Can Salicylic Acid be Used with Retinol?

can salicylic acid be used with retinol

Can Salicylic Acid be Used with Retinol? 

There are many ingredients that do not work well together or should not be combined or cancel each other out when used at the same time.

With so many products on the market, whether you’re a skin care novice or an expert, you eventually come to the question “Can I use this product with this other product?”

Here we’ll go over what exactly is salicylic acid and retinol, where do they come from (if they’re plant derived), and whether or not they can play nice together.

What is Salicylic Acid?

Salicylic acid is an active ingredient that is derived from willow bark, and it classified as a “salicylates” ingredient.  It is a beta hydroxy acid, which means it’s molecularly different than alpha hydroxy acids.

Because salicylic acid is more oil soluble, it can penetrate the pores, which is part of what makes it so valuable.  Both alpha hydroxy acids and beta hydroxy acids can exfoliate the skin, but alpha hydroxy acids are only water soluble, so they cannot penetrate the pores as easily as salicylic acid.

Because salicylic can get into your skin and do it’s job, it makes it a prime ingredient for whiteheads and blackheads. 

To make it even more appealing, salicylic acid is an anti-inflammatory, which means not only is it going to help clear out your pores, it’s going to help calm down your skin and reduce the redness and irritation.  It is truly an acneic skin person’s dream.

Because it’s also an exfoliant, it will also slough off the top layers of your skin, gently, so as to reveal fresher, healthier looking skin.

What is Retinol?

Historically, retinol was derived from animal products, but today we can derive retinol from plants like cantaloupe, carrots, squash, sweet potatoes, and pumpkin.

Retinol is also in many common skin care ingredients, which helps amp up your retinol efforts when you use products with those particular ingredients, like rosehip seed oil, buriti oil, cranberry seed oil, carrot seed oil, and sea buckthorn berry oil.

When you apply retinol to your skin, your enzymes will then convert it to retinoic acid. When that happens, you will notice it’s potential benefits – like increasing collagen production, minimizing fine lines, unclogging pores, lightening skin discoloration, and fading sun damage or acne scars.

While many people say “Oh I can’t use retinoids because I have sensitive skin”, the likely reality is that they can use it because it’s a gentler version of the stronger prescription strength and therefore much more tolerable in all skin types.

So Can they Be Used Together?

Technically they can be used together, but experts recommend that instead you use salicylic acid in the morning and retinol in the evening so as not to layer them, which might cause increased skin sensitivity.

If you really want to be ambitious and use them together, so a patch test on your neck first to see if you find any sensitivity issues or unpleasant reactions.  Wait a day before deciding, because sometimes these patch tests take time to show their issues accurately. 

If you find that they do work well together for you, go ahead and incorporate this into your routine.  And by all means, if you’re doing this during the day – you really must wear a sunscreen.  These are the kinds of ingredients that cause the skin to react with some significant sensitivity with sun exposure.

Our acne cleanser for sensitive skin is your optimal choice for salicylic acid and other fantastic skin clearing and healing ingredients.

Acne Cleanser for Sensitive Skin with Salicylic, Cinnamon and Bearberry

Can Salicylic Acid be Used with Retinol


This acne cleanser for sensitive skin is your answer to healing acne effectively and naturally without any harsh, drying ingredients.  Featuring bearberry, cinnamon, tea tree, green tea, fruit extracts, organic honey and zinc all clinically proven to help heal acne and keep your skin clear and healthy. 


  • Reduce acne naturally
  • Free of harsh preservatives, parabens and sulfates
  • Repair acne damaged skin

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GMO free, palm free, alcohol free, SLS free, paraben free, pesticide free, petroleum free, synthetic fragrance free, phthalate free, and cruelty free. 


Aloe Barbadensis (Aloe) Juice, Ananas Comosus (Pineapple) Extract, Alpha Lipoic Acid, Arnica Essential Oil, Bearberry Extract, Carica Papaya (Papaya) Extract, Carica Papaya (Green Papaya) Extract, Carnosine, Cinnamon Extract, Centella Asiatica, Citric Acid, Clary Sage Essential Oil, Elderberry Extract, Glycerin (Vegan), Green Tea Extract, Organic Honey, Leuconostoc/Radish Root Ferment, Vegan Lecithin, Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate (Vitamin C), Sea Kelp Bioferment, Vegan Castile, Tocopherol (Vitamin E), Tomato Seed Oil, Willow Bark Extract, Zinc Extract 


Using active ingredients like salicylic acid and retinol, can either be tricky in the timing or making sure you personally don’t have any adverse reactions.  Once you plan well and use their at separate times or take care to use them together, you’ll have a better understanding of what your personal skin care routine should look like.