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Niacinamide and retinol are both popular skin care ingredients. On their own, each ingredient can help improve skin blemishes and acne, even out skin tone, and diminish the signs of aging.

If you currently use a product that contains one of these ingredients, you may be wondering if using niacinamide and retinol together could be more effective and if it’s safe to combine them. Some ingredients, after all, don’t mix well with others.

In this article, we’ll explore both of these ingredients in more detail and whether it’s a good idea to combine them as part of your skin care routine.

Not all skin care ingredients pair well together. Some combinations can react negatively or lessen the ingredients’ benefits.

Fortunately, it’s safe to mix niacinamide and retinol. In fact, the combination is considered to have numerous benefits.

Products that contain niacinamide and retinol

Examples of products that contain both niacinamide and retinol include the following serums, which you can buy online:

Healthline

Niacinamide, or nicotinamide, is a water-soluble form of niacin (vitamin B3). It’s one of the eight B vitamins you need to stay healthy.

In your body, niacinamide helps repair DNA and control inflammation. It also increases cellular energy, which allows your cells to perform essential chemical activities.

When applied topically, niacinamide has additional benefits. It’s often used to help control:

These benefits of niacinamide are due to several mechanisms.

According to a 2014 review, niacinamide controls nuclear factor-κB (NF-κB), a protein involved in inflammation. This anti-inflammatory effect is beneficial for skin irritation and redness.

A 2017 study also found that it reduces the activity of cells that produce sebum, a waxy, oily substance produced by your body’s sebaceous glands. This may help decrease sebum production and acne breakouts.

According to a 2013 review, niacinamide reduces hyperpigmentation by inhibiting enzymes involved in the production of melanin. It also helps your skin retain water, which enhances the skin barrier and keeps it hydrated.

Because of these benefits, niacinamide is used in many skin care products. It’s generally well-tolerated and considered safe for sensitive skin.

Retinol is an over-the-counter (OTC) form of retinoid.

Retinoids are derived from vitamin A, an essential nutrient your body needs for immunity, vision, and cellular communication.

In skin care, retinol is a well-known ingredient. It’s often used in products to help minimize or treat:

Retinoids, including retinol, work in various ways. According to a 2017 study, retinoids control acne by reducing sebum production.

A 2015 study also found that retinol has the ability to inhibit enzymes that destroy collagen. This, in turn, may help increase collagen synthesis. This effect strengthens the skin and improves the appearance of wrinkles.

But unlike niacinamide, retinol is associated with side effects. It’s known to cause irritation and inflammation, and it may result in:

Typically, these side effects get better over time. Also, OTC retinol may be a good alternative to prescription retinoids, which can cause even more irritation.

Using niacinamide and retinol together in one product or combined as part of your skin care routine has several benefits.

An older 2008 lab study examined the combination of niacinamide and retonic acid (RA), which is what retinol is turned into once it’s in your skin. The study found that niacinamide lessens the irritation and dryness caused by RA.

Additionally, a 2017 study found that a retinol cream with moisturizing ingredients, including niacinamide, caused less irritation than a formula with just retinol.

This suggests that if you use a product that also contains niacinamide, which can protect your skin barrier, you may be able to benefit from retinol but with fewer side effects.

Studies have also found that formulas containing both niacinamide and retinol can be beneficial for your skin.

In a 2016 study, a retinol cream with niacinamide, hexylresorcinol, and resveratrol improved skin tone and signs of aging.

A 2012 study also found that using retinol, nicotinamide, and 7-dehydrocholesterol together is safe and effective for acne.

To date, there’s no specific research on the downsides of this ingredient combo. The pairing is typically considered to be safe for most skin types.

Still, it’s possible to develop an adverse effect, especially if you’re sensitive to retinol. Adding niacinamide may not be enough to mediate how your skin reacts.

The risk of side effects may also depend on:

  • your specific skin conditions
  • the concentration of each ingredient
  • other ingredients in the formula of the skin care product

Niacinamide and retinol can be combined in one product, which may be easier and more convenient. But they’re also available as separate products.

If you’re using these ingredients in separate products, it’s recommended to apply niacinamide first and to then follow with retinol. Applying niacinamide first can help protect your skin from the effects of retinol.

Whether you use this combo separately or mixed together in one product, always follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Don’t apply more often than directed.

Niacinamide is a gentle skin care ingredient that helps diminish the signs of aging, discoloration, and blemishes. Retinol has similar benefits, but it’s stronger than niacinamide. It’s also known to cause irritation, redness, and dry skin.

Pairing the two ingredients is safe and can make retinol easier to use. Niacinamide helps hydrate the skin, which reduces the risk of irritation caused by retinol.

Niacinamide and retinol can be combined in one product or used as separate products. For best results, follow the product’s directions, and avoid using more frequently than instructed.