Medically reviewed by Minimalist Health Specialist -  Written by Viddhi Patel (Journalist)  on 3rd Dec 2020

2 Winning Ingredients for oily, acne-prone skin: Salicylic Acid & Niacinamide

Ingredients for oily, acne-prone skin

Derms are obsessed with salicylic acid and niacinamide for acne-prone oily skin, and here’s why you should be too.

Teen years may be long gone, but acne is a constant foe! Acne in adults is pretty common. Moreover, if you have oily skin, you are perhaps aware of the days your face looks dewy and then the others when your skin acts up and turns straight-up greasy. If you want the former look, you will want to have the right routine consisting of the right ingredients.   

Why is my skin oily?  

When sebaceous glands in the skin make excessive sebum, our skin appears oily. Sebum is a waxy, oily substance that protects and hydrates the skin. Sebum keeps our skin healthy if present at an ideal level. Too much of it can invite uncalled for problems like oily skin, clogged pores, and acne. Sebum overproduction can be due to several reasons: pollution, stress levels, hormones [increase or imbalance in any of these make your skin produce more oils]. All these factors determine how your skin will appear on a particular day.

Perimenopause or menopause brings with them hormonal changes. Also, an excess of androgens can cause acne. Acne may have no cause to show up and may progress from few pimples to full cystic acne over time.  

When oily skin becomes a cause of concern  

Remember, oily skin is not bad news you need to worry yourself about.  

Did you know?

Oily skin is potentially immune to excessive wrinkles, and your sebum consists of vitamin E, which fights free radicals fending off the environmental damage.  

Oily skin is one thing, but oily skin leading to acne is a whole new story and needs to be dealt with as oily skin is often the foundation of acne breakouts. Breakouts occur when dead skin cells get trapped inside a pore. Oil is then unable to discharge and gets accumulated in the pore under the skin with other dirt. This gives way to blackheads or whiteheads and creates a perfect environment for acne bacteria. This propionibacterium acne flourishes and causes inflammation, leading your skin right to pimples.

Can acne be treated?  

Depending on the acne condition's severity, controlling it can be difficult, but not impossible, and few ingredients are sworn by researchers to effectively work on giving you acne-free skin like salicylic acid and niacinamide.

Salicylic acid is a star ingredient that you are likely to encounter in your quest to get rid of oily acne-prone skin, and you may have even relied on it. For those who haven't, we will show you just why you need to depend on it. There have been subsequent developments, and innovative formulations have been developed to fight blemishes effectively by going beyond the confinements of targeted spot treatments.

The skin experts praise niacinamide, it is a little under-the-radar, but it is an exceptionally impressive all-rounder. It has achieved the honor of being labeled one of the safest active ingredients for acne, rosacea, wrinkles, and hyperpigmentation treatments. It has research to back its aura of being a premium skincare ingredient. This crowd-pleaser ingredient is a wonder-vitamin, suitable for almost all skin types.  

Salicylic acid a.k.a. the acne annihilator  

The industry is filled with acne treatments and remedies that are not all reputable or even honest. But unlike them, the plethora of research that backs salicylic acid suggests that it is an effective acne treatment, and you should very well consider giving it a proper place on your shelf if you want to deal with that acne condition effectively.

The odds will be on your side with anti-inflammatory salicylic acid when fighting acne.

The acne zapping ingredient is your best bet for oily skin as it breaks down dead skin cells, penetrates your pores, and clears out dirt and debris. The acid effectively works its way through blackheads and whiteheads that are common with acne-prone and oily skin. 

What exactly is salicylic acid?  

A beta-hydroxy acid (BHA), salicylic acid, occurs naturally in willow bark, fruits, and vegetables. The acid is a class of keratolytic agents (agents that soften keratin, loosen, and assist exfoliation). The structure of salicylic acid is essential as it makes it even more oil-soluble, unlike AHAs, which are water-soluble. This structure helps the ingredient cut through oil and exfoliate pores removing blockages.

Salicylic acid works by increasing the skin's moisture content and dissolving the "glue" that joins the skin cells. That's exactly why it should be your choice for oily, acne-prone skin. 

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How does it work?  

Salicylic acid dissolves dull, dead skin cells' bonds on the skin's surface and gently sheds them. This reveals a smoother, brighter skin that was hidden underneath.

Apart from fighting bacteria, salicylic acid also reduces inflammation and exfoliates your skin. Salicylic acid exfoliates the outer layer, i.e., the outer layer of your skin, and penetrates pores deeply, removing sebum. This process prevents pore clogging and gets rid of already formed clogs.

Moving forward from its spot-fighting specialties, the keratolytic agent will reduce the skin's pH and increase hydration and the desquamation process. Salicylic acid can directly dissolve keratin plugs, known as keratosis pilaris, and regulate skin cells to efficiently fight blemishes and acne.   

The benefits of using Salicylic Acid for acne 

  • Acne fighter 
  • Dead skin cells remover/ exfoliator 
  • Sebum reducer 
  • Inflammation and redness reducer 
  • Softener of clogged pores.  
  • Warder of blackheads and whiteheads 

Salicylic acid is suitable for all skin types but ideal for blemish-prone and varying skin types as it significantly helps to block pores and has anti-inflammatory properties. In case you have an aspirin allergy, you should avoid products containing salicylic acid as they are both from the same family of compounds. The ingredient is particularly great for comedonal acne: blackheads and whiteheads.  

Adding it to your skincare routine  

Start by adding salicylic acid in moderation until you are confident that your skin can handle it without irritation. Add ingredients that soothe the skin to calm salicylic acid-caused irritation.

Salicylic acid 2% by Beminimalist is a gentle exfoliant that helps wards off blackheads and regulates your oils, giving you a look you have always desired for.   

Salicylic Acid 2% Face Serum
Salicylic Acid 2% Face Serum
Salicylic Acid 2% Face Serum
Salicylic Acid 2% Face Serum

Salicylic Acid 2% Face Serum

₹ 545

When to use: PM

Frequency: Alternate days

View details

Side effects  

If you have dry, eczema-prone, or sensitive skin, salicylic acid being a drying ingredient is best avoided as it can be harsh and cause irritation.

Dry, burning, and overall irritated skin is the most common side effects of salicylic acid and occurs when you first start with the acid, but it usually subsides with time. If not, contact your derm.  


Salicylic acid makes your skin susceptible to sun damage. You are never to avoid wearing sunscreen and protective clothing. Limit sun exposure as much as you possibly can and keep reapplying sunscreen.

Niacinamide as a suits-all conquerer 

You will want to add a niacinamide labeled product to your oily skin routine. The vitamin B3 ingredient is a superstar for soothing all skin types as it helps calm inflammation and supports healthy collagen production. A 2006 study threw light on niacinamide's ability to reduce sebum secretion rates in four weeks. This property of niacinamide makes it a viable option in fighting mild acne.

Your skin will no longer have to overcompensate with oils of its own as niacinamide will hydrate it sufficiently. Studies have also shown that niacinamide works effectively on the appearance of pores and fine lines and keeps the skin barrier intact. As a result of this, the skin does not lose water, limiting dryness and irritation. 

What is niacinamide?  

Topical niacinamide, a water-soluble vitamin, is often found in various creams and serums. Niacinamide is beyond the AHAs and BHAs. It is not neutral, comparatively gentler, and it does not irritate. It is a form of vitamin B3, and this group of vitamins are soothing and have healing properties.

Niacinamide (nicotinamide) plays a vital role in our cell's energy production cycle. The niacin that we can procure from the diet, especially if we consume liver, fish, nuts, and multivitamins, is responsible for generating niacinamide. When niacin combines with amino acids in our cells, it transforms into niacinamide and then into NADH and NADPH. These two are coenzymes that boost cellular metabolism and are mainly responsible for DNA repair and cell turnover regulation.

Niacinamide probably acts as an anti-inflammatory agent and has been shown to reduce sunburn redness, making the ingredient great.  

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Let's weigh in on the benefits of vitamin B3

Niacinamide has(right from boosting hydration to fighting acne) boggled our minds with its proven abilities.

Niacinamide works to protect our skin from environmental damage and helps it make more collagen. Studies have stacked up to support niacinamide and rule in its favor. Niacinamide has been shown to reduce inflammation in moderate acne and can come very close to prescription-strength treatments. Research also proves that niacinamide limits sebum overproduction in oily skin.

The anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and sebum reducing properties all work in tandem to help with acne. Niacinamide helps in the reduction of skin redness, prevention of blemishes, and improving skin repair after a pimple heals. The antibacterial property of niacinamide helps the topical ingredient protect the skin's natural barrier against infection and inhibits acne-causing bacteria's accretion.

Niacinamide is so easy on the skin that it becomes suitable for all skin types & is commonly recommended by dermatologists to alternative prescription acne medications. The ingredient is particularly influential in cell turnover and skin conditions by topical applications through creams and serums. 

Side effects  

Topical niacinamide can cause mild burning, itching, or redness. The ingredient shows no significant side effects in a concentration of up to 5%. It is safe for all skin types. Beyond 5% concentration of niacinamide can cause flushing or burning sensation. 

Minimalist's Word of Advice

Oily skin linked to genetics or due to hormonal changes can be challenging to control. Find a consistent skincare routine that works and follow it religiously. Covering the oily skin with makeup might make conditions worse, particularly the oil-based products.

Do not pop, squeeze or pick at acne no matter how annoyingly it has perched up. Messing with it will only give you temporary satisfaction, and along with it will come acne scars.

What product you decide to go with depends on you at the end of the day, what your skin wants, and what works for you to achieve your acne-free skincare goal. Test whatever product you have decided to opt for to note any reactions by the skin. A severe case of acne demands a visit to a dermatologist.

Wrapping it up 

Niacinamide is said to improve skin appearance by treating sun damage, preventing breakouts, and improving fine lines and wrinkles.

Your skin absorbs the vitamin, and that makes it an effective topical treatment.

While salicylic, the skincare star, works not only on stubborn blackheads but also revitalizes dull complexion. It is a star for all the right reasons as it exfoliates and fights bacteria.

The effectiveness of both salicylic and niacinamide has been well researched. Both work in their own capacity to help you get rid of acne.