Can Retinol and Niacinamide Be Used Together? Here's What the Experts Had to Say

Rhea Cartwright

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.