Want to hear one of the cruelest pranks in life? While you’re still coping with acne outbreaks that originally appeared in your teenage years, you may start seeing the earliest indications of aging, such as fine lines and wrinkles. Salicylic acid and retinol, fortunately, are two skincare compounds that may be helpful.
They both have a lot of power, so you may have heard that using both simultaneously is dangerous or that you should choose one over the other.
But can you use salicylic acid with retinol? You will discover all the benefits salicylic acid and retinol may provide for your skin in this article, as well as how to integrate them into your regimen.
About Salicylic Acid
What is Salicylic Acid?
Salicylic acid is a beta-hydroxy acid that may be used as a chemical exfoliator. It does this by reducing the strength of the bonds that hold dead skin cells on the surface of your skin together, making it easier for those cells to be shed.
In addition to these properties, it is oil-soluble and anti-inflammatory, which means that it can go into your pores to help unclog them and into your oil glands to help decrease the amount of oil that they produce.
When combined with niacinamide, salicylic acid is a very effective method for lowering oil production and shrinking the size of pores.
How Does Salicylic Acid Help Your Skin?
A beta-hydroxy acid (BHA), often known as salicylic acid, is an excellent treatment for skin that is prone to acne. It works on the surface of the skin in the same way as alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs) do. The oil-soluble feature is the most significant distinction; this implies that it may also permeate the skin on a deeper level, directly into the pores.
The benefits of salicylic acid for your skin are as follows:
- Exfoliates dead skin: It does this by dissolving the intercellular cement substance that causes skin cells to stay together, which in turn loosens dead skin cells on the surface of the skin so that they may be readily sloughed off. This is how dead skin gets exfoliated.
- Improves texture and pores: This kind of surface exfoliation results in smoother skin and an improvement in the skin’s texture. In addition to that, it makes pores seem less noticeable.
- Reduces excess oil: It not only dissolves skin lipids, but also inhibits the cells that create excess sebum, which results in a reduction in the amount of oil that is produced.
- Unclogged pores: Pores that have been clogged may have been caused by an abnormal shedding of skin cells (hyperkeratinization), excessive production of sebum, inflammation, or the development of P. acnes bacteria. The normalization of keratinization, the dissolution of oil, and the reduction of inflammation and bacteria are the three main mechanisms that salicylic acid uses to unclog pores.
- Thickens and firms: At greater concentrations, it may firm the skin and increase the density of collagen and elastin fibers while also thickening the epidermis.
What is Retinol?
Retinol is a vitamin A derivative that speeds up skin cell renewal and turnover, promotes collagen formation, lessens UV damage and pigmentation, decreases wrinkle appearance, and hydrates the skin.
Retinol is also considered one of the most potent and well-researched anti-aging skincare components.
However, since retinol damages your skin’s natural barrier and increases water loss from your skin, it might initially make your skin dry and itchy. So, Can you use salicylic acid with retinol?
What is Retinol Used for?
Is retinol safe? Should I use a retinol? The most prominent vitamin A and vitamin A derivative in the retinoid family is retinol. Although milder vitamin A compounds like retinol are sold over the counter, active vitamin A (retinoic acid) is only accessible by prescription.
Can you use retinol every day? What are retinol serum benefits? Using retinol has the following effects on your skin:
- Reduces wrinkles: Whether brought on by sun exposure or the aging process naturally, it may lead to improvements in both fine and deep wrinkles. Retinol was shown to be as effective, if not more so, than tretinoin, and to be more well tolerated, according to a double-blind trial comparing the two.
- Smooth texture: It even helps dry skin symptoms with regular usage. It smooths the skin’s texture.
- Brightens skin and fades pigmentation: Regular usage usually causes the skin to become brighter and reduces hyperpigmentation. According to one research, after 60 to 80 days of taking 1% retinol, the majority of subjects saw improvements in brightness and hyperpigmentation.
- Firms and thickens: Research has shown that it firms and thickens the epidermis just as well as retinoic acid, but considerably less irritably. Hyaluronic acid, which helps to improve moisture and elasticity for a firmer appearance, is also stimulated in the skin.
- Reduces acne: Retinoids may help to clear and prevent breakouts by preventing the growth of microcomedones, regulating skin-cell shedding, and blocking inflammatory pathways.
Should You Use Both Salicylic Acid and Retinol?
If you are fighting acne but at the same time your skin is showing signs of age, then you should certainly think about using salicylic acid and retinol. Even while you may get benefits by only doing one or the other of these things, you will see the greatest progress if you combine the two of them into a single regimen.
Salicylic acid, which is used to treat acne, and retinol, which is used to cure the symptoms of aging, are both considered to be “gold standard” ingredients, which is why this is the case.
If you just use retinol, your skin probably won’t be as clear as it might be… and if you only use salicylic acid, you won’t be able to battle wrinkles as effectively. If your regimen only contains one of these ingredients, your skin may not be as clear as it could be. But what about jointly? You’ll be able to check every box on the list.
You can even see twice as many advantages if you use it to treat certain skin conditions. You may have observed that salicylic acid and retinol may cure some of the same issues simultaneously, such as abnormal skin-cell shedding, clogged pores, pigmentation, and inflammation. This is something that you should keep in mind. Because they operate through distinct channels, you’ll be able to attack issues from two separate angles, resulting in a solution that’s both quicker and more effective.
To this day, the combination treatment has not yet received more attention from researchers than the two ingredients individually. However, one research did demonstrate that the combination of salicylic acid and retinoic acid was more successful than either one alone in treating post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, with fewer adverse effects.
What to Consider When Using Salicylic Acid with Retinol?
Can you use salicylic acid with retinol? The most common worries individuals have when it comes to stacking skincare products and components are:
- Whether the mixture of substances may irritate the skin
- or if substances will “cancel each other out” as a result of different pH values.
Salicylic Acid vs Retinol pH Levels
A substance’s pH value indicates how acidic or alkaline it is. On the pH scale, which goes from 1 to 14, 7, represents a neutral pH.
Retinol has to undergo a process known as “esterification” in order to permeate your skin and become its active form (retinoic acid), which it must accomplish in order to have any effects. A “low optimal pH of around 5.6” is required for the enzymes that facilitate this process and the expression of vitamin A during skin cell turnover.
Salicylic acid, such as kinds of glycolic acid and other hydroxy acids, was first believed to need a pH of less than 3.5 in order to be effective.
However, research indicates that using salicylic acid at low pHs doesn’t really boost its effectiveness—rather, it merely causes more irritability and harm to the skin barrier!
In fact, a clinical investigation discovered that neutralized salicylic acid, which has a pH of 6.5, is less irritating to the skin and is just as effective as salicylic acid, which has a pH of 3.12. The efficiency of salicylic acid might thus be employed at a pH level comparable to that of retinol without suffering.
Your skin’s normal surface pH ranges from 5.0 to 6.0, however it may be as low as 4.7 on untreated skin (skin that has not recently used any treatments), thus it often needs to adapt to a more alkaline environment even if salicylic acid was used at a low pH.
What about the possibility of irritability?
Salicylic Acid vs Retinol Action Mechanism
Can you use salicylic acid with retinol? Salicylic acid and retinol both speed up skin cell turnover, although they do it in various ways. Retinol boosts the pace at which skin cells move to the skin’s surface to be shed and promotes the growth of new skin cells.
Due to its potential to make your skin flake and peel, retinol is often assumed to exfoliate your skin. However, this is a symptom of both dehydration and skin barrier degradation.
Salicylic acid, in contrast, works at the skin’s surface to dissolve the bonds holding your dead skin cells together, causing them to shed more quickly.
Thus, the actions of the two components really work in concert.
Possible Problems When Combining Salicylic Acid and Retinol
Can you use salicylic acid with retinol? The fact that both salicylic acid and retinol have the potential to irritate the skin when used separately and maybe more so when combined is one of the key problems with utilizing the two substances together. Anyone with dry or sensitive skin should be especially concerned about this.
If using these substances together causes irritation, you should cut down on how often you use salicylic acid or retinol or use them on alternate days.
A further consideration is to introduce ingredients one at a time unless they are found in the same product (as products are often tested for irritation potential). Salicylic acid and retinol may both irritate the skin and result in skin “purging,” which is especially problematic for those with acne-prone skin.
When skincare substances and solutions are utilized that speed up skin cell turnover, skin purging—the first outbreak of spots and pimples—occurs. These blemishes and acne would have developed progressively, but when they all suddenly erupt on your skin, it might be concerning.
How to Use Salicylic Acid with Retinol?
Can you use salicylic acid with retinol? Thankfully, you still have choices. Salicylic acid and retinol may still be utilized in the same skincare regimen even if it isn’t recommended to use them simultaneously. This is how:
Apply retinol at night and salicylic acid in the morning.
Can you use salicylic acid with retinol? Applying salicylic acid and retinol at various points throughout the day is the simplest method to include them in your regimen. The majority of physicians advise just taking retinol at night.
After that, you may use salicylic acid in the morning. It’s important to remember that salicylic acid has not been proven to be photosensitizing and may even have some photoprotective effects, even if midday sunscreen use is usually recommended.
After applying salicylic acid, don’t forget to use sunscreen and concealer to avoid UV rays and have a nice make-up
Apply retinol and salicylic acid on alternate nights.
Can you use salicylic acid with retinol? Another option is to alternate between these active substances solely at night. So, after cleaning your skin one night, you would apply your salicylic acid. You would apply your retinol the next night.
In accordance with your objectives and what your skin can handle, you may even alter the frequency. Consequently, your schedule may resemble one of these:
- On alternate evenings, apply retinol and salicylic acid.
- Salicylic acid for the first two nights, followed by retinol for the third.
- After two nights with retinol, the third night was spent with salicylic acid.
- Salicylic acid for one night, followed by a second “night off,” retinol for the third, and a final fourth “night off.”
If you have sensitive skin or are just starting to use heavier products and need to build up a tolerance, this is the best way to approach activities. Start with a little dosage of each and gradually increase the frequency or concentration.
To have healthy skin, you should use more skin care products like toner (Best Toner for Combination Skin: Top 20 Quality Products)
Use retinol and salicylic acid separately for 30 minutes.
Can you use salicylic acid with retinol? What happens if you want to use retinol and salicylic acid at the same time of day? It is possible, but only if you have the patience to wait in between layers.
Start with your salicylic acid first. Wait a good 30 minutes after applying it as advised. The pH range it was designed to function at (between 3.0 and 4.0), where it penetrates best, is where you want to give it enough time to work.
In those 30 minutes, you can use more serum to effectively moisturize and whiten your skin. We recommend you can try GrandeLASH vs Latisse vs RapidLash (GrandeLASH vs Latisse vs RapidLash: Which Is The Best Lash Serum?)
Apply your retinol as soon as the waiting time is over. Your skin’s pH should now be back to its regular, more neutral level, which is ideal for retinol conversion.
Now, if your skin isn’t already used to salicylic acid and/or retinol, we don’t advise doing this since it might still make your face more irritated. The key advantage of including the waiting time is that you’ll keep each ingredient’s efficacy without unintentionally lowering absorption or conversion.
Summary: Can You Use Salicylic Acid With Retinol?
Can you use salicylic acid with retinol? As long as you don’t suffer any skin sensitivity, salicylic acid plus retinol may be a terrific skincare duo. If you have dry or sensitive skin, you may want to avoid this combination. To benefit from both components, you don’t have to use them daily—in certain cases, less is more! Finally, unlike what you may have heard, pH variations are not a problem in this situation!
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