Can Niacinamide Be Used with Retinol? What You Need to Know

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Niacinamide and retinol are familiar terms to many people, particularly those that are invested in achieving healthy, glowing, and beautiful skin.

Open caps with dropper pipettes with serum isolated on a white background

Both considered powerhouse ingredients, these two products are great at delivering various skin benefits. They can reduce and arrest signs of aging, improve skin tone, treat acne, and correct dark spots.

Some of us are more partial to niacinamide, while others prefer retinol. 

But what if you want to use niacinamide and retinol together?

Can niacinamide be used with retinol? What do studies say? Is it safe? Are there benefits? Will you need to look out for side effects?

In this article, we answer all these questions and more.

Can You Use Niacinamide and Retinol Together?

There are many skincare products that are best used on their own. You may layer them in a routine, but you shouldn’t combine them in one application.

Fortunately, if you’re asking, “Can I use retinol with niacinamide?” you’ll be pleased to know that the answer is yes.

In fact, it is not only safe to use both; it’s also beneficial.

What Is Niacinamide?

Also called nicotinamide, niacinamide is a type of vitamin B3 considered to be one of the eight B vitamins that are essential for our health. 

In skincare, it’s a focal ingredient in serums, moisturizers, day and night creams, sunscreens, spot correctors, toners, and masks.

It’s also been highlighted in many TikTok videos as part of a new skincare trend, and for good reasons. 

Benefits of Niacinamide for the Skin

Niacinamide provides multiple rewards for your skin, which are as follows:

Delivers Protective Hydration

First, niacinamide helps fortify the skin barrier to lock in moisture, ensuring that your skin stays hydrated, much like how body butter works. Additionally, it has been found to be a better hydrator than petroleum jelly. 

Not only does it hydrate, but it also helps protect the skin from sources of oxidative stress. These include UV rays, toxins, and pollutants. 

Corrects Dark Spots and Other Signs of Sun Damage

Speaking of UV rays, this physiologically active form of niacin also helps ease hyperpigmentation and other signs of sun damage. At the same time, it can blur fine lines and wrinkles that come from overexposure to the sun. 

Improves Skin Quality

If you want skin that looks and feels better, niacinamide aids in boosting keratin and collagen production, which is important to keep skin young-looking and healthy.

Also, it can ease inflammation. So if you have an inflammatory condition like rosacea or eczema, this ingredient is going to feel like a hug for your skin.

And because it keeps skin moisturized, it helps minimize the appearance of pores.

Treats Acne

Finally, niacinamide can help treat acne

Since it regulates oil production, it can unclog the pores that may be housing acne-causing bacteria. 

Should You Use Niacinamide?

Niacinamide is especially suitable for these types of people:

  • Those who have sensitive skin or are dealing with conditions like rosacea 
  • Those who like products with gentler formulations to minimize the risk for irritation
  • Those who want to have more hydrated skin
  • Those with hyperpigmentation or have sun-damaged skin

Now that we’ve covered what niacinamide is, what it can do, and whom it is for, let’s move on to the second wonder skincare ingredient: retinol.

What Is Retinol?

Retinol is a derivative of vitamin A that belongs to a class of compounds known as retinoids. Used as a topical product, it’s present in many creams, lotions, gels, ointments, and serums.

Most of the retinol you see on the market are over-the-counter retinol that contains no more than two percent of the product. Higher dosages of this ingredient will require a prescription.

But why would you go to such trouble?

Is retinol worth it?

You’ll be happy to know that the answer is a definitive yes.

Benefits of Retinol for the Skin

What can retinol do for your skin?

Quite a lot. Here are some of the most important benefits.

Improves Skin Appearance

Retinol works by penetrating into the layers of the skin to do its magic. First, it neutralizes free radicals to encourage faster elastin and collagen production. Additionally, it promotes faster cell turnover.

These properties result in skin that looks amazing and feels great to the touch. You can look forward to better skin tone, texture, and brighter, healthier skin.

Retinol also helps ease hyperpigmentation; serums that contain 0.3% and 0.5% retinol are especially effective at eliminating uneven skin color.

Finally, it shrinks pores and improves skin elasticity.

Comes with Anti-Aging Properties

Since retinol aids in collagen and elastin production, it stimulates the growth of healthy cells that helps minimize signs of aging. These include sagging, fine lines, and wrinkles.

A study from 2019 found that after two months of use, participants that applied retinol to their skin saw a reduction in wrinkle formation around their eyes and necks. 

Similarly, a separate facial imaging analysis saw the same encouraging effects after participants used retinol for over three months.

Additionally, this ingredient has been found to aid the skin in locking in moisture. As a result, skin looks plumper and more youthful.

Treats and Prevents Acne

Finally, retinol can help treat acne. A 2019 study found that topical variations of this ingredient, in particular, are a safe and effective treatment for mild to moderate acne.

Young woman with closed eyes touching face with acne isolated on beige

Additionally, it can help ease inflammation from pimples and pus-filled pustules. And it helps blur existing and subsequent acne scarring.

Should You Use Retinol?

Retinol is considered safe for everyone, especially for people in their thirties who are already starting to see the effects of decreased collagen levels in their skin. 

At the same time, it’s recommended for teenagers with mild to moderate acne.

Any skin type also works well with retinol, but those with sensitive skin are recommended to try gentler products.

Pregnant or breastfeeding women should not use retinol. The same applies to people who are already using other types of exfoliants.

Are there side effects to using retinol?

Unfortunately, yes.

The good thing is that these side effects can be mitigated using retinol with other ingredients.

That’s where niacinamide comes in.

Benefits of Using Niacinamide with Retinol in Your Skincare Routine

So can you use retinol and niacinamide together?

Pairing niacinamide with retinol in your skincare routine or using products that contain both can do a lot of wonders for your skin. 

Since retinol is known to cause irritation for people with dry and sensitive skin, niacinamide can help ease the less-than-ideal effects of retinol. 

According to a 2008 study, applying a product with niacinamide before using retinol can fortify your skin’s tolerance to retinol and curb possible irritation. 

A separate study also confirmed this mutually beneficial bond.

For two weeks, study participants prepped one-half of their skin with an ordinary moisturizer and the other half with a niacinamide-containing moisturizer.

They were then asked to apply 0.25% tretinoin — a more potent retinoid — to their faces and follow it up with the moisturizers five minutes later. 

The results found that the side of the face with niacinamide showed higher tolerance to retinol.

In addition to reduced irritation, these studies suggest that niacinamide and retinol have synergistic and complementary functions. So when used alongside each other, they make each other better.

Retinol is particularly effective at boosting cell turnover, while niacinamide can fortify the skin barrier function.

Together, the two ingredients can deliver smooth, hydrated, and young-looking skin while also protecting against toxins and impurities.

And this is precisely what two other studies discovered; in 2012, a topical product formulated with niacinamide, retinol, and 7-dehydrocholesterol was found to be beneficial for treating acne. 

And in 2016, a retinol cream that contains niacinamide, hexylresorcinol, and resveratrol proved to be effective at enhancing skin tone and curbing signs of aging.

Niacinamide and Retinol: Which Should You Use First?

When deciding between using niacinamide or retinol first, the resounding recommendation from multiple experts is to use niacinamide before retinol. 

This is true for the following types of applications:

  • When you’re layering these ingredients in one routine
  • When you’re using them at different times of the day
  • When you’re using them for the first time

“But can I mix niacinamide with retinol?”

If you’re layering a product with niacinamide and a retinol serum, first go with the niacinamide before you move on to the one with retinol. 

Doing this will help prep the skin for the retinol’s effects and ensure that the latter will be thoroughly absorbed with minimal side effects.

If you’re using products that have these ingredients at different times of the day, apply the niacinamide product in the morning. Then follow up with the one that contains retinol at night.

Lastly, if you’re about to start building your skincare routine, introduce niacinamide to your skin first. 

Once you’re comfortable with it, start applying a bit of retinol and see how your skin reacts.

How Often Can I Use Niacinamide and Retinol Together?

The frequency with which you can use retinol and niacinamide together depends on a couple of factors, which are as follows:

How Long You’ve Been Using the Products

First of all, it’s possible to safely use both of these ingredients every day. However, you want to ensure that your skin has already built up a tolerance to them, especially in the case of retinol.

If you’re only just starting, say with a niacinamide and retinol serum, remember to introduce one ingredient at a time. 

Start with the gentler niacinamide, then ease into incorporating retinol after a few weeks. 

Check if there are adverse side effects; if everything goes well, slowly build up the frequency.


The amount of niacinamide or retinol in a product is another great determinant of how often you can use these ingredients. 

For niacinamide, the recommended concentration level is not more than five percent. And for retinol, it’s best not to go beyond one percent; beginners are especially advised to stick to 0.25% retinol to prevent irritation.

If you’ve already been using more than the recommended amounts of these products separately, it’s still necessary to err on the side of caution. 

Stronger concentrations of niacinamide and retinol should not be used together on a daily basis.

Your Skin’s Sensitivity

Finally, consider your skin’s sensitivity. 

Some people have been using these products on their own for a long time, but they opt to alternate their retinol use every other day instead of daily to accommodate their sensitive skin. And they see amazing results.

If you have normal skin that isn’t sensitive, daily use won’t be an issue. But again, consider the other factors on this list to make the right judgment call.

Are There Side Effects of Using Retinol and Niacinamide Together?

There should be no side effects from using these two ingredients together.

However, for people with darker skin tones, irritation is a possibility. 

To make sure you can safely enjoy the combined power of these ingredients, stick to retinol products that don’t go beyond 0.5% concentration.

Using Retinol and Niacinamide Together: Safety Tips 

a young woman wearing sunglasses and tank top applying sunscreen on her arms while outdoors
  • Always wear sunscreen.
  • Introduce these products slowly if you’re just incorporating them into your routine.
  • Don’t use more than the recommended amount of product.
  • Don’t go beyond the suggested concentration level; if you’d like to try stronger formulations, seek the advice of a dermatologist first.
  • Don’t overdo it; give your skin a break every now and then.
  • If you start experiencing negative results or you’ve stopped seeing positive effects, talk to a doctor.


Is it safe to use niacinamide and vitamin C and retinol together?

It’s okay to use these ingredients together. 

You can opt for a toner with niacinamide, a serum with vitamin C, and then finish with a retinol cream.

In fact, some products contain all three of them in one formulation.

However, to be sure, it’s best to seek professional advice.

Can you use salicylic acid, niacinamide, and retinol all at once?

Using salicylic acid, niacinamide, and retinol within the same day is okay — but at different times of the day.

You can start with a product with salicylic acid in the morning, follow it up with something that contains niacinamide, and end with a retinol serum in the evening.

Leverage Knowledge in Any Skincare Routine

Niacinamide and retinol can be excellent partners to aid you in your journey to achieving beautiful, glowing skin. Just make sure to anchor your decisions on proper information to ensure a safe and wonderful experience.

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  • Kat

    Kat brings a seasoned voice to our beauty blog with 13 years of dedicated writing experience. Her deep-seated passion isn't just limited to words; she's always on the pulse of emerging makeup trends. Beyond her articles, Kat crafts hand-made crochet swimwear and sundresses, and effortlessly steps in as a muse for beauty photoshoots. Kat holds a Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology.

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