With so many potent and effective skincare ingredients out there, choosing which ones to incorporate into your routine — and how! — can be confusing. We asked Dr. Sandra Lee, aka Dr. Pimple Popper, to shed light on the ways two of her favourite dermatological ingredients, salicylic and hyaluronic acids, work in tandem to promote healthy, youthful skin.
What is salicylic acid?
This naturally-derived beta hydroxy acid is oil soluble, which means it’s great at penetrating into the oily surface of the skin. Salicylic acid can seep into pores to dissolve trapped sebum and exfoliate dead skin cells, which makes it an ideal ingredient for addressing both blemishes and visible aging.
These are the standout characteristics of this BHA:
- Exfoliant – sloughs off dead skin cells to combat dullness and clogged pores.
- Anti-inflammatory – calms skin with the same compound as aspirin.
- Anti-bacterial – reduces infection causing microbes.
- Keratolytic – breaks down the keratin protein that can build up on the skin's surface.
What is hyaluronic acid?
Sometimes called HA, this hydrating ingredient is a polysaccharide (long chain of sugar molecules) that’s found naturally in the body — including skin. Hyaluronic acid, which is typically well tolerated by all skin types, draws and holds many times its weight in water, making it ideal for keeping skin balanced and hydrated.
Here are the highlights of this potent acid:
- Hypoallergenic – pure HA is safe for all skin types.
- Attracts water – helps plump up skin to minimise fine lines.
- Self regulates – skin only accepts the hydration it needs.
Can you combine salicylic acid and hyaluronic acid?
Not only is it absolutely safe to combine BHA and HA, Dr. Lee recommends it. Here’s why.
#1 Better skin penetration
Using an exfoliant like salicylic acid before applying other skincare treatments helps slough off dead skin cells sitting on the surface and blocking access to pores. When you remove that barrier by using beta hydroxy acid, any ingredients you layer on afterwards will be able to reach deeper into your skin. Try SLMD Skincare Salicylic Acid Cleanser, which effectively yet gently removes dirt, oil and impurities from skin without stripping.
#2 Prevents irritation
Although salicylic acid is generally very well tolerated by all skin types, its exfoliating properties can sometimes cause minor irritation or dryness — especially if you overdo it. Applying a hyaluronic acid serum will soothe skin and help keep it hydrated. SLMD Skincare Skin Drink contains both hyaluronic acid and squalane, so it hydrates and moisturizes your skin at the same time.
#3 Reinforces benefits
Salicylic and hyaluronic acid have complementary characteristics — so using them together adds to their benefits. While BHA is exfoliating and keeping inflammation in check, hyaluronic acid is boosting hydration to help keep skin balanced. Combining the two creates synergy in your skincare routine.
Dr. Lee’s last word
One of my favourite skincare combinations is salicylic acid — which is amazing at keeping pores clear — and hyaluronic acid, which draws water into the skin and is safe for all skin types. When incorporating them into your regimen, start with the salicylic acid (I love SLMD Skincare Salicylic Acid Cleanser) and then apply a hyaluronic acid serum. The benefits here apply to those with blemish-prone skin, which tends to be oily, as well as dry, sensitive skin types (like mine), and everything in between.
—Dr. Sandra Lee