Here’s Why—and How—You Should Add Niacinamide to Your Skincare Routine
Niacinamide might not get quite as much buzz as ingredients like retinol and vitamin C, but the skincare superstar is an unsung hero that deserves equal praise. It’s the very definition of a multitasker, offering a litany of different benefits that make it a great pick for a wide variety of skin types and complexion concerns. But incorporating it into your already existing skincare routine isn't straightforward. Can you use niacinamide with vitamin C and/or retinol? What about hyaluronic acid? We asked experts to weigh in on everything you need to know about how to use niacinamide, and to share their favorite product picks.
What is niacinamide?
Simply put, it’s a B vitamin, one of two forms of vitamin B3 that’s involved in many important cellular functions of the skin, explains Gretchen Frieling, MD, a triple board-certified dermatopathologist in the Boston area.
What benefits does it have for skin?
Buckle up, because this is a lengthy list. Niacinamide is a great choice for those with acne-prone skin. “Niacinamide reduces sebum production, which can both help prevent acne and also diminish shine,” says Kenneth Howe, MD, board-certified dermatologist of Wexler Dermatology in New York City. The vitamin is also known for its anti-inflammatory effects, which are beneficial both when it comes to treating acne and conditions such as eczema, adds Dr. Frieling.
Niacinamide helps strengthen the skin barrier, another major boon for those with eczematic and sensitive skin, according to both experts. It’s a choice brightening ingredient, too, combating hyperpigmentation by blocking the transfer of pigment from the pigment-producing cells (melanocytes) to the skin cells on the surface where discoloration is visible, says Dr. Howe.
As if all that weren’t enough, there’s also some data showing that niacinamide can help reduce wrinkling and photoaging, by ensuring cells function properly and helping repair DNA damage, says Dr. Howe. In short, there’s really not much that niacinamide can’t do.
Can you use niacinamde with retinol?
Yes! In fact, dermatologists say that retinol and niacinamide is a recommended combination for achieving quicker results. Niacinamide's calming benefits can also combat the negative side effects and irritation that often come alongside retinol's wrinkle-fighting magic.
Does it work well with other ingredients?
As a general rule of thumb, yes, which is why it’s found in many skincare products and why it’s pretty easy to incorporate into your existing routine. Per those acne-fighting benefits, niacinamide is often paired with salicylic acid, a beta-hydroxy acid that’s a mainstay in acne products, says Dr. Frieling. Combining niacinimadie’s oil-reducing prowess with salicylic acid’s ability to dissolve excess oil is a great way to help keep pores clear and breakouts at bay.
Niacinamide’s anti-inflammatory and skin barrier-strengthening effects also make it a good option to pair with alpha-hydroxy acids, chemical exfoliants that have the potential to cause some skin irritation. Combining these also increases the efficacy of the niacinamide, since the AHAs exfoliate the dead skin cells that could otherwise make it harder for the niacinamide to effectively penetrate, says Dr. Frieling. And finally, niacinamide is often paired with hyaluronic acid, given that both can help alleviate dryness, she adds.
The one ingredient where the jury is still out? Vitamin C. Our experts were split on this one. Dr. Howe says that Vitamin C can inactivate niacinamide and suggests separating the application by 15 minutes. While Dr. Frieling notes that there is debate on the topic, she says that in order for the two to negatively interact they’d have to be heated, and that more and more products are actually combining the two in skin-brightening formulations. The bottom line: If you’re using a product that contains both vitamin C and niacinamide, it’s likely been specially formulated so that they can work together. But if you’re using two distinct products with these ingredients, wait 15 minutes between applications, or save one for morning use and the other for evening use.
Should I be using niacinamide?
In a word, yes. One of the great things about niacinamide is not only the litany of benefits it delivers, but also the fact that it’s relatively well tolerated, even for those with sensitive skin, says Dr. Howe. This makes it a nice alternative for those whose skin may not be able to handle more traditional acne or brightening ingredients, like benzoyl peroxide or retinoids.
Not sure where to start? Ahead, six dermatologist-approved niacinamide products worth trying.