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Niacinamide and Retinol: Can They Be Used Together?

Everyone has different skin concerns and it can be hard to find the right combination for your specific needs. Luckily there are products out there that can address a wide variety of skin types and worries. Two ingredients commonly found in versatile skincare products are niacinamide and retinol – but it can be confusing whether or not they’re safe to use together.

Key takeaways:

What does niacinamide do for the skin?

Niacinamide, also called nicotinamide, is a water-soluble form of vitamin B3. It is a natural byproduct made from excess niacin in the body, but can also be produced from the amino acid tryptophan.

This vitamin plays an essential role in skin health thanks to its ability to help build the protein keratin. When used topically in products like cleansers and moisturizers it can help to brighten skin and prevent signs of aging.

Benefits of niacinamide

Niacinamide is an incredibly gentle, yet powerful skincare ingredient that helps to make skin smoother, brighter, and stronger. Topical niacinamide helps boost hydration and help protect skin from pollutants and irritants by enhancing the layer of water and oil that protect your skin, aka the lipid barrier.

Its ability to reduce inflammation is beneficial in helping to treat a variety of skin conditions including atopic dermatitis, hyperpigmentation, acne, and eczema.

Side effects of niacinamide

Niacinamide is generally fairly gentle for most skin types. Although uncommon, some people experience mild side effects including:

  • Redness;
  • Mild burning sensation;
  • Itching;
  • Allergic reactions.

What does retinol do for the skin?

Retinol is a type of retinoid, which is a family of skincare ingredients that are derived from vitamin A. Although available in stronger concentrations, many retinol products are available over the counter in the form of serums, creams, and moisturizers. A stronger alternative to retinol is prescription strength Retin-A, also known by the brand name tretinoin.

The power of retinol comes from its ability to exfoliate dead skin cells, increase cell turnover, and decrease oil production. It can even help neutralize free radicals which prevents the breakdown of collagen.

Benefits of retinol

OTC retinol is incredible for treating a wide range of common skin concerns. Two of the most common reasons people turn to retinol are for treating mild to moderate acne and decreasing signs of aging like thinning skin and wrinkles.

Many people turn to retinol to help with an uneven skin tone from hyperpigmentation or scarring. Overall, retinol can help dull and rough skin to appear plumper and smoother.

Side effects of retinol

Although the OTC version is relatively gentle, retinol can come with a few potential side effects, especially as you get used to the product.

What are the side effects of retinol? Common ones include the following:

  • Redness;
  • Irritation;
  • Inflammation;
  • Dryness;
  • Soreness;
  • Itching.

Can you use niacinamide with retinol together?

Absolutely! Not only is it safe to use retinol and niacinamide together, but it can also be incredibly beneficial for creating an effective skincare routine.

Benefits of niacinamide and retinol combo

Before you start buying new skincare products, you’ll want to know what the benefits are of using niacinamide and retinol together. A great reason to use them together is that niacinamide can help to soothe irritation caused by retinol.

One study found that combining niacinamide with retinol can help to reduce fine lines, dark spots, and skin texture. Another study from 2017 found people experienced less irritation when using a retinol cream with moisturizing ingredients like niacinamide, versus one with just retinol.

Retinol can be incredibly effective in treating all sorts of skin conditions, but its potential side effects can be a deterrent for people. Using niacinamide in addition to retinol can help mitigate any potential adverse reactions.

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Possible side effects

Retinol and niacinamide make a great team when it comes to taking care of your skin and there’s no current scientific research that shows any adverse side effects from combining these ingredients.

Potential side effects of using niacinamide and retinol don’t necessarily come from using them together, but from sensitivity to retinol. This may be exacerbated when using stronger concentrations of retinol such as niacinamide and tretinoin.

Side effects can also come from other ingredients in your skincare products or when using stronger concentrations of ingredients.

How to use niacinamide and retinol together

As you build your skincare routine, you’ll want to remember these common questions:

  1. Should I use niacinamide before or after retinol? Apply niacinamide first to help protect the skin from any adverse effects of retinol.
  2. How soon can I apply retinol after niacinamide? You’ll want to wait about 5 minutes after applying niacinamide to use retinol, but you can also use niacinamide in the mornings and retinol at night.
  3. What else should I be aware of when using them? Be sure to always use a product with SPF 30 or higher during the day when using retinoids.

You don’t have to spend money and time on separate products either. There are more and more products available that contain both retinol and niacinamide, typically in the form of serums.

Using niacinamide and retinol with other products

Niacinamide and retinol aren’t the only popular ingredients out there. You might be wondering about combining them with other products.

Can you use retinol with niacinamide and hyaluronic acid? Yes, you can. Vitamin C and retinol also pack a punch when used together, but vitamin C should not be combined with Niacinamide.

One ingredient to be wary of is glycolic acid which should not be combined with retinol as they can increase irritation when used together. Salicylic acid, retinol, and niacinamide can be safely used together but may lead to dry skin when used too frequently.

A power duo: niacinamide and retinol

While both are great on their own, niacinamide and retinol can be even more effective when used together. They may be especially helpful for people who want the powerful effects of retinol but may be sensitive to the ingredient. Just don’t forget your sunscreen!


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