Can You Use Niacinamide With Retinol?

Ingredients, Skin Care

Have you ever felt like lately, your wrinkles and fine lines have been popping up seemingly overnight? Anti-aging skincare is on the rise as those with similarly aging skin seek to reclaim their youthful glow.

Niacinamide and retinol are both highly effective in their own right. Incorporate them into your routine properly, and you can achieve flawless-looking skin.”

  • Shani

One of the hot ingredients on the current anti-aging market is retinol. However, this powerful ingredient often doesn’t play well with others, so finding ingredients that won’t spark a reaction can be difficult. In this article, we’ll examine whether or not you can combine retinol with another popular skincare ingredient, niacinamide.

What Is Niacinamide?

Niacinamide is a form of vitamin B3, although it’s not to be confused with niacin, a separate form of the same vitamin. Niacinamide is the more popular term for this ingredient, but you may also see it listed as nicotinamide. If you ever see nicotinamide listed in an ingredients list, just know it’s the same thing as niacinamide!

Vitamin B3 is an important part of your daily bodily functions. When you ingest vitamin B3, it helps your body properly digest food, and it contributes to your skin health.

You can get vitamin B3 from dietary sources such as various meats, eggs, dairy products, and whole grains. However, there’s no way to ensure that your dietary vitamin B3 makes it into your skin. 

That’s why topical vitamin B3 (known as niacinamide) is the best way to make sure your skin can reap this vitamin’s full benefits.

What Are the Benefits of Niacinamide?

But what are the benefits of niacinamide? This vitamin does it all, but here are some of our favorite skincare benefits.

Supports Your Skin Barrier

When it does get into your skin, niacinamide’s main job is to support your skin barrier. Your skin barrier is the outermost layer of your epidermis, and it’s essentially just ceramides that are glued together to create a solid layer. 

Your skin barrier is important for two reasons. First, your skin barrier helps keep bacteria out of your body. It’s the first line of defense in your body’s immune system. 

Second, your skin barrier helps to keep moisture in your skin and prevent trans-epidermal water loss. Without an intact skin barrier, your body’s moisture would completely evaporate into the environment.

Your skin barrier can be compromised by everyday stressors like sun damage, pollution, and even weather, and a compromised skin barrier can result in dryness, flakiness, and more. Fortunately, niacinamide helps support your ceramides to strengthen your skin barrier.

Reduces Appearance of Visible Signs of Aging

Aging is a natural part of life, so getting a wrinkle or two is normal as you get older. However, your skin can prematurely develop fine lines and wrinkles due to oxidative stress.

To better understand oxidative stress, we need to discuss free radicals. Free radicals are unstable atoms that can cause serious damage to your skin and even your body in general as they attempt to stabilize themselves. 

Luckily, your body produces antioxidants, which are molecules that track down free radicals and help neutralize them.

Oxidative stress occurs when there are more free radicals attacking your skin than your body is equipped to handle with its natural antioxidants. Niacinamide is a powerful antioxidant that, when used topically, may neutralize free radicals and help reduce the look of signs of aging on your skin.

Maintains Clear-Looking Skin

Niacinamide is a powerhouse ingredient.

This skincare ingredient can also help address hyperpigmentation by working to fade the appearance of dark spots or blemish scars. 

Niacinamide also tackles blemishes by working to support and maintain a healthy balance of sebum. If your oil glands tend to overproduce sebum, this likely contributes to breakouts. By supporting healthy levels of oil production, you can tackle those stubborn pimples at their source.

What Is Retinol?

Retinol is a form of retinoid commonly found in over-the-counter (OTC) skincare products. You can find products containing retinol at most beauty stores, but other forms of retinoid are highly potent and typically require a prescription from a dermatologist.

Like other members of the retinoid family, retinol is a derivative of vitamin A. Although retinol is the gentlest retinoid, it’s still incredibly powerful. Retinol possesses the same skincare powers as more potent retinoids and can even provide the same results with consistent use.

What Are the Benefits of Retinol?

There’s a reason that retinol is currently at the center of the anti-aging skincare stage. Here are some of our favorite uses for retinol.

Maintains Smooth-Feeling Skin

As your skin cells die and make way for new ones in a process called skin cell turnover, the dead skin cells can build up on the surface of your skin. This buildup can result in an uneven, almost scaly skin texture and a dull and flaky appearance. 

These dead skin cells can’t absorb moisture; as they build up, they can also prevent the skin underneath from absorbing moisture and product. Retinol helps to slough away these dead skin cells to reveal younger and brighter-looking skin underneath.

Retinol can support healthy skin cell turnover, which may lessen the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Young skin has a turnover rate of approximately 28 days, but this process can slow to as high as 70 days as your skin ages. Retinol ensures that your skin can both look and feel its best by supporting the regular turnover process!

Blemishes, Be Gone!

Blemishes typically occur when hair follicles get clogged up and irritated. These clogs are usually made up of excess sebum, dirt, bacteria, and dead skin cells. By removing extra dead skin cells, retinol can help prevent blemishes from occurring in the first place.

As a bonus, retinol can also unclog stubborn pores. In fact, retinol’s stronger forms are typically prescribed by dermatologists to address stubborn pimples.

Supports an Even-Toned Glow

Because retinol maintains cell turnover, it may also help slowly fade the look of dark spots over time. Dark spots occur when individual skin cells overproduce melanin as a stress response. Supporting cell turnover helps your skin replace affected skin cells with newer, unaffected skin cells.

Retinol also supports your skin’s regular collagen levels. Collagen is an essential part of your skin’s elasticity, which helps your skin bounce back from stress. Collagen also helps your skin look firm and plump. Healthy levels of collagen mean firmer-looking and more youthful skin!

I recommend my Retinol Reform to anyone looking to add retinol to their daily skincare routine. This award-winning formula uses encapsulated retinol that will slowly release over the night, which can minimize some of retinol’s infamous irritating effects. This vegan and cruelty-free formula also includes lactic acid for a powerful skin-brightening effect.

Can You Use Them Together?

You absolutely can pair these two ingredients! In fact, these two ingredients can even work better together.

Because retinol is such a powerful ingredient, it can cause some irritation. Especially when first using a retinol product, it’s likely that you’ll see some redness and dryness for a little while as your skin adjusts to the new product. Even a gentler retinol formulation like my Retinol Reform (which even contains niacinamide!) can spark these effects in sensitive skin. 

Luckily, niacinamide is well-known to soothe irritated skin because it supports the skin barrier. In fact, studies have shown that applying niacinamide before retinol can decrease irritation caused by retinol. 

To take advantage of this special layering effect, I recommend prepping your skin with my Sake Toning Essence. This antioxidant-rich formula combines soothing niacinamide with brightening sake and mattifying Rosa Canina fruit extract to create a product that perfectly primes your skin for a better retinol experience.

Skincare Tips for Success

Here are a few of my tried-and-true tips to help you get the most out of these two powerhouse ingredients. 

Start Slow

Although niacinamide can help mitigate the initial irritation of traditional retinol formulas, I still recommend starting slow when incorporating retinol into your skincare routine. 

Start with 1-2 times per week and add a night each week to build up your skin’s tolerance. From there, you can use your retinol as often as your skin can tolerate it. 

Sunscreen, Sunscreen, Sunscreen

Retinol can make your skin more sensitive to sunlight than usual, making it much easier for your skin to burn and get sun damage. To get all of the brightening benefits of a retinol, it’s best to use it at night when your skin is in repair mode. 

Even so, it’s incredibly important to wear sunscreen daily when using a retinol product. My favorite sunscreen is Supergoop Play Every Day Sunscreen Lotion with SPF 50. As a bonus, this sunscreen doubles as a moisturizer!

Final Thoughts

Retinol and niacinamide both work wonders for your skin, but they work even better together. We recommend using a niacinamide product before your daily retinol, starting slow, and using a daily SPF to see these skin-saving effects. If you still aren’t sure where to begin, schedule a virtual consultation with one of our skincare experts! 


Nicotinic Acid/Niacinamide and the Skin | National Library of Medicine

Retinoid or Retinol? | American Academy of Dermatology

Photodecomposition and Phototoxicity of Natural Retinoids | PMC