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How and When To Use Niacinamide and Retinol Together for Better Skin

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You may feel nervous about mixing skincare ingredients 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, just because you used the 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?

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 a multi-tasking ingredient that can keep the skin hydrated, tackle skin pigmentation, facial redness, and fight acne. It helps protect the skin from sun damage and irritations caused by toxins or environmental pollution. Last but not least, niacinamide enhances the skin barrier by helping the skin to retain moisture.

What is retinol?

Retinol is a naturally occurring vitamin A derivative that is well known for facilitating skin cell renewal. This explains why retinol is often used in 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

Most skin issues are caused by the lacking of moisture in the skin. When your skin cannot retain enough water, it begins to appear unevenly toned, wrinkled, and dry. Niacinamide can reduce the amount of water your body loses by stabilizing your skin barrier function. Some studies revealed that niacinamide increases the number of lipids in the outermost layer of the skin, helping your skin retain more water. Since retinol is known to cause dryness, niacinamide can be used to counteract its drying effects. 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 stimulate cell renewal, 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 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.

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 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.

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