Niacinamide vs. Salicylic Acid: Which One Is Top for Skin Care?

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Niacinamide and salicylic acid are two topical skincare ingredients that are quickly making their way into everyone’s beauty regimen.

And it’s not hard to see why.

These two ingredients can be used on various skin types, and they offer several benefits to help you achieve younger, healthier, and clearer skin.

A woman is holding a makeup brush in her hand.

So which one is the best one for you?

We take a closer look at each one and see which works best for what, how to use each, how to use salicylic acid and niacinamide together, and why they should be a staple in your skincare routine.

What Exactly Is Niacinamide?

Niacinamide is a “do all” ingredient you can find in many beauty products because of its versatility and benefits.

Similar to facial acids like hyaluronic acid and glycolic acid, niacinamide is quickly becoming a go-to topical facial care product. But what is it exactly?

Niacinamide is a form of vitamin B3.

It’s gentle on the skin, water-soluble, and works with the other natural substances on the face to help improve your complexion, strengthen the skin barrier, and minimize pores.

It also helps treat acne and hyperpigmentation. Because it can help regulate oil production, niacinamide can improve your skin tone and help ensure your face stays clear and clean.

And because it’s water-soluble and gentle, everybody can use it.

6 Benefits of Niacinamide

Niacinamide is gentle on the skin and is a powerful skincare ingredient at the same time.

Here are some of the top benefits of adding niacinamide to your skincare routine.

It’s an Anti-inflammatory

Niacinamide is an anti-inflammatory that can reduce skin redness and soothe irritation caused by injury, environmental triggers, or acne.

It Strengthens the Skin’s Barrier

Niacinamide naturally strengthens and supports the skin’s natural barrier, ensuring it stays healthy and promoting better water retention.

It Regulates Oil Production

Niacinamide can help to regulate the amount of sebum produced by the sebaceous glands to prevent excessively oily skin or acne caused by clogged pores.

It Combats Acne

Because it can regulate oil production, combat inflammation, and prevent clogged pores, niacinamide is an effective treatment against acne.

It’s an Antioxidant

Using niacinamide can help protect your skin from free radicals and environmental damage from pollution and exposure to UV rays.

It Hydrates and Smoothens the Skin

Niacinamide can address dark spots and hyperpigmentation. It stimulates collagen production to combat fine lines and wrinkles.

Plus, it keeps the skin hydrated by preventing water loss.

Image of happy nice shirtless woman smiling and looking upward isolated over grey background

Who Should Use Niacinamide?

Since niacinamide is gentle, it can be used by everyone over 18 years old, regardless of skin type.

It’s often recommended for people with sensitive skin and those with skin problems like rosacea and hyperpigmentation.

However, those with sensitive skin should still do a patch test to be sure they don’t have an allergic reaction.

What Exactly is Salicylic Acid?

Salicylic acid is a beta hydroxy acid (BHA) that is naturally derived from willow bark and wintergreen leaves. Like niacinamide, it’s found in many skincare products.

Salicylic acid is an exfoliant and an excellent acne treatment that breaks apart the bonds that hold dead skin cells together so they can be shed and so healthy new skin can emerge.

It’s an oil-soluble acid. That means it can penetrate the pores deeply and clean and unclog them. This makes it an ideal candidate for those with oily skin.

So what else is salicylic acid good for? Alongside combating pimples and blackheads, it has many other powerful benefits.

a young girl putting salicylic serum on her finger tips before putting on her face happily

6 Benefits of Salicylic Acid

Salicylic acid is a powerful anti-acne ingredient. At the same time, it can also smoothen the skin, combat dark spots, and fight wrinkles.

Here are six benefits of using salicylic acid:

It’s Effective Against Acne

Because it is oil soluble and can penetrate the skin deeply, it’s excellent at clearing the pores. It also helps remove excess oil to prevent new breakouts, making it perfect for acne-prone skin.

Additionally, it helps decrease post-acne hyperpigmentation.

It’s an Excellent Exfoliant

It penetrates the skin’s protective barrier and breaks the bonds that hold dead skin cells together. This reaction allows the acid to exfoliate the skin and help remove dead skin cells.

It’s Antibacterial

Salicylic acid has an acidic pH level, which can help prevent bacteria and germs from growing. So goodbye to acne infections!

It Fights Wrinkles

Salicylic acid boosts natural collagen production, helping the skin fight signs of aging like wrinkles and fine lines. It’s also a keratolytic, which helps lighten dark and uneven spots.

It Reduces Inflammation

Salicylic acid is a BHA and has the same compound found in aspirin. This means it’s an anti-inflammatory that can reduce redness, swelling, and inflammation.

It Minimizes Pores

Salicylic acid unclogs the pores and removes dead skin cells on the outer layer of the skin.

Because it cleans so thoroughly, it minimizes the appearance of enlarged pores and keeps your complexion clear.

Who Should Use Salicylic Acid?

Young woman with acne problem applying serum on lilac background,

Salicylic acid can be used by all skin types, although studies have shown that the ones who benefit the most are those with oily skin and acne-prone skin.

While some salicylic acid serums are now made to be milder, it’s still a chemical exfoliant and can be a bit harsh for very dry skin.

If you have dry skin texture and still want to use salicylic acid, just be sure to use a mild formulation that’s safe to use and then pair it with a good moisturizer.

Salicylic Acid vs. Niacinamide: Which One is Better?

There is only one correct answer to this question. It’s not about which is better but which is better for what your skin needs.

If your skin is dry and you need something both mild and effective, something like niacinamide serum may be the perfect product.

On the flip side, a product like salicylic acid may be your best bet if you have oily skin.

Just because one is better suited to specific skin needs than the other doesn’t make it better. Each one is effective in its own way.

Having said that, there is also a benefit to using these two ingredients together.

Can You Use Niacinamide and Salicylic Acid Together?

Because of the benefits of salicylic acid and how niacinamide works, using them together is actually a great way to achieve clear and smooth skin.

If you use salicylic alone, you can reduce the breakouts, but you won’t have niacinamide’s ability to strengthen the surface of your skin and help you retain hydration.

The same is true for niacinamide alone. You can smoothen the skin, fight breakouts, and retain moisture.

However, you won’t get the thorough cleaning that salicylic can provide by going deep into your pores.

If you use salicylic acid and niacinamide together, their combined benefits will incredibly improve your skin.

Can You Mix Salicylic Acid and Niacinamide Together?

We’ve established that salicylic and niacinamide can be used together.

The next question is can you layer them? Should you use them in separate individual products? Or should you use one product with both ingredients?

If you want to make the most of these two salicylic and niacinamide, it’s best not to layer them or use them simultaneously. This is because they have different pH levels.

For salicylic acid to work optimally, it’s best to ensure lower pH levels.

When it’s higher than 7.0, the skin won’t absorb it as much. So to penetrate the skin, salicylic acid should be formulated with an acidic pH.

On the other hand, niacinamide has a neutral pH, and if you mix them together at the same time or layer them, the niacinamide could potentially raise the pH level of the salicylic acid, making the skin absorb less of the product.

a young woman wearing skin tone tank top applying salicylic acid on face

How Are Salicylic Acid and Niacinamide Used Together?

Layering these ingredients is not a good idea, but there are ways to include them in your daily skincare routine for clear and healthy skin.

The first way is to use them at different times of the day. You can apply your niacinamide in the morning to hydrate your skin for the day.

Then apply your salicylic acid product at night for at least thirty minutes before you use your night creams and moisturizers.

The other option is using them combined in one product.

Several options already have a mix of these two ingredients. And they are already formulated to be stable and effective without impacting the performance of each.

The only downside to using them in one product is that they may not be as strong as they would be individually.

There’s no right way of using both of them in your skincare routine. You just have to find the method that works best for you, depending on your skin.

Commonly Asked Questions

What’s the difference between niacinamide and salicylic acid?

Niacinamide and salicylic acid are both great skincare ingredients with some overlapping benefits. However, they provide different primary benefits.

Niacinamide can reduce skin inflammation and moisturize the skin by boosting water retention. Salicylic goes deep into the pores to clean them and reduce oil production.

Niacinamide vs. salicylic for oily skin?

While both are good for every skin type, salicylic acid is especially helpful for oily skin.

Because it’s oil soluble, it can get deep into the pores to clean out excess oil, reduce the production of oil and minimize the appearance of pores.

Niacinamide or salicylic acid for acne scars?

Niacinamide can help fade scars from acne. It’s great at addressing hyperpigmentation and fading discoloration.

While salicylic acid will prevent acne, it doesn’t really do much to lighten the scars.

Niacinamide With Salicylic Acid: Better Together

In conclusion, niacinamide and salicylic acid are both wonderful ingredients to combat acne and nourish the skin. They have a host of other benefits too.

You can use them individually, but putting them together gives you the benefits of both daily and can help you achieve clearer, brighter, and smoother skin.

What’s your favorite skincare product? Let us know in the comments.

If you want to learn more about skincare, check out these articles:


  • Michelle Alejandro

    Michelle has had a lifelong love affair with makeup. After graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science and Communications /Journalism, she began an illustrious career as a writer. Michelle penned a beauty and lifestyle national newspaper column for over a decade and became the Beauty Editor for Chalk Magazine and Editor-in-Chief for Metro Weddings for over nine years, working with some of the biggest makeup artists and trusted beauty brands in the business. During this time, she also completed a course in Creative Artistic Makeup Design and worked as a freelance makeup artist, beauty editor, and writer.


  1. Well explained! Thank you.

  2. Thanks great information

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