How To Add Salicylic Acid Serum to Skin Care Routine?

How To Add Salicylic Acid Serum to Skin Care Routine?

Trying to figure out the order you should be applying your skincare products is probably more mind boggling than a Rubik’s cube… The different products, formulas, consistencies, ingredients, the list is literally endless! Don’t worry, I completely understand how tricky it can be, which is why today I will be sharing with you the best way of how to add salicylic acid serum into your routine.

How do you use salicylic acid in skincare routine?

Salicylic acid belongs in the beta hydroxy acid (BHA) family, and is the only really known and frequently used BHA acid. Derived from willow bark, this acid carries with it a lot of antibacterial properties and is the best active ingredient to combat problematic and blemish-prone skin. With its large molecular size and the fact it is oil soluble it can penetrate deeper into the pores helping it to unclog any bacteria, remaining product, debris and many more acne causing impurities. You can find out more about salicylic acid in our guide all about the BHA’s skincare benefits over on the blog.

You can introduce salicylic acid into your routine with a variety of skincare products, there are face washes, serums and peels to name a few. This will determine how you introduce it into your routine, you may also want to consider your skin type to avoid any unwanted irritation or dryness as salicylic acid is known for its potency and is very capable of drying out the skin and causing reactive flare-ups in skin types that are sensitive and dry.

As I have previously mentioned, there are a number of products that contain salicylic acid. Here are some examples and how they would benefit your skin and blemish concerns.

Face Wash

It is understood that using a face wash or cleanser provides the best overall treatment of the skin that can be used on a regular, daily basis. The main benefit of using a rinse off wash cleanser, even if the acid content is as high as 2%, the product does not stay on the skin long enough to cause any severe dryness or skin reaction, but is able to help with the clarity of the skin and unclog the pores from impurities. Face wash or cleanser is one of the first steps in your routine and is quite an important one. By using a salicylic acid enriched wash after cleansing the skin of any remaining makeup, you are helping to rid the skin of any dead skin cell build-up allowing any nourishing products applied afterwards to absorb quicker into the lower layers of the skin and show results quicker.


Applying a serum, especially during your evening routine will allow optimal time for the active ingredients to get to work. With no disruption from skin damaging free radicals, such as pollution and UV rays, using a salicylic acid serum in the evening will result in an all over treatment of any problem areas or complexion. If you find you have dry and sensitive skin this product must be avoided at all cost due to the fact salicylic acid is too potent to be applied. If however, you find yourself to be suffering from a couple breakouts then the next product I am going to share with you would help, so long as you consult your doctor or dermatologist to ensure you are safe to use this product on your skin.

Topical Spot Treatment

You will find these will come in small bottles as the smallest amount is needed to be topically applied onto the blemish or area experiencing a breakout. The percentage of salicylic acid in these topical treatments are the highest you can find and so expect to experience dryness and flaking. To counteract this skin-reaction it is best to follow the topical spot treatment with a hydrating serum containing hyaluronic acid which will help restore moisture.

Professional Peels

If you are finding you are suffering from severe, cystic acne then a professional peel may be the answer. The level of salicylic acid is at medical grade strength and should only be used by a trained professional. The name “peel” may sound scary, but it is really a methodical layering of ingredients to help speed up the cell renewal of the skin. It is known that a build-up of dead skin cells can wreck-havoc on problematic skin as a breakout of spots, blackheads and whiteheads are usually the result.

There you have some examples of how to use salicylic acid in your skincare routine. If you are introducing this ingredient to your routine and to your skin for the first time it a good idea to perform a patch test to ensure it is safe to do so and not result in any irritation.

When should salicylic acid be used in your routine?

This depends on the product you are using that contains salicylic acid in it. When using a skincare routine the easiest way to figure out the order the products should be applied, its thinnest to thickest. Here is an example of morning and evening skincare routines and which order to apply your products.

Morning Skincare Routine

  • Cleanser
  • Toner
  • Serums
  • Eye Creams
  • Spot Treatment
  • Moisturiser
  • Face Oil
  • Sunscreen of SPF 30 or above

Evening Skincare Routine

  • Cleanser
  • Toner
  • Serums
  • Eye Cream
  • Spot Treatment
  • Moisturiser
  • Retinol
  • Face Oil

These are some examples of a well-balanced skincare routine that include the most effective amounts of products that will benefit the skin and help combating skin concerns such as breakouts and premature signs of ageing, such as fine lines and wrinkles.

Do you apply salicylic acid before or after moisturiser?

Generally speaking, the most potent skin products containing salicylic acid are those such as serums, spot treatments and cleansers, all of which are applied before moisturisers. If you are wanting to use salicylic acid to make a difference to your overall complexion then using serums and cleansers will give you the quickest results and notable difference to your skin.

Can I use salicylic acid on my face every day?

When using a cleanser enriched with salicylic acid you are able to use it every day as the concentrate is low and you rinse it off the skin meaning there should be no irritation or dryness to the skin. By teaming this with products containing hydrating ingredients such as niacinamide and hyaluronic acid. Not forgetting the benefits of using vitamin C within your routine will give the skin a healthy, luminous glow.

An important step in your routine when using salicylic acid is the daily application of a sunscreen with factor 30 or above due to the increased skin sensitivity to UV exposure.

I hope that this clears up how to add salicylic acid serum to your skincare routine. With the various products available containing this BHA you will find you’re the best formula to suit your skin type. If you are wanting to know more about the skin benefits of AHAs and BHAs you can take a look at our guide over on the beauty insiders blog.


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