In the world of skincare, niacinamide and retinol are both superstar ingredients. Retinol is something of an ingredient icon with a long track record of proven success, while niacinamide is more of a newcomer that’s recently risen to fame. Both are known for their ability to help improve acne, even skin tone, and diminish signs of aging.
Chances are, you’re already using one of them in your routine, and may be wondering whether you can pair them up. The short answer is a resounding YES! Niacinamide and retinol are not only safe to use together, but they can actually enhance each other’s effectiveness.
In this article, we’ll get to know each ingredient and its benefits, discuss the advantages of using them together, and explain the best way to incorporate them into your skincare routine.
What Is Niacinamide?
Niacinamide (or nicotinamide) is a water-soluble form of niacin (vitamin B3), and one of the eight B vitamins essential to your health. Since the body generally doesn’t produce niacinamide on its own, benefits are usually acquired through foods, supplements, and skincare.
Niacinamide is typically well-tolerated by all skin types, is considered safe for sensitive skin, and studies have shown that it very rarely has side effects. Despite its gentle reputation, it’s a highly effective ingredient with a wide variety of benefits, including:
- Boosting and locking in hydration by increasing the natural lipids (ceramides, specifically) within your skin barrier
- Reducing irritation and redness by helping to control a protein involved in inflammation, which can ease the effects of rosacea and eczema
- Reducing acne breakouts by slowing the activity of sebum-producing cells, which can lead to smaller-looking pores
- Reducing hyperpigmentation and sun damage by inhibiting enzymes involved in the production of melanin
- Fighting signs of aging with antioxidant properties that defend against environmental stressors
What Is Retinol?
Retinol is a type of retinoid, which are products derived from vitamin A that are converted into retinoic acid for use on the skin. Retinoids come in many forms and strengths, but retinol is the most popular kind used in skincare. (You may have even used it as a teen if you had acne.)
Retinol exfoliates and speeds cell turnover, which slows as we age. Regular use of retinol can help keep your skin cells turning over at the faster pace of younger skin. Retinol’s extensive list of benefits includes:
- Improving the look of fine lines and wrinkles by stimulating collagen production to help skin look plumper
- Preventing acne by helping to unclog pores and control oil
- Evening skin tone and discoloration from sun damage by clearing away dull, dead skin cells to reveal brighter skin
- Smoothing skin’s overall texture and lessening the look of acne scarring by resurfacing the skin
Retinol has become a skincare legend because of how powerful it can be—but unfortunately, that means that unlike niacinamide, retinol can have side effects such as irritation, dryness, peeling, and photosensitivity, particularly on sensitive skin. However, these effects typically improve as your skin’s tolerance builds over time.
Can Niacinamide and Retinol Be Used Together?
Not only can these two ingredients be used together, but many dermatologists actually recommend it. While each ingredient is effective on its own, they work in different yet complementary ways, which means they can enhance each other’s acne-reducing, tone-evening, anti-aging benefits.
The main thing that makes niacinamide and retinol a dream team is that niacinamide can help to lessen the irritation and dryness often caused by retinol. It protects the skin’s barrier and keeps it calm while retinol is working its magic, so you can experience all the benefits of retinol with fewer side effects.
And niacinamide does more than just reduce the potential for irritation—it may also help boost skin’s receptiveness to retinol by facilitating the increased rate of skin cell turnover. That’s because retinol’s ability to break up dead skin cells is dependent on hydration, which niacinamide delivers in spades.
Additionally, this ingredient power couple plays well together: they both work at similar pH levels, so they won’t deactivate each other.
Using Niacinamide and Retinol with Droplette
When pairing niacinamide and retinol, you can use them separately, or use a product that’s formulated with both ingredients. However, topical skincare has its limitations, as most ingredient molecules are too large to really penetrate the skin.
Droplette’s ultrasonic technology diffuses ingredient serums into a micro-mist that gets them 20x deeper than topicals, making your skincare up to 90% more effective. And the good news is, we offer capsules that include both niacinamide and retinol, so you can easily add both to your routine.
Our Tranexamic Eraser Capsules are a targeted formula designed to target visible dark spots, and feature a brightening, tone-evening blend of tranexamic acid and niacinamide. For a dose of retinol, add our Retinol Renewer Capsules, designed to visibly smooth fine lines and wrinkles.
Want to pair the two in a foolproof regimen? Our new Daily Defense Prescriptive Regimen is coming soon! This set will combine our Tranexamic Eraser, Retinol Renewer, and Collagen Hydrofiller Capsules in a pre-packaged, carefully scheduled daily routine—so you get all the glow without the guesswork. Click here to learn more about our different serums directly from Droplette’s founders.
How to Use Niacinamide and Retinol Together
If you’re creating your own routine using niacinamide and retinol products separately, you’ll need to make sure you apply them properly to maximize the benefits and minimize any adverse effects. It’s generally advised that you start with niacinamide to prepare and protect your skin for retinol. In fact, you can even use niacinamide alone for a couple of weeks before introducing retinol, in order to “pre-treat” skin and increase its tolerance once retinol is added.
To get the most out of this dynamic duo, we recommend following these steps:
- Prep Your Skin: Always start by cleansing your face, then toning and/or exfoliating if you’re adding those steps.
- Apply Niacinamide: Apply your niacinamide product (such as Droplette’s Tranexamic Eraser formula). This can be done any time of day, morning or night.
- Apply Retinol: Apply your retinol product (such as Droplette’s Retinol Renewer formula). You can use both niacinamide and retinol at night, but should avoid using retinol in the morning because it can increase skin’s sensitivity to sun exposure.
- Moisturize: Following retinol, you should apply your nighttime moisturizer.
- Protect Your SkinDue to the sun sensitivity caused by retinol, you should always apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 before heading outside the following morning.
Of course, it’s always a good idea to proceed with caution when using new skincare ingredients, and experiment with what works best for your skin. When introducing retinol to your routine, it’s best to start slowly: try using it once a week to see how your skin reacts, and gradually increase to daily use if you can tolerate it. To learn more about building a skincare routine with Droplette, click here.
Does Combining Niacinamide and Retinol Cause Side Effects?
To date, there are no studies that show any downsides of combining niacinamide and retinol, and pairing them is typically considered safe for most skin types. Of course, it’s still possible to experience an adverse reaction, especially if you’re sensitive to retinol. While adding niacinamide can help mitigate irritation from retinol, it doesn’t guarantee you won’t experience any. If you’re wary about potential side effects, remember that Droplette’s micro-infusion technology can help make this combo even more gentle on your skin.
Frequently Asked Questions About Niacinamide and Retinol
How long does it take to see results from using niacinamide and retinol?
You can usually expect to see results from niacinamide after 6-12 weeks of consistent use, although in some cases you might see a change in as little as 4 weeks. Retinol works more slowly, usually delivering results in anywhere from 3-6 months or longer.
How often should I use niacinamide and retinol?
You can use niacinamide twice a day, morning and night, while retinol is generally better used once daily at nighttime. As always, start slowly and work your way up to more frequent use as you gauge what your skin can handle.
Is retinol or niacinamide better for acne?
Both ingredients are effective acne fighters, but use different methods to get the job done. Pairing them up will yield better results than either one individually.
Can you use niacinamide and salicylic acid together?
Yes, these ingredients are safe to use together. Just as niacinamide can temper possible harshness from retinol, it can also help to counteract any irritation salicylic acid might cause while decongesting pores.
Can you use niacinamide and arbutin together?
Yes, these two water-based ingredients can be combined safely, and are a great pair for targeting hyperpigmentation. In fact, our Tranexamic Eraser Capsules contain both!
Is niacinamide good for dry skin?
Absolutely. Niacinamide helps bolster the skin barrier against moisture loss and dehydration that leads to dry, flaky skin, and can even help boost the hydrating ability of other moisturizers.
Get Esthetician Advice About Using Niacinamide and Retinol
Want even more personalized advice about combining these ingredients? We’ve got you covered with our virtual esthetician consult service. You’ll have the opportunity to talk to one of Droplette’s licensed, in-house estheticians, who will help you craft a custom routine via one-on-one video chat. They’ll gather information about your skin and your goals, then suggest a regimen that’s tailored to you and answer any questions you might have. To book an appointment, just download the Droplette app and get connected with one of our experts. Keep in mind that this is not a medical service and if you have major health concerns, you should speak to your dermatologist or doctor.
The Final Verdict on Combining Niacinamide and Retinol
The main takeaway here is that you can definitely use niacinamide and retinol together, and are encouraged to do so by most skincare experts. Both ingredients are all-stars when it comes to improving acne, skin tone, and signs of aging, but using them together will deliver synergistic results greater than using them individually because of niacinamide’s ability to alleviate potential irritation caused by retinol.
For an extra-gentle yet super-effective experience, add these ingredients to your routine with Droplette, which delivers them more deeply than topicals with its unique micro-infusion technology. Be sure to stay tuned for our new Daily Defense Prescriptive Regimen combining niacinamide and retinol, available May 2023.