Can You Mix Niacinamide and Retinol?

If you have used niacinamide and retinol separately, you probably are already familiar with their unique benefits. But what about using these two skincare ingredients together? You’ve probably wondered, ‘can I mix niacinamide with retinol?’

Well, the good news is that you can use niacinamide and retinol together. In fact, in some cases, the benefits of the two may deliver even better results when you incorporate them in the same skincare routine. 

What is Niacinamide?

Niacinamide is the name for water-soluble niacin, which is a type of vitamin B3. You may also see it listed as nicotinamide on some products. 

As one of the eight essential B vitamins, our body needs B3 from external sources as it cannot produce it on its own. While it’s a popular ingredient in skincare products, it also has some benefits for the body, like reducing inflammation, repairing DNA, and energizing cells. 

Benefits of Niacinamide

It wouldn’t be wrong to call niacinamide a superfood for skin, owing to the many benefits it offers with topical application. 

Niacinamide has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that can help reduce and treat acne. A study from Dermatology Research and Practice also showed that its anti-inflammatory properties could be beneficial for the treatment of melasma. 

Source: pexels.com

This vitamin B3 also contains antioxidants which are known for fighting free radicals and preventing skin cell damage. This also allows it to help prevent sun damage from UV rays. 

However, the most wholesome of its benefits is reducing aging signs. It’s inherently anti-aging, as it can help reduce wrinkles, fine lines, hyperpigmentation, and discoloration of the skin, according to research

But that’s not all; nicotinamide also has moisturizing benefits. It may reduce the excessive sebum production and loss of water from the skin, all the while enhancing the natural skin barrier. According to a review study, this vitamin amide also has anti-itching and antimicrobial properties, which helps explain why it’s so good for acne-prone skin and even rosacea

Most importantly, niacinamide is a well-tolerated ingredient, which means it can be good for any kind of skin. 

What is Retinol?

Retinol is a form of retinoid, which, in turn, is a form of vitamin A. As a synthetic derivative of vitamin A, it has become a star ingredient in many anti-aging skincare products. Vitamin A is an essential need for our bodies, particularly for the immune system, vision, and skin. 

While it’s an over-the-counter form of retinoid, it’s still considered a potent ingredient with well-researched and documented uses and benefits. 

Benefits of Retinol

There are numerous benefits of retinol, including reducing inflammation, treating acne, and, most importantly, fighting aging signs. 

With anti-aging products like creams and serums, retinol increases collagen synthesis. Many research studies have examined the ability of retinol to increase cell turnover. It does so by controlling the enzymes that kill collagen in the skin

As a result, retinol is highly effective in reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. This is also the reason why it’s a popular ingredient in eye products, as it can target those fine lines under the eyes and crow’s feet

Source: pixabay.com
Source: pixabay.com

Other than its anti-aging benefits, retinol can also help with acne by reducing sebum production. 

Unlike niacinamide, retinol is not that tolerable as it’s quite potent. There are possibilities of side effects or reactions, like redness, tightness, burning sensation, or dryness. 

These side effects are usually more prevalent in prescription-strength retinoids. However, some over-the-counter skincare products with retinol may also cause one or more of these reactions, especially initially if your skin is not used to it. This is the reason why dermatologists often recommend starting off with a pea-sized amount and lower concentrations

Related: Retinol before and after results

Can Niacinamide be Used with Retinol?

You can mix niacinamide with retinol for skin, as these two ingredients complement each other. Both niacinamide and retinol are vitamins with similar benefits that, when combined, may double the impact. 

It’s a safe ingredient combination that you can use for all four major skin types, especially sensitive skin, which doesn’t respond well to retinol alone.

Related: Can you use niacinamide with hyaluronic acid?

Source: pexels.com
Source: pexels.com

Benefits of Using Niacinamide and Retinol Together

Here are some of the ways these two ingredients work well together:

Niacinamide Prevents Irritation from Retinol

The main benefit of using niacinamide and retinol together is that the former can help reduce the irritation caused by the latter. Retinol is a potent, synthetic vitamin that, when applied for the first time or too frequently, can irritate or overly dry the skin. However, when used alongside niacinamide, the chances of that happening are pretty low. 

A trial study examined the use of prescription-strength retinol, tretinoin, with a moisturizer containing niacinamide. The results showed that the use of retinol with a moisturizing agent increased tolerability and improved skin barrier function. 

Other studies have also confirmed this benefit of using niacinamide with retinol. It directly lessens the impact of Retonic acid (RA), which is what retinol synthesizes into once it penetrates the skin. 

pH Stabilization

What many people don’t realize is that when using multiple skincare products, you have to pay attention to the pH. Ideally, you want to ensure that your skin’s pH remains at a naturally optimal level, which is under five. 

Fortunately, both niacinamide and retinol have similar pH, so they don’t cancel out each other or mess up your skin’s natural pH.

Targets Acne

Both niacinamide and retinol have anti-inflammatory properties and inhibit excessive sebum production. So, both of these ingredients, by extension of these effects, are effective in controlling and treating acne, including pustular acne

A 2012 study published in Clinical, Cosmetic, and Investigational Dermatology looked into this particular effect. The results showed that niacinamide, retinol, and 7-dehydrocholesterol together are effective for acne. 

Anti-aging Benefits

Niacinamide and retinol can synergize with each other to impact the early onset of aging signs like fine lines and wrinkles while also improving the complexion. 

A Journal of Drugs in Dermatology study looked at the use of niacinamide, hexylresorcinol, and resveratrol along with a 0.5 percent concentration of retinol. The results indicated improvement in aging signs as well as skin tone. 

How to Use Niacinamide with Retinol?

Now, if you’re wondering how to layer niacinamide and retinol, there are a few things to keep in mind. Can you use niacinamide after retinol? Or should you be applying retinol first?

Well, the best way to use niacinamide with retinol is to first only use niacinamide for two to four weeks. This will allow your skin barrier to strengthen, which, in turn, reduces the chances of irritability from retinol. 

When you start using retinol, start with a very small amount and go for a product with a lower concentration (at least 0.25 percent). 

More importantly, niacinamide and particularly, retinol should be used in the evening. During the day, retinol may be sensitive to direct sun exposure and may cause irritation and dryness. Even when using during the evening, you may use broad-spectrum sunscreen over it. 

As for the order, if you’re using these ingredients in separate products, it’s best to apply niacinamide first and then retinol, whatever form you may be using. 

Best Niacinamide and Retinol Products

Here are some niacinamide and retinol recommendations with tried and tested results:

1. The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%

As one of the most trusted and celebrated skincare brands, the Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1% is an easy pick when it comes to adding this important vitamin B3 to the skincare routine. This serum can help reduce pores, which helps reduce oil production and acne breakouts. 

On the other hand, the zinc helps balance the high concentration of niacinamide, allowing it to do its magic effectively. While you may think it’s ideal for oily skin only, it’s suitable for anyone looking for blemish-free skin. 

2. Paula’s Choice BOOST 10% Niacinamide Booster

Paula’s Choice BOOST also contains 10% niacinamide, along with vitamin B5. This can be used independently or with a moisturizer to dampen the effect. 

This multi-benefit solution targets dryness, uneven skin tone, and excess sebum activity. The antioxidant niacinamide also replenishes the skin. Made without fragrances and toxic chemicals, it’s suitable for all skin types. 

3. The Ordinary Retinol 1% in Squalane

The Ordinary Retinol 1% in Squalane uses squalane instead of water for retinol dilution, which delivers even better results. This serum can help reduce visible aging signs like wrinkles as well as photodamage. 

If you’re using this product, the company suggests using Granactive Retinoids to counter possible irritation. 

4. La Roche-Posay Retinol B3 Serum

The La Roche-Posay Retinol B3 Serum combines the goodness of retinol and niacinamide in one product. It’s a powerful product that gradually targets fine lines, wrinkles, and premature sun damage. This is because the composition uses both pure and gradual release retinol

You don’t need to use a niacinamide serum separately. 

5. CeraVe Skin Renewing Retinol Serum

The CeraVe Skin Renewing Retinol Serum contains not just retinol but also hyaluronic acid and niacinamide. It’s not as potent as some of the other retinol serums, thanks to the addition of these hydrating and moisturizing ingredients. 

For those with sensitive skin, this CeraVe gentle formula may just be a way to incorporate retinol into their skincare routine safely. 

Final Verdict

Can I mix retinol with niacinamide? You surely can and perhaps should if your skin reacts to retinol alone. 

As niacinamide and retinol have similar benefits, they only increase the efficacy of one another. Moreover, niacinamide helps to reduce the potency of retinol, so it doesn’t cause any side effects. 

It’s all the more beneficial for people in their 30s and over to combat aging signs from early on without compromising skin’s natural barrier.