Can You Use Salicylic Acid With Retinol?

When you have conflicting skin concerns or simply want the most from your daily skin care regimen, you look for products with specific ingredients that have proven benefits. Two highly popular and potent ingredients for reducing clogged pores and tightening the appearance of skin are salicylic acid and retinol, respectively.

However, as both chemicals are powerful ingredients, many people wonder if they’re safe to use in the same routine. Or, given their different benefits, whether they might cancel each other out or not work properly when used in tandem. We’ll fill you in on how to use salicylic acid and retinol for the best routine and best-looking skin.

What is Salicylic Acid Used For?

In skincare products, acids such as salicylic acid serve a few key purposes. First, they kill bacteria that cause infections or breakouts. Second, they help cleanse the skin by dissolving dead skin cells and removing oil trapped in the pores or on the surface of skin. Finally, many alpha hydroxy acids and beta hydroxy acids are anti-inflammatory, which can help reduce the appearance of redness or skin irritation.

The people who most often benefit from salicylic acid (a beta hydroxy acid, by the way), are those with acne-prone skin or oily skin types who need deep cleansing properties from their skincare products. People with sensitive skin may or may not benefit from the anti-inflammatory effect of salicylic acid, depending on what makes their skin sensitive and the degree of sensitivity. Different formulas may also have inactive or other active ingredients with salicylic acid that can cause irritation or other reactions.

What is Retinol?

Retinol is perhaps best known for its anti-aging properties. There are actually several forms of retinol, which itself is a derivative of Vitamin A, that all tend to have a similar reaction in the skin. When applied topically, retinoids break down into retinoic acid. This compound binds to skin cells and signals for a few different effects. First, it helps to exfoliate the skin, helping refresh the surface of skin more often, leading to the improvement of the overall look of your skin.

Next, retinol has been known to enhance collagen production, which helps the skin appear more plump and youthful. With more collagen, the fewer and less noticeable wrinkles or uneven texture.

Retinol is popular but not for everyone. With more potent formulas, people might experience side effects like redness, peeling, or other reactions, especially when first trying it out. You can avoid these by using less product, switching to a lower-potency formula, or decreasing the frequency of use.

How to Use Retinol and Salicylic Acid Together

If you’re lucky and can handle both ingredients on their own, you can try combining them during your skincare routine. Pay attention to how your skin looks and feels both immediately after changing your routine as well as the days that follow to make sure you don’t experience negative side effects.

When using both retinol and salicylic acid in your routine, most people recommend applying the salicylic acid treatment first. This is mostly due to its effect as an exfoliant, helping open up the pores and cleanse the skin so the retinol product is more easily absorbed.

Always end your routine with broad-spectrum sunscreen for the best protection, especially for sensitive skin or those who want to prevent the appearance of premature aging.

Epicuren Discovery’s Retinol and Salicylic Acid Products

At Epicuren Discovery, we’re always looking to enhance the lives of our customers with proven products and skin-concern-specific formulas. We use salicylic acid in popular products like our Clarify Cleanser, ideal for people looking to stop and help prevent the appearance of acne breakouts. You’ll find retinol in various strengths in our Epi Onyx line, or specifically emphasized in our Retinol Anti-Wrinkle Complex. Let us know how your skin looks and feels when you take your regimen up a level. Discover even more professional-grade skincare products by taking our Skin Quiz today.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is retinol safe?

Pure retinol is too harsh for direct application to the skin, but incorporating retinoids into skincare products has benefits for many skincare concerns.

Do you need to wear sunscreen when using retinol and salicylic acid?

Yes, because acids and retinol can make the skin more sensitive to UV damage, it’s important to wear sunscreen when you are using these types of products whenever you’re outside.

Can you use salicylic acid in the morning and retinol at night?

Sure! Depending on your specific desires, salicylic acid might be better off to start your day and retinol at night can give your sleeping skin some extra help in fighting the appearance of  wrinkles.

How long after using salicylic acid can you use retinol?

You should wait for your skin to fully absorb the salicylic acid solution before moving on to other parts of your skincare routine.

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