Can Retinol and Niacinamide Be Used Together? Here's What the Experts Had to Say
Whether you follow a strict 10-step routine or prefer the upmost minimalism, finding your failsafe skin care can be a complex process of trial and error. With so many products on the market, not only do you need to find those that work best for your skin type, but you also need to ensure the ingredients play well together, too. Similarly to retinol, the benefits of niacinamide seem to hold no bounds, but the big question is: can these two powerhouse ingredients be used together?
A Refresher on Retinol
In case you needed a reminder, Daniel Isaacs, director of research at Medik8, told us that retinol is the classic form of vitamin A and the unequivocal gold standard for tackling multiple skin concerns.
"Retinol stimulates cellular turnover in the skin, pushing fresh skin cells to the surface and [enhancing] collagen production." The powerful combination means that when used in topical skin care, retinol can reduce acne, smooth uneven skin texture, and brighten stubborn scarring. "Retinol is second to none for improving signs of photo-aging as it helps block the formation of pigment in the skin for brighter, more even-toned skin."
Despite all the virtues of retinol, it is also well known for being irritating if you're new to the ingredient, have overused it, or are using a formula with a high concentration, according to dermatologist Dr. Cristina Psomadakis. "Common side effects of retinol include redness, flaking and increased skin sensitivity," she told POPSUGAR.
So Can You Use Retinol and Niacinamide Together?
Thankfully, using niacinamide in your skin-care routine can help combat the negative side effects of retinol. Also known as vitamin B3, consultant dermatologist Dr. Justine Hextall explained that niacinamide is another multipurpose powerhouse ingredient.
"Niacinamide is a great anti-inflammatory and can help to improve uneven skin tone, diminish dullness, and soften fine lines and wrinkles. It's also crucial for healthy functioning of the skin barrier as it boosts ceramide production and reduces trans-epidermal water loss, which are key elements of reinforcing our skin barrier, keeping our skin hydrated, and improving redness and sensitivity from retinol usage."
Not only can niacinamide be used alongside retinol treatment to make it more tolerable, but Dr. Psomadakis also explained that niacinamide can also act as a preretinol skin trainer. "Research shows that pretreating your skin with niacinamide for a few weeks before starting retinol reduces the likelihood of side effects because your skin barrier will be in better shape."
Not only can niacinamide be used alongside retinol treatment to make it more tolerable, but niacinamide can also act as a pre-retinol skin trainer.
Although the dynamic duo of niacinamide and retinol pair very well together, Dr. Hextall advised people to still be cautious. "I always recommend a low and slow approach with retinol, and this shouldn't change just because you are using a compensating ingredient. It's always best to respect the skin barrier and build up your actives." Dr. Psomadakis agreed, pointing out that there are very few skin-care absolutes that apply to everyone. "Overall, niacinamide is very well tolerated and is known to be calming but there will always be exceptions." She also added that although niacinamide can help you tolerate retinol, it doesn't work the other way around. "If niacinamide on its own doesn't suit you, combining it with retinol won't change things."
How to Incorporate Both Retinol and Niacinamide in Your Regimen
When it comes to pairing the two together, you can either use two separate products or one product that contains both retinol or niacinamide. Those with more sensitive skins or are new to retinoids may prefer a handy duo according to Dr Hextall. "It is often thought that retinol is only for robust skins, however, using a clever formulation that combines cushioning niacinamide, can help to mitigate sensitivity." With niacinamide available in variety of products from face washes, to serums, hydrating toners and moisturizers, how you pair the two together is a matter of preference, but Isaacs said the typical skin-care layering rules still apply.
"The golden rule is to begin with the lightest formulation and build up layers with heavier textures so the heavier products can penetrate through the lighter ones to be properly absorbed. Start with water based products, follow with oil, emulsions, and finish with heavier creams." As always, but especially when using retinols, make sure to use a broad spectrum SPF in the daytime, too.
Ahead, find our favorite retinol and niacinamide products to take your skincare routine up a notch.
La Roche-Posay 0.3% Retinol + Vitamin B3 Serum
A French pharmacy favourite, this La Roche-Posay 0.3% Retinol + Vitamin B3 Serum ($40) has been specially formulated for sensitive skin. The combination of retinol and niacinamide together is also ideal for those venturing into the world of retinol who want results without irritation.
Typology Redness and Blemish Serum 12% Niacinamide
This highly concentrated Typology Redness and Blemish Serum 12% Niacinamide ($28) serum is ideal at soothing retinol irritation and strengthening the skin barrier. It also comes in two different sizes, so you can try the 15ml first before investing in the 30ml.
Alpha-H Vitamin B Serum
The buzzy Australian brand might be famous for its glycolic products, but the Alpha-H Vitamin B Serum ($55) is an ideal niacinamide booster to slot into your retinol routine. Packed with antioxidants from chia seeds and brightening ferulic acid, you'll want to use in your morning lineup too for maximum benefits.
Paula's Choice Clinical Niacinamide 20% Treatment
Paula's Choice Clinical Niacinamide 20% Treatment ($48) is highly rated for a reason. With a hefty 20 percent niacinamide, this serum has been formulated for those who want some serious pore refining and smoothing. When used alongside regular retinol use, this is serious skin-care power moves for unprecedented results.
Allies of Skin Prebiotics and Niacinamide Pore-Refining Booster
Allies of Skin is known for its efficient formulations, and the Allies of Skin Prebiotics and Niacinamide Pore-Refining Booster ($65) is the brand's latest addition. The trifecta of niacinamide, probiotics, and prebiotics aims to brighten and strengthen the skin while restoring the all-important skin barrier. Either mix it into serums, moisturizers, or masks, or apply it directly to skin after cleansing.
Medik8 Crystal Retinal
Whether you're a retinol veteran or just getting started, Medik8 has a retinol for everyone. The Crystal Retinal ($155) range uses an encapsulated form of vitamin A for optimum absorption with minimal irritation, and the multi-award-winning formulas comes in multiple strengths to smooth, brighten, and battle against acne-causing bacteria.
Votary Intense Night Oil
With a base of botanical plant oils, the Votary Intense Night Oil ($196) is a retinol with a difference. This game-changing product gets results with it's oil-soluble retinoid alongside antioxidant heroes such as rosehip, avocado, and tomato-seed oil. Ideal for skin that needs some nurturing, slather on before bed to wake up with rejuvenated skin.