Who doesn’t want bouncy skin that looks well-moisturized? Unfortunately, environmental conditions and stressful lives can leave our skin looking dull and tired. That’s why we need a little helping hand from skincare ingredients like hyaluronic acid and salicylic acid – two popular ingredients that you may be wondering if you can layer together. So can you use hyaluronic acid and salicylic acid together?
Yes, you absolutely can, and here’s why…
Hyaluronic acid is a glycosaminoglycan (amino sugar) that can bind up to 1000x its weight in water. It’s a humectant which means that it draws water into your skin and holds it there. So, even though it has ‘acid’ in its name, it actually nourishes and hydrates your skin rather than exfoliating it.
As well as hydrating your skin, hyaluronic acid helps to:
- Increase skin elasticity (well-hydrated skin has more elasticity or ‘bounce’ which means that it returns to its shape when pulled or poked)
- Reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles almost instantly thanks to its hydrating effect (dehydrated skin makes fine lines and wrinkles appear much worse)
- Heal wounds by reducing inflammation and bacteria growth
It’s naturally present all round your body and can help with other conditions like dry eyes. However, it’s mostly frequently used to improve the appearance of skin.
Salicylic acid is the most well-known beta-hydroxy acid (BHA) that’s derived from willow bark. It acts as a chemical exfoliant by breaking down the bonds that hold your dead skin cells together so that they can be shed from the surface of your skin.
The main benefit of using salicylic acid for acne over other chemical exfoliants is its ability to penetrate and exfoliate your pores due to its oil-solubility. This means it’s also able to get into your oil glands and control the production of oil.
Other ways that salicylic acid benefit your skin are by:
- Reducing inflammation and soothing skin.
- Offering some protection from UV radiation.
- Preventing the growth of bacteria (due to its acidic pH).
- Increases collagen production to improve fine lines and wrinkles.
As salicylic acid acts as an exfoliant you have to be careful not to use it too frequently or it may damage your skin barrier and make your acne worse (research suggests that acne is associated with skin barrier damage).
Hyaluronic Acid vs Salicylic Acid
Even though they’re both referred to as acids, they’re very different. When we think of acids in skincare we often think of chemical exfoliation and, while this is the case with salicylic acid, it’s not the case with hyaluronic acid.
Hyaluronic acid = hydrates
Salicylic acid = exfoliates
Hyaluronic acid is suitable for all skin types and skin conditions. However, salicylic acid may be too drying for dry skin types/conditions and too irritating for sensitive skin.
Can You Use Hyaluronic Acid and Salicylic Acid Together?
Since both hyaluronic acid and salicylic acid are great for skin, you’re probably wondering if the two can go hand in hand in your skincare regime. The answer is a resounding “Yes!” You can absolutely use hyaluronic acid and salicylic acid together! In fact, they may work particularly well when combined together.
While salicylic acid is excellent at getting into your pores to remove dead skin buildup and excess oil, it can be a little drying. That’s where hyaluronic comes in. By drawing water into your skin and keeping it hydrated, hyaluronic acid can help reduce any irritation that may be caused by salicylic acid, plus it’s great at hydrating oily, acne-prone skin without leaving your skin feeling greasy.
How To Use Hyaluronic Acid and Salicylic Acid Together
If you’ve decided that the combination of hyaluronic acid and salicylic acid is right for you then you may be wondering how you should layer them together in the same routine.
Both ingredients are available in a wide-variety of products. You’re most likely to find hyaluronic acid in hydrating toners, serums, and moisturizers and salicylic acid in cleansers, toners, and serums.
There are also plenty of skincare products that combine the ingredients for you in one multi-active serum. If it’s in a cleanser or a multi-ingredient product intended for daily use, then salicylic acid is usually fine to use daily. Otherwise, it’s usually best to stick to using it 1-3x per week to reduce the risk of over exfoliation and skin barrier damage. However, hyaluronic acid can be used twice daily without issue.
One concern regarding the use of hyaluronic acid and salicylic acid together is how each ingredient should ideally be used.
Salicylic acid is ideally applied to dry skin while hyaluronic acid is ideally applied to damp skin and followed with a heavier moisturizer/occlusive to lock in moisture.
Damp skin is more permeable which means that skincare ingredients find it easier to penetrate your skin’s barrier. This is great news for hyaluronic acid as easier penetration means increased effectiveness. However, increased effectiveness also means an increased risk of irritation which is why salicylic acid, an ingredient known for irritation, should not be used on damp skin.
So how can you get around the damp vs dry skin issue?
- If your skin is not easily irritated, you could apply hyaluronic acid onto your skin that’s damp after cleansing, then apply your salicylic acid and follow with a moisturizer.
- If you’re using a salicylic acid toner, you could apply that to your dry face, use a facial mist to dampen your skin, then apply your hyaluronic acid and lock it all in with a moisturizer.
- If you have sensitive skin, you could look for a moisturizer that contains salicylic acid and apply it after a hyaluronic acid serum.
- You could use a product that contains both ingredients for you.
- You could use a salicylic acid serum AFTER your moisturizer which can ‘buffer’ the salicylic acid and reduce the risk of skin irritation.
Remember to always use sunscreen as the last step in your AM routine everyday.
Summary – Can You Use Hyaluronic Acid and Salicylic Acid Together?
Yes, you absolutely can use hyaluronic acid and salicylic acid together. In fact, hyaluronic acid can help reduce the irritation that’s commonly experienced with salicylic acid as well as hydrating oily skin without leaving behind a greasy feeling.
Laura is a skincare addict and sunscreen enthusiast with more than 10 years of experience working in healthcare and over 5 years of experience working as a nurse. She has experience in plastic and reconstructive surgery, dermatology, and aesthetics and has received training in laser treatments. Laura is currently working in healthcare education and writes for ScienceBecomesHer in her spare time. Read More.