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Niacinamide and Retinol Together: Does it Work?

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Knowing the right skincare products to combine for significant results can be challenging with so many ingredients out there. Sometimes you feel nervous about mixing them despite their perfect resume because you don’t know how safe they are for your skin. You certainly don’t want to end up getting your skin irritated, all because you used a wrong combination on it.

That’s why we are devoting this article to unveiling two skincare heroes (niacinamide and retinol) that you can use together and the benefits of combining these two powerhouses.

What is niacinamide and what does it do?

Niacinamide is one of the vitamins that your body needs to stay healthy. Also known as vitamin B3, is used in most skincare products because it performs multiple functions. It’s an anti-aging ingredient that’s effective for keeping the skin hydrated, tackling skin pigmentation, facial redness, and fighting acne. It helps protect the skin from sun damage and irritations caused by toxins or environmental pollution.


Niacinamide also helps to control skin inflammation, and when applied topically, it controls rosacea, and dermatitis, pruritis. In fact, a 2014 study revealed that niacinamide has anti-inflammatory effects on the skin; this helps to reduce skin redness and irritations. Another study conducted in 2017 shows that niacinamide can decrease acne breakouts by reducing sebum-producing cells’ activities.

Last but not least, niacinamide enhances the skin barrier by helping the skin to retain moisture.

What is retinol and what does it do?

Retinol is thought to be the most powerful topical wrinkle prevention ingredient. It is a naturally occurring vitamin A derivative that is well known for facilitating skin cell renewal. This explains why it’s often used in most anti-aging skincare products. Retinol effectively tightens the skin and improves fine lines and wrinkles on the face, hands, and neck. Also, it controls acne by reducing sebum production.

Benefits of using niacinamide and retinol together

Niacinamide and retinol are powerful skincare ingredients you can use separately, but they work better when used together. Using retinol without niacinamide is just like eating bread without butter! You can eat bread alone, but it will certainly taste better when you add butter to it. The same goes for retinol and niacinamide. Keep reading to know why you should combine niacinamide and retinol in your skincare regimen.

Increased skin hydration

One of the major causes of most skin issues is lacking moisture in the skin. When your skin cannot retain enough water, it begins to appear unevenly toned, wrinkled, and dry. According to research, retinol can increase skin hydration. Niacinamide can also reduce the amount of water your body loses by stabilizing your skin barrier function. Some studies revealed that niacinamide increases the number of lipids (the outermost layer of the skin), helping your skin retain more water. This is one reason why you should use retinol and niacinamide together.

Reduced irritation

Irritation and dryness are common adverse effects of all-trans retinoic acid. Although retinol is used in most skincare products because of its ability to treat several skin conditions, it can cause irritation when used alone. Another reason for using retinol with niacinamide is to calm the adverse effects of retinol. Pre-treating your skin with niacinamide can increase your skin barrier function and decrease irritation chances.


In a study conducted by Zoe Diana Draelos, a clinical and research dermatologist, women with photodamaged skin were assigned two different cosmetic moisturizers to apply to their faces. They were to use one moisturizer containing niacinamide on one side of the face and another plain moisturizer on the other half of the face for ten weeks. At the end of the treatment period, they were asked to apply a prescription form of retinol (tretinoin) to the whole face at night. The results showed that the part of the face pre-treated with niacinamide could tolerate tretinoin much more than the other half treated with a plain moisturizer. 

They work at similar pH levels

One of the major challenges of combining skincare products is knowing the products that work at the same or similar pH levels. You could undermine a product’s effectiveness if you mix it with another skincare ingredient that works at a different pH level.

Thankfully, both retinol and niacinamide work at similar pH levels (5.5-6 for retinol and 5.0 and 7.0 for niacinamide). Hence, there is little or no risk of one ingredient altering the pH of the other.

Increasing skin cell renewal

Another reason why you should use retinol and niacinamide together is to increase the rate of skin cell turnover. Dead skin cells can only be shed from the skin when the skin is properly hydrated. When its hydration is below the threshold level, it takes longer to shed dead skin cells, prohibiting skin cell renewal.

Studies have shown that niacinamide can improve the effects of retinol in facilitating skin cell turnover. In the study mentioned above, it was discovered that improvements in skin texture, fine lines, and wrinkles are more noticeable when retinol is used together with niacinamide.

Benefits of Using Niacinamide And Retinol Together
Benefits of Using Niacinamide And Retinol Together

Products Containing Niacinamide And Retinol

StriVectin Retinol Moisturizer

StriVectin Advanced Retinol Intensive Night Moisturizer

This product is supercharged with retinol, the gold standard in anti-aging, and patented NIA-114, activates retinol’s age-fighting efficacy and strengthens the skin barrier, reducing irritating side effects.

QRxLabs Niacinamide and Retinol Serum

QRxLabs Niacinamide + Retinol Serum

These products combine niacinamide, retinol, hyaluronic acid, and salicylic acid. This is perfect for keeping the skin hydrated, fighting acne, and treating different signs of aging.

Cos de BAHA Retinol Serum

Cos De BAHA Retinol and Niamicide Serum

This product is a perfect mix of niacinamide, vitamin E, retinol, and salicylic acid. It helps to fade dark spots, reduce the appearance of fine lines, and clear skin blemishes.

How to use niacinamide and retinol together

You can combine niacinamide and retinol in one product; this makes it easier and more convenient to use. Alternatively, you may choose to use them as separate products. If you are using retinol and niacinamide as separate products, you should apply niacinamide before retinol. This is because niacinamide is water-based and will absorb into your skin faster than retinol, which is oil-based.

Apply the product every morning after having your bath and every evening before going to bed. Don’t forget to use sunscreen after applying the product in the morning to keep your skin protected throughout the day. 

You can also use niacinamide for a couple of weeks before starting retinol treatment to reduce skin irritation. 


Possible side effects

Using niacinamide with retinol treatment is usually safe, as there is no specific research to prove otherwise. However, if you are very sensitive to retinol, you can still develop inflammation and redness as niacinamide may not be enough to control the effects of retinol on your skin. 


Niacinamide and retinol are a perfect pair for treating signs of aging and similar skin conditions. They work well on their own, but they produce the best results when combined. Use them in one product or as separate products. If you are very sensitive to retinol, always pre-treat your skin with niacinamide for a couple of weeks before commencing retinol treatment to reduce retinol’s adverse effects.


  1. Can You Mix Niacinamide with Lactic Acid?
  2. Does Niacinamide Lighten Your Skin and Fades Hyperpigmentation?
  3. How To Pair Salicylic Acid and Niacinamide in Your Skincare Routine
  4. Could Resveratrol and Retinol Used Together Be A Game-Changer?
  5. Retinol Alternatives When You Can’t Tolerate Retinol
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