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Can You Use Niacinamide and Retinol In the Same Skin Care Routine?

A board-certified dermatologist gives us her expert take. 

July 12, 2023

While your skin care routine may be padded with the likes of vitamin C, glycolic acid, retinol and niacinamide, that’s only a good thing if you know how to use these ingredients properly — and together. The latter two —  retinol and niacinamide — are highly regarded for their anti-aging and brightening capabilities. However, both are active ingredients, so you may be wondering if and how you can use them together.

We tapped Michelle Henry, MD FAAD, NYC based board-certified dermatologist and L’Oréal Paris consultant to learn more about the best practices for pairing retinol with niacinamide. Ahead, learn how to use these two ingredients together without irritating your skin. 

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What Does Niacinamide Do for Skin?

Niacinamide, or vitamin B3, helps to block skin pigmentation that leads to dark spots, per Harvard Health. It also helps to improve redness. Many love niacinamide because it’s highly tolerable by most skin types, and it can be used morning and night, according to Dr. Henry. 

What Does Retinol Do for Skin?

Retinoids are a group of substances comprising vitamin A that are available by prescription or over the counter, per the National Center for Biotechnology Information. Retinol is a lower concentration of vitamin A that’s typically found in serums and creams that are available over the counter. According to the NCBI, tretinoin is the strongest form of topical retinoids and it’s only available by prescription. Retinol increases skin cell production, helps to unclog pores, aids in exfoliation and fades fine lines and wrinkles, per the Cleveland Clinic

Can You Layer Niacinamide and Retinol?

According to Dr. Henry, you can layer niacinamide and retinol, but you must pay attention to the formulations you use and the way your skin reacts. “Niacinamide is one of those ingredients like ceramides,” Dr. Henry shares. “It plays really well with other ingredients.” In a clinical trial by the Journal of Pharmacological and Biophysical Research, topical niacinamide was found to be well-tolerated by the skin on various skin types. 

As for whether you should use a niacinamide serum or moisturizer with your retinol, it’s very situational. “If you're using [niacinamide] for soothing qualities, not a true targeted concern, then a moisturizer is fine,” says Dr. Henry. “If it's a true targeted concern, like hyperpigmentation, then you're going to want a more concentrated niacinamide, [like a] serum form.” 

Regardless of what formulas you pick, introduce retinol and niacinamide into your skin care routine slowly: once every few days, and evaluate how your skin reacts. According to Dr. Henry, skin flushing (all over redness) is a sign that the two formulations may not be compatible. If you experience this, cease use immediately and contact your dermatologist if the irritation doesn’t subside within a few days. If your skin shows no signs of irritation, continue to increase usage as your skin can tolerate it. 

How Often Can You Use Niacinamide and Retinol?

As Dr. Henry stated, niacinamide plays well with other ingredients and it is something you can use up to twice a day. Look at the label on your niacinamide products for final confirmation. 

Vitamin A and its derivatives, particularly retinol, are substances that can slow down the aging process most effectively, per the NCBI. However, unlike niacinamide, retinoids may not be something you can use daily. The type of retinoid you’re using will dictate how often you can use it. If you’re just starting off with retinoids, it’s best to introduce them into your skin care routine once or twice a week at night and build up use as your skin can tolerate it, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Since retinol has a lower concentration of vitamin A, you may find that your skin can tolerate it daily without irritation.

Should I Use Niacinamide Before or After Retinol?

Whether you apply niacinamide before or after retinol largely depends on the type of niacinamide and retinoid formulations you’re using. A good rule of thumb to remember is that your skin care should always be applied from thinnest to thickest consistency and the same applies for niacinamide and retinol. If you’re layering them, apply the lightest serum first and follow up the heavier serum or cream.

The Best L’Oréal Paris Products With Retinol and Niacinamide 

Check out these products to shop if you’re looking to add niacinamide or retinol to your anti-aging skin care routine.

L’Oréal Paris Bright Reveal 12% [Niacinamide + Amino Sulfonic + Ferulic Acid] Dark Spot Serum

This brightening serum contains seven percent niacinamide (in case you weren’t sure, that’s a high concentration) to help fade all types of dark spots, including hyperpigmentation and post-acne marks. It’s suitable for all skin types, including sensitive and mature skin, and you can use it morning and night.

L’Oréal Paris Revitalift Derm Night Serum, 0.3% Pure Retinol 

This anti-aging retinol serum is formulated with hyaluronic acid and glycerin to counteract the potentially irritating effects of retinol. With continued use, the skin feels smoother, appears brighter, and wrinkles are visibly reduced. Retinoids make your skin more sensitive to the sun, so don’t forget to follow up your morning routine with an SPF like the L’Oréal Paris Bright Reveal Broad Spectrum SPF 50 Daily UV Lotion.

L’Oréal Paris Revitalift Pressed Night Moisturizer with Retinol + Niacinamide 

This retinol-infused night cream also contains niacinamide to brighten the skin while fighting visible signs of aging, such as dullness, fine lines and wrinkles and hyperpigmentation. The lightweight formula keeps the skin moisturized for up to 24 hours and helps to balance out the irritating effects of retinol. The first week, use it a few times a week at night, after cleansing your face. If your skin tolerates it, you can proceed to every other night the second week, and every night once you hit the third week. 

Next: How to Apply Moisturizer for Soft, Hydrated Skin

Photo Design: Sarah Duviver

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