Niacinamide and Retinol Together | What are the Benefits

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What isn’t there to love about retinol? They are one of the few classes of skincare ingredients that address a multitude of skin concerns, ranging from acne to ageing to hyperpigmentation. But, retinol isn’t entirely perfect. In fact, they carry a major caveat: they can be extremely irritating and drying. The reason for this: retinol impair skin barrier function by promoting trans-epidermal water loss (TEWL). This can be a serious problem since it can exacerbate existing skin issues (i.e. hyperpigmentation, fine lines), as well as potentially create new ones such as irritant dermatitis.

Minimizing the adverse effects of retinol can be achieved through multiple techniques. Two of the most popular ones are mixing and buffering, which serve to dilute retinol (typically with bland moisturizers), which in turn reduce the intensity of their side effects.

Another way of reducing the risk of excess dryness and irritation from retinol is by using niacinamide. This ingredient is another multi-functional, powerhouse skincare ingredient, which offers a host of benefits to the skin when applied topically. Some of these include anti-inflammatory effects, increased skin hydration, improved skin barrier function, collagen stimulation, sebum reduction, and reduction in hyperpigmentation through the inhibition of melanocyte to keratinocyte transfer in the basal cell layer.

In this post, I will highlight the various benefits that come from using retinol with niacinamide, as well as discuss how their combination not only reduces irritation but leads to enhanced skin benefits.

Niacinamide and Retinol Together

The market is filled with well-formulated niacinamide and retinoid products. The Olay Regenerist Luminous with Niacinamide and YEOUTH Retinol Serum are two great suggestions.


The Benefits

1. Non-conflicting pH levels

When it comes to combining active ingredients – the pH level matters! In the case of retinol, specifically retinoid precursors such as retinol and retinaldehyde, it’s important to know that they require a pH of 6 to 7 to optimally convert to tretinoin (a.k.a. retinoic acid – the active form used by the skin). Using lower pH ingredients can mess with this optimal range and diminish the effectiveness of the retinol, so it’s best to combine ingredients with similar optimal pH ranges.

Fortunately, niacinamide is one ingredient that works perfectly with retinol. Niacinamide has a more neutral optimal pH range (5 to 7), so using it in conjunction with retinol precursors like retinol will not pull them out of their optimal pH range. No diminished effectiveness here!

2. Reduced irritation and synergistic effects

Niacinamide is able to attenuate the drying and irritating effects of retinol by increasing hydration retention in the stratum corneum (outermost layer of the skin) and by strengthening skin barrier function through increased synthesis of ceramides and stimulation of keratinocyte differentiation.

These two ingredients can safely be combined together through buffering (with niacinamide applied first and retinol after or vice versa – no waiting time required) or mixing (mixing both ingredients in the back of your palm of your hand and applying to your skin).

Mixing Niacinamide and Retinol Together on the back of palm

You can use niacinamide with retinol by mixing them together in the back of your palms and applying it to your face, or by layering them directly onto your face, without fear of compromising the effectiveness of either ingredient.

Apart from reduced irritation, the combination of retinol with niacinamide additionally leads to synergistic skin benefits. Particularly in regards to anti-ageing and skin lightening. With the latter, benefits can be quite drastic, since both retinol and niacinamide lighten skin to a degree. Retinol lightens skin by removing melanin-filled keratinocytes in the upper layers of the skin, while niacinamide suppresses a key step in melanogenesis (the transfer of melanocytes to keratinocytes). Moreover, retinol can enhance the penetration of niacinamide, which can increase its efficacy. All in all, using these ingredients concurrently can produce a synergy of skin lightening.

Also If you are looking for a recommendation for retinol moisturizer, here is some of the best one in the UK.

Bottom Line

Niacinamide can safely be used in conjunction with retinol to reduce irritation and enhance anti-ageing and skin lightening benefits.

  • Updated November 6, 2020