Retinol 0.3 Night Cream
  • First Aid Beauty FAB Skin Lab Retinol Serum
  • Shani Darden Retinol Reform
Can You Use Salicylic Acid with Retinol Together?
Can You Use Salicylic Acid with Retinol Together?

Final Words: Can You Use Salicylic Acid with Retinol Together?

Salicylic acid and retinol both are well-known ingredients for oily and acne-prone skin.

They can prevent breakouts speeding up the skin’s natural exfoliation process and removing dirt and grime that build up the pores. they unclog the pore from within. How they can prevent acne and pimple.

Both can show some mild side effects when used together.

If you want to add them to your skincare routine, the best way to use them is on

alternate nights.

If you have any question, please Let me know the comment below…

Take Love


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