Can You Use Niacinamide With Retinol? Science-Backed Skincare Combo 101

Niacinamide and retinol are wonderful skincare ingredients but what if you use them in combination? Find out more.

Retinol and niacinamide are both considered skincare superstars- all-rounders that just seem to do everything! Several skin care products are enriched with either retinol or niacinamide or a combination of both. 

It is confusing to choose a skincare product that is suitable for your skin. Adding up to the confusion is if two or more active ingredients can be combined without having any adverse effects.

In this article, we answer the questions ‘can you use niacinamide with retinol’, how to use niacinamide with retinol and when to use them- ‘niacinamide or retinol first?’

Can You Use Niacinamide and Retinol Together?

Yes, you can use Niacinamide and Retinol together. It is a known fact that not all skincare ingredients go well together. Some ingredients don’t go well together and can also cause rashes and skin irritation.

Are niacinamide and retinol good together? Can you use niacinamide with retinol? Is there a risk that they are going to interact with each other? Will they cause your eyebrows to fall off? Will you end up with angry irritated skin? 

Luckily none of that is going to happen, because niacinamide and retinol are a match made in heaven!

Why Use Niacinamide With Retinol?

Retinol is a form of vitamin A that increases the epidermal cell turnover (the rate at which dead skin cells are shed from the surface of the skin and are replaced with new cells) and collagen synthesis [1].

Retinoids often cause mild side effects like skin irritation, purging of skin, dryness, and redness of the skin [2]. If you are a retinol lover, you might have already experienced the ‘worst before better’ type of situation caused by retinol.

This is where niacinamide comes into the picture. Niacinamide is a form of vitamin B3 and strengthens and improves the skin barrier function, moisturizes your skin, and also decreases skin irritation, erythema (skin redness), and blotchiness caused by retinol [1].

Niacinamide also increases the levels of free fatty acids and ceramides in the skin and reduces water loss through the skin, thereby enhancing the skin’s permeability barrier [3].

Evidence for Using Niacinamide and Retinol Together

Many studies have shown that niacinamide and retinol can be used together without any noticeable side effects [4,5,6,7,8]. 

A study compared the effect of pre-treatment of plain moisturizer and a moisturizer containing niacinamide on reducing the side effects caused by retinol.

It was found that pre-treating skin with niacinamide-containing moisturizer prior to applying retinol can increase the skin’s tolerance to retinol. It also reduces the chances of skin irritation, dryness, and inflammation which can be caused by retinol [3].

Nicotinamide also enhances the effects of retinol by increasing the cell turnover and also by increasing the NAD+ pools required for retinol metabolism [9].

Another clinical study evaluated the efficacy and tolerability of a double conjugated retinoid cream-AHA-Ret- a retinoid with niacinamide, peptides, and additional active ingredients. 

The results showed that AHA-Ret was more tolerable than retinol and tretinoin. It also induced less erythema when compared to both, demonstrated early reductions in photodamage, and improved hydration of skin [10].

This shows that you can also use a mixture of niacinamide and retinol and choosing a product that contains both retinol and niacinamide is safe for your skin.

Moreover, both retinol and niacinamide have similar pH levels and benefits making their work compatible. Both individuals have the capacity to reduce hyperpigmentation, decrease fine lines and wrinkles [1].

Simply put, retinoids, and niacinamide complement each other and strengthen the benefits each provides.

Are There Any Side Effects of Using Niacinamide and Retinol Together?

As of now, there is no scientific evidence that combining niacinamide and retinol causes any side effects. So can you use niacinamide with retinol without any side effects? This pairing is considered safe for many skin types. Also, there are bountiful products that are made of a combination of niacinamide and retinol.

That being said, it is still possible to develop an adverse side effect, especially if you are sensitive to retinol. 

You might also be at risk of experiencing side effects

  • If you have any specific skin condition
  • If there are any other ingredients in the product which you might be allergic to
  • If the concentration of each ingredient is different 

How can you use niacinamide with retinol without any adverse effects? Even though this combination is usually safe for most skin types, the best approach is to consult a qualified dermatologist before you use niacinamide and retinol together.

How Should You Use Niacinamide and Retinol Together?

You don’t necessarily have to mix niacinamide with retinol before applying it to the skin. But if you want to use a mixture of niacinamide and retinol, you can pick a product that already contains a mixture of both. 

How to use niacinamide and retinol together?

  1. Wash your face with a mild cleanser
  2. Gently dab your face with a clean face towel
  3. You can select a product that has both niacinamide and retinol and apply it to your skin
  4. If you are using 2 different products, it is advisable to first apply niacinamide, and then layer it with retinol
  5. You can use this combination at day or at night but make sure you follow with a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF 30 or higher if you are using it during the day

Keep in mind that while the niacinamide-retinol combination is safe for a lot of people, if you directly jump to a higher concentration, it might cause skin irritation and inflammation. So it is recommended to start with a lower dose and then gradually increase the concentration.

For example, 2% and even 1% retinol is considered high strength. So if you are new to using retinol, you can choose a mild to moderate strength retinol i.e. retinol below 0.5%. If you don’t see a retinol concentration on your combination product, chances are it probably falls in the low to moderate strength range.

If you experience any mild side effects like red patches on the skin, flaking skin, etc, you can go down to a lower concentration or decrease the frequency of application. 

If you experience any adverse effects, it is best to talk to an experienced dermatologist.

Should You Use Niacinamide Before or After Retinol?

Should you use niacinamide or retinol first? 

The answer mostly depends on what type of products you are using.

Generally speaking, niacinamide is water-soluble and retinol is fat-soluble. So, if you are using 2 different products, it is best you apply niacinamide first and then layer it with retinol. 

This is because niacinamide is water-soluble and can be rapidly absorbed by the skin when compared to oil-based retinol.

Applying niacinamide after applying retinol can also be equally effective. 

The general rule of thumb when following a skincare regimen is to apply the lightest product first followed by a denser product.

So, if you are using a niacinamide serum or a light niacinamide moisturizer, it is best to apply it first before applying retinol. But if you are using a thicker niacinamide-based moisturizer, you can layer it after applying retinol serum. 

In case you experience a severe retinoid reaction, you can also buffer retinol with 2 layers of moisturizer. 

You can use niacinamide-based products a few weeks prior to starting retinol for best results.


Q: Can I use niacinamide with retinol and hyaluronic acid?

A: Yes! You can use niacinamide with both retinol and hyaluronic acid.

Q: What you should not mix with retinol?

A: Don’t mix retinol with exfoliating chemicals like BHA (beta hydroxy acid). You shouldn’t mix retinol with other acne treatments like benzoyl peroxide as they can deactivate each other.

Q: Can I use ordinary niacinamide every day?

A: Yes. Niacinamide is a gentle compound which you can use on a daily basis.

Wrapping Up

Can you use niacinamide with retinol? Yes! Niacinamide and retinol can be safely used together. In fact, there are a number of products available in the market which use a combination of retinol and niacinamide.

While there aren’t any side effects of using this double whammy for acne and signs of aging, people with certain skin conditions might experience some adverse side effects. Retinol isn’t generally recommended for pregnant and lactating women. 

So if you are pregnant or lactating or have any skin conditions, you might want to consult a dermatologist before starting this wonderous regimen.

It is also vital that you get adequate vitamins for healthy skin. That way, you can speed up your quest for healthy glowing, and youthful skin.

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