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Can you use Retinol with Salicylic Acid

Can you use Retinol with Salicylic Acid

Story highlights 

  • Retinol helps reduce visible skin ageing while Salicylic Acid clears up breakouts, but using them at the same time can cause irritation.
  • Truth is, you CAN use them together – if you use the right product and follow our expert tips.
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    Can you use retinol with salicylic acid?

    If you’re dealing with the ups and downs of adult acne, you want the most effective ingredients in your skincare arsenal. Retinol is well known for being the gold standard in terms of reducing the appearance of ageing, while salicylic acid is one of acne’s greatest enemies. In theory, this dynamic duo would make a powerful team for beating adult acne, but there’s one rather large flaw… traditional retinol and salicylic acid formulas can cause skin irritation when used together. 

    So, do you have to sacrifice the wide range of retinol benefits if you already use a salicylic acid product? Do you have to complicate your skincare regime to use them both safely? Or is there a way to simplify the process?

    As always, we’ve got you covered.  

    Retinol vs. Salicylic Acid

    Before we explain how you can safely use both retinol and salicylic acids in your skincare routine, let’s first explore how they interact with your skin. 

    In the battle for the ultimate skincare ingredient, the retinol vs salicylic acid argument comes up time and time again. Often pitted against each other, these ingredients actually offer very different benefits to your skin. 

    Retinol Benefits 

    Retinol reduces the visible signs of ageing, such as fine lines, uneven skin tone and dullness. When using a retinol product, you can expect to see healthier, more youthful-looking skin.  

    Unlike other ingredients which interact with the skin’s surface, retinol sinks into follicles and communicates directly with your cell receptors to encourage cell turnover and stimulate skin renewal.  

    • Smoothes lines and wrinkles
    • Brightens dull skin
    • Regulates oil production

    Salicylic Acid Benefits

    Salicylic acid actively exfoliates the surface of the skin, dissolving the debris that clogs pores and the “glue” that prevents dead skin cells from shedding.

    By clearing pores salicylic acid can help reduce the formation of blackheads and whiteheads. It is also an anti-inflammatory, helping to reduce redness and swelling associated with a breakout. 

    • Keeps pores clean and clear
    • Weakens acne bacteria
    • Soothes inflammation

    Can You Use Retinol And Salicylic Acid Together?

    Despite retinol benefits and salicylic acids sounding like a winning combination on paper, the two don’t play nicely when used in tandem (think redness, dryness and flaking). Furthermore, traditional retinol formulas can be extremely unstable and break down when exposed to light. That being said, if you want to treat adult acne and the signs of ageing at the same time,  there are two great solutions.  

    Switch Up Your Routine

    To get the benefits of both retinol and salicylic acid, you can use them at different times of day, using salicylic acid during the day and retinol at night. Those with more sensitive skin may need to use their products on alternate days or reduce salicylic acid use to once a week or on an as-needed basis.

    Retinol Clearing Oil

    As skin care experts, our team at Dermalogica knew there had to be a better option than the complicated staggering of retinol and salicylic acid. And with retinol clearing oil, we’ve cracked the code for combining the two.

    Our retinol clearing oil combines the benefits of both powerhouse ingredients into one nightly application while helping to keep irritation at bay. The hydrating base of rosehip and jojoba oils mimics skin lipids, helping to deliver actives deeper into the skin’s surface and trap moisture. This makes it ideal for breakout-prone adult skin, which is often susceptible to dryness and sensitivity.

    Fighting both acne and premature ageing can feel like an uphill battle, but with the right skincare system, you can achieve amazing results. 


    Chat with a Dermalogica skin expert for tailored advice about your skin, or explore more articles about adult acne.

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