Retinol and Niacinamide: Can You Use Them Together?

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Welcome to the start of the journey to younger and healthier skincare! Today we will dive into the intriguing world of two skincare powerhouses: retinol and niacinamide. 

Throughout this blog post, we will delve into the intricacies of these exceptional compounds, uncover their individual merits, and explore the results of using niacinamide and retinol together. 

a close up image of a woman wearing a gray tank top holding a serum

We will also address common concerns, guide you as you use them in your skincare routine, and shed light on the precautions necessary to ensure a safe and effective skincare experience.

Ready to discover the advantages of using niacinamide and retinol? Let’s get to it then. 

Combining Retinol and Niacinamide?

Retinol and niacinamide are both popular ingredients on their own, but you’re probably wondering what happens when you combine them and if you should combine them at all. 

The answer to whether you can use retinol and niacinamide together is a resounding yes. Combining retinol and niacinamide helps boost the benefits of each one even more.

Studies have shown that together, retinol and niacinamide provide the benefits of retinol with fewer adverse side effects.

This means niacinamide helps reduce the irritation and dryness caused by retinol, and retinol creams with niacinamide cause less irritation than formulas with retinol alone.

Products with both retinol and niacinamide are great for combating acne and reducing the signs of aging without drying or irritating the skin.

Calm serene young woman in spa bathrobe and towel relaxing after taking shower bath with her eyes closed at home.

Retinol and Niacinamide for Your Skin Problems

When it comes to skincare superheroes, retinol and niacinamide are undoubtedly at the top of the list. Look closer at how they can help address your specific skin concerns.

Using Retinol and Niacinamide Together for Skin Concerns

Retinol and niacinamide bring their A-game when they join forces, and they deliver a skincare experience that’s nothing short of extraordinary.

From fighting signs of aging to refining skin texture to even addressing hyperpigmentation, these active ingredients are the tag team you never knew you needed.

Here are the skin concerns that retinol and niacinamide can address: 

  • Skin irritation and sensitivities: While retinol offers a plethora of benefits for your skin, it is a potent compound and can cause skin irritations, especially on sensitive skin.

    The most significant advantage, so to speak, of using niacinamide with retinol is niacinamide’s ability to lessen dryness and irritation, the common side effects of retinol serum. 
  • Fine lines and wrinkles: When it comes to battling the inevitable signs of aging, retinol and niacinamide make a dynamic duo to diminish those fine lines and wrinkles.

    Retinol works its magic by stimulating collagen production, which is essential for maintaining the skin’s elasticity and firmness. Niacinamide, the versatile ally, improves the skin’s barrier function by enhancing its ability to retain moisture.

    Additionally, niacinamide has antioxidant properties that protect the skin from environmental damage, such as UV rays and pollution, which can contribute to premature aging. 
  • Rough skin texture and uneven skin tone: As we age, our skin’s natural exfoliation process slows down, leading to a buildup of dull and uneven skin texture. However, retinol speeds up this process.

    By encouraging the shedding of dead skin cells and promoting the growth of fresh, healthy cells, retinol helps unveil a smoother complexion.

    On the other hand, uneven skin tone, characterized by dark spots, hyperpigmentation, or post-inflammatory marks, is a frustrating concern for many as well. In this regard, niacinamide comes to the rescue. 
  • Acne and enlarged pores: Retinol treats acne by accelerating skin cell turnover or the shedding of dead skin cells, which prevents the buildup of impurities that can lead to enlarged pores and acne formation.

    Furthermore, retinol also helps regulate sebum production, the skin’s natural oil, to reduce oiliness that greatly contributes to clogged pores and acne breakouts.

    Niacinamide possesses anti-inflammatory properties to reduce redness, swelling, and irritation, which are often seen in acne-prone skin.
young woman with closed eyes touching face with acne isolated on beige

Incorporating Niacinamide and Retinol Products Into Your Skincare Routine 

Choosing the Right Products

When selecting retinol and niacinamide products, it’s important to consider their formulation and concentration.

  • Formulation and ingredients: Look for products specifically formulated for the face and containing stable forms of retinol or niacinamide.

    Look for products free of potential irritants, such as fragrance or alcohol, and contain other beneficial ingredients like antioxidants or hydrating agents.

    Opt for products that list retinol high up in the ingredient list, indicating a higher concentration. However, it’s important to note that you should start in smaller concentrations if you aren’t used to using retinol.
  • Concentration: Most products have a retinol percentage range of 0.025% to 0.1%. If you are a retinol beginner, you should start with a smaller concentration and work your way up. 

    A good range to work with — if it’s your first time — is 0.025 to 0.03%. If you want to use retinol for acne-prone skin, you can go a little bit higher, but it’s best to see how your skin reacts first.

    Niacinamide products typically come in various concentrations, ranging from 2% to 10%. For beginners or those with sensitive skin, start with a lower concentration.

Quick Tip

For sensitive skin, it is recommended to begin with a lower niacinamide concentration, such as 2%, and assess the skin’s reaction. If well tolerated, the concentration can be increased over time.

If you have a specific skin condition and are uncertain about how the combination of niacinamide and retinol may interact with the topical products or medications you are using, consult your dermatologist.

  • Packaging: Retinol products should be packaged in opaque, airtight containers to maintain the ingredient’s potency and prevent degradation.
Cosmetic serum texture with dropper transparent liquid background

Use and Frequency Tips

When using retinol and niacinamide together, it’s essential to follow a few useful tips to maximize their benefits and minimize potential side effects.

Here are some key considerations:

  • Apply retinol at night. Retinol is sensitive to sunlight, so it may degrade when exposed to UV rays. Therefore, it is best to apply pure retinol in the evening as part of your nighttime skincare routine.
  • Apply niacinamide in the morning. Niacinamide is a versatile ingredient that can be used in both morning and evening routines.

    However, applying it in the morning helps you harness its oil-regulating and skin-brightening benefits throughout the day.
  • Use just enough. Less is more for retinol. Just start with a small pea-sized amount and massage it ino the skin. Too much can cause dryness or irritation. 

    For niacinamide, it depends on the product, but for the most common, two drops will do. 
  • Follow with moisturizer. Both retinol and niacinamide can potentially cause dryness, especially during the initial stages of use. Follow up with a moisturizer to keep your skin hydrated and nourished.
  • Always wear sunscreen. It is crucial to protect your skin from UV damage and preserve the effects of niacinamide and retinol on your skin.

    So be sure to slather a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher during the day.
Asian woman applying cream to her face in the mirror.

Complementary Skincare Ingredients

You can enhance the effectiveness of retinol and niacinamide by using other complementary skincare ingredients in your routine.

Some notable options include the following:

  • Hyaluronic acid. Known for its hydrating properties, hyaluronic acid helps replenish moisture and plump the skin, counteracting any potential dryness or irritation from retinol or niacinamide.
  • Vitamin C. When used alongside retinol and niacinamide, vitamin C can boost the skin’s brightening and antioxidant benefits. It helps even out skin tone, fades hyperpigmentation, and protects against free radical damage.
  • Peptides. Peptides are amino acids that support the skin’s natural collagen production, helping improve skin elasticity, firmness, and overall texture. 
  • Antioxidants. Antioxidants like vitamin E, green tea extract, or resveratrol can provide an extra layer of protection against free radicals and oxidative stress.
  • Ceramides. Using products containing ceramides alongside retinol and niacinamide can help replenish the skin’s natural moisture barrier.

What Is Retinol?

Retinol is a potent and widely recognized anti-aging skincare ingredient.

It is a derivative of vitamin A and is a member of the retinoid family, which is a group of compounds known for their exceptional skin cell renewal properties. 

Due to its transformative effects on the skin, retinol has become the go-to choice of those seeking to combat fine lines and wrinkles. 

Retinol comes in many forms, such as the following:

  • creams
  • gels
  • lotions
  • ointments
  • serums

Skincare products with lower concentrations of retinol (0.01% to 0.03%) are available over the counter (OTC), while higher concentrations (0.3% to 1%) are prescription-only. 

cosmetic smears of creamy texture on a pastel beige background

Here are the most notable benefits of retinol for your skin:

  • Diminished fine lines and wrinkles
  • Enhanced cellular renewal
  • Regulated sebum production
  • Improved skin elasticity and tightness

Potential Side Effects of Using Retinol 

While retinol is a highly effective ingredient for skincare, it’s important to be aware of potential side effects caused by retinol.

These include the following:

  • Dryness and irritation: Retinol can cause dryness, redness, flakiness, and irritation, especially during the initial stages of use. 
  • Sensitivity to sunlight: Retinol can increase skin sensitivity to sunlight, making it more prone to sunburn. Therefore, it is crucial to use sunscreen with a high SPF during the day and limit sun exposure.
  • Purging: In some cases, retinol can cause a temporary purging phase where existing impurities come to the surface, resulting in breakouts or congestion.

    This is a normal part of the skin’s renewal process. So don’t worry! It will subside with continued use.

To minimize these side effects, it’s important to follow proper usage guidelines. If you experience severe irritation or persistent side effects, reduce usage or seek advice from a dermatologist.

women standing outdoor with hand cover her eye to protect sunlight

What Is Niacinamide?

Niacinamide, also known as nicotinamide, is a water-soluble form of vitamin B3 that helps maintain healthy-looking skin.

It’s an essential nutrient found in various food sources, such as meat, fish, nuts, and green leafy vegetables, and it plays a crucial role in various physiological processes.

When incorporated into skincare products, niacinamide can work wonders for improving the overall health and appearance of the skin. It comes in creams, gels, lotions, and serums.

Niacinamide offers several benefits to your skin, such as the following:

  • Regulates sebum production
  • Reduces inflammation associated with mild to moderate acne
  • Hydrates skin and enhanced barrier function
  • Reduces hyperpigmentation, including dark spots and melasma
  • Brightens and evens skin tone
  • Antioxidant properties
cosmetic smears cream texture on pastel background

Potential Side Effects of Using Niacinamide

Niacinamide is generally well tolerated by most individuals. It rarely causes significant side effects.

However, it’s important to be aware of a few precautions:

  • Allergies. While uncommon, some individuals may have an allergic reaction to niacinamide.

    It is recommended to perform a patch test before using niacinamide-based products and discontinue use if any signs of irritation or allergy occur.
  • Ingredient compatibility. Niacinamide can sometimes interact with specific skincare ingredients, such as acids with low pH (i.e., AHA and BHA).

    These interactions can reduce the efficacy of niacinamide or cause temporary flushing or redness.

    To avoid any potential interactions, it is advisable to separate the application of niacinamide and acidic products by a few minutes or use them in separate routines.
Amber-colored container with cosmetic product, serum on brown background in rays of sunlight.

7 Best Products With Retinol and Niacinamide

If you’re ready to elevate your skincare routine to new heights, these carefully chosen gems are here to deliver the ultimate skin-loving experience.

1
QRxLabs 5% Niacinamide (Vitamin B3) + 1% Retinol Serum

This serum’s potent combination of ingredients addresses a wide range of skincare issues for gorgeous, glowing skin.

Key benefits: Restores skin’s elasticity; hydrates skin; reduces spots and discoloration

Features:

  • Made with 1% retinol and 5% niacinamide
  • Contains hyaluronic acid
  • Packed with natural ingredients

This retinol and niacinamide serum penetrates the skin to restore and hydrate it at the same time.

This advanced anti-aging serum combines retinol and niacinamide with beneficial facial care ingredients like vitamin E, jojoba oil, and green tea extract.

These ingredients help brighten the skin for a more youthful and glowing complexion. It will also help create a natural barrier to protect the skin.

With regular use, you will notice tighter and smoother skin, fewer fine lines and visible wrinkles, and reduced signs of acne.

2
InstaNatural Retinol Serum With Niacinamide

This retinol serum helps minimize the signs of aging and protects the skin against free radicals.

Key benefits: Supports skin exfoliation; brightens and reduces discoloration; promotes healthy collagen production

Features:

  • Formulated with retinol, niacinamide, vitamin C, and hyaluronic acid
  • Contains an exclusive botanical blend to reduce signs of aging
  • Cruelty-free

An anti-aging serum for more advanced retinol users that promotes the skin’s natural exfoliation and makes the skin look radiant and smooth.

The InstaNatural Retinol Serum With Niacinamide combines the power of retinol and niacinamide with vitamin C and hyaluronic acid in one powerful anti-aging serum.

It supports collagen production and exfoliation to help reduce discolorations, fine lines, and wrinkles while increasing the skin’s radiance.

Plus, this serum is formulated without parabens, sulfates, synthetic fragrances, and other harmful chemicals. 

However, it’s important to note that this is said to contain 2.5% retinol, which is quite high for a non-prescription formula. So we wouldn’t recommend this for beginners.

3
Pure Formula Retinol and Niacinamide Daily Moisturizer

A lightweight moisturizer you can include in your daily skincare routine to promote a smoother and brighter complexion.

Key benefits: Moisturizes the skin; reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles; stimulates cell production

Features:

  • Combines retinol and niacinamide 
  • Contains botanical extracts
  • No artificial colors or fragrances

If you want to reduce fine lines and wrinkles, this moisturizer is a good product to include in your skincare regimen.

Retinol serums are great products to combat aging, but serums aren’t the only product forms that contain retinol and niacinamide.

This moisturizer day cream combines these two powerful ingredients to help reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles by promoting collagen production and cellular turnover.

It also helps improve the skin’s texture and elasticity. With regular use, you will notice softer, brighter, and more youthful skin.

4
Eva Naturals Vitamin C+ Serum

This powerful skin serum helps reduce fine lines, lessen the appearance of wrinkles, and firm the skin.

Key benefits: Naturally reduces inflammation; reduces dark spots and discoloration; combats lines and wrinkles

Features:

  • Combines retinol, niacinamide, and vitamin C
  • Also boosted with hyaluronic acid and salicylic acid
  • Effective on all skin types

This serum, infused with natural retinol and niacinamide, delivers all the rejuvenating advantages essential for more youthful-looking skin.

This incredible serum is loaded with antioxidants and beneficial ingredients to combat all the signs of aging, including fine lines, wrinkles, and discoloration.

At the same time, the serum also helps address redness and inflammation, minimizes pores,  and provides essential moisture and hydration.

The best part is that it also uses salicylic acid to penetrate the pores, exfoliate the skin, and combat acne to ensure bright and glowing skin.

However, this serum has 2% retinol, so it’s also not advisable for beginners.

5
TruSkin Vitamin C-Plus Super Serum With Niacinamide and Retinol

This age-defying, plant-powered serum helps combat signs of aging while promoting healthy skin.

Key benefits: Softens and smoothens the skin; supports cell turnover; promotes a brighter complexion

Features:

  • Powerful combination of retinol and vitamin C
  • Supercharged with niacinamide and salicylic acid
  • Cruelty-free

This serum can transform your skin, making it softer, healthier, and brighter for a more youthful appearance.

If you are looking for a clean and potent retinol and niacinamide serum, this one from TruSkin is a great option. It combines retinol and vitamin C.

What’s more, it’s supercharged with niacinamide and salicylic acid.

The formulation works on the skin’s surface and penetrates deep into the skin to help support cellular turnover, nourish the skin, and promote a healthy and youthful complexion.

It contains 2.5% retinol, which is high, but it also has phospholipids and nourishing ingredients like aloe vera and rosehip oil to help retain moisture and keep your skin hydrated.

6
La Roche-Posay Pure Retinol Face Serum

This lightweight retinol serum fights signs of aging by reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.

Key benefits: Reduces fine lines and wrinkles; renews and repairs the skin; reduces signs of premature sun damage

Features:

  • A unique blend of retinol, niacinamide, and hyaluronic acid
  • Lightweight formulation
  • Recommended by dermatologists

This is a fantastic choice if you want an anti-aging retinol serum that is safe for all skin types.

The La Roche-Posay Pure Retinol Face Serum combines 0.3% retinol, niacinamide, and hyaluronic acid in a potent formulation that combats fine lines, wrinkles, and sun damage.

It does all of these while providing essential hydration, which is essential to keeping skin healthy and glowing.

Its formulation works on all skin types, even sensitive skin. Plus, its lightweight nature allows for a smooth application.

7
Olay Regenerist Retinol Moisturizer, Retinol 24 Night Face Cream

This overnight moisturizer combines retinol and niacinamide to help reduce the signs of aging while you sleep.

Key benefits: Absorbs quickly into the skin; helps smoothen skin and reduces signs of aging; moisturizes the skin

Features:

  • Contains a unique niacinamide + retinoid complex
  • Infused with amino peptides
  • Free from phthalates, synthetic fragrances, and colors

An excellent nighttime cream with niacinamide and retinol that’s designed to rejuvenate your skin and give it a youthful glow.

The Olay Regnerist 24 Facial Moisturizer combines retinol and niacinamide to penetrate deep into the skin’s surface to provide hydration and combat the signs of aging.

Plus, the formulation is gentle enough to be used daily and delivers benefits without irritating or drying the skin. Instead, you’ll see visible improvements in fine lines and wrinkles, smoothness, firming, and dark spots.

It’s a great way to include retinol and niacinamide into your daily skin care regimen.

A woman with curly hair posing with her hand on her face.

FAQs: Addressing Common Concerns

Can Retinol and Niacinamide Be Used for All Skin Types?

Niacinamide and retinol are generally well tolerated by normal, dry, oily, and combination skin types.

However, if you have sensitive or reactive skin, you may need to be careful when introducing niacinamide and retinol in your skincare routine. 

Initially, you may experience some sensitivity, such as redness, dryness, or mild irritation.

It’s advisable to start with a lower concentration of retinol and gradually increase the usage frequency over time, allowing the skin to acclimate to the ingredient. The same goes true for niacinamide. 

Can I Use Adapalene and Niacinamide?

Absolutely! Adapalene and niacinamide complement each other.

Adapalene focuses on treating acne by targeting the root causes, while niacinamide helps to balance sebum production, soothe inflammation, and improve the overall appearance of the skin.

However, do not use adapalene with niacinamide and retinol products as this may cause irritation to the skin.

A woman is looking at her face in front of a mirror.

Niacinamide, Retinol: The Journey Toward Young and Radiant Skin 

Retinol and niacinamide are two of the most powerful compounds for achieving youthful, unblemished, and radiant skin.

By incorporating these ingredients into your skincare routine and adapting them to your specific needs, you can address common concerns such as fine lines, wrinkles, uneven texture, enlarged pores, and acne.

Potent as they are, using retinol and niacinamide requires patience and consistency.

Also, the results may not be immediate as it takes time for the skin to undergo the transformative process. 

As they say, slow and steady wins the race when it comes to achieving long-term skin benefits.

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Author

  • Michelle Alejandro

    Michelle has had a lifelong love affair with makeup. After graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science and Communications /Journalism, she began an illustrious career as a writer. Michelle penned a beauty and lifestyle national newspaper column for over a decade and became the Beauty Editor for Chalk Magazine and Editor-in-Chief for Metro Weddings for over nine years, working with some of the biggest makeup artists and trusted beauty brands in the business. During this time, she also completed a course in Creative Artistic Makeup Design and worked as a freelance makeup artist, beauty editor, and writer.

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