Can You Use Niacinamide with Retinol?

If you’ve ever wondered if you can use niacinamide with retinol together in the same skincare routine, then you’ll be glad to know that the answer is YES!

Paula's Choice 10% Niacinamide Booster + The Ordinary Retinol 0.2% in Squalane

Both niacinamide and retinol offer multiple benefits for the skin. These benefits overlap when it comes to anti-aging, so using niacinamide and retinol together can strengthen each other’s formulas, creating a powerhouse duo that targets multiple signs of aging.

This post contains affiliate links, and any purchases made through these links will result in a commission for me at no extra cost to you. Please read my Disclosure for additional information.

The Benefits of Retinol and Niacinamide

You may be wondering why you should use retinol or niacinamide, so let’s take a look at some of the benefits of both of these active ingredients.

The Benefits of Retinol

Retinol, a form of vitamin A, is one of the most potent over-the-counter actives that reduces fine lines, wrinkles, dullness, hyperpigmentation, and uneven skin tone, thanks to its ability to stimulate collagen synthesis and increase cell turnover. It also helps to improve skin texture and brighten the skin.

Retinol can even help to reduce acne since it works to unclog pores and has anti-inflammatory properties.

With so many amazing anti-aging benefits, unfortunately, retinol does have its drawbacks. Depending on the strength, retinol can irritate and cause dryness and redness if your skin has not built a tolerance to it. Yet, over-the-counter retinol is less irritating than the strongest retinoids, and new types of encapsulated delivery systems help minimize the side effects of retinol.

If you are a beginner retinol user, be sure to start slow to give your skin a chance to acclimate. Also, remember to keep your skin hydrated and moisturized while using retinol with products containing ingredients such as hyaluronic acid and ceramides.

It is also important to apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher when using retinol and other retinoids and 7 days after since retinol can make your skin sensitive to the sun.

Related Posts: Can You Use Niacinamide with Vitamin C?, Can You Use Glycolic Acid and Vitamin C Together?

The Benefits of Niacinamide

Paula's Choice BOOST 10% Niacinamide Booster, Vitamin B3, Vitamin C & Licorice Extract Serum, Pore Minimizer, 0.67 Ounce

Niacinamide, a form of vitamin B3, is one of the most potent multi-benefit skincare actives available. Niacinamide has antioxidant properties and offers a host of benefits when it comes to the signs of aging.

Niacinamide soothes dry skin and helps to improve epidermal barrier function by decreasing transepidermal water loss. It does this through an increase in ceramide production and an increase in cell turnover. Niacinamide decreases hyperpigmentation, fine lines and wrinkles, blotchiness, and sallowness.

Niacinamide’s antioxidant properties help to protect skin from damaging UV rays. Niacinamide protects skin from free radicals, which lead to visible signs of aging, including fine lines, wrinkles, and hyperpigmenation.

Niacinamide also works as an anti-inflammatory and calms the skin. Niacinamide has even been shown to be an effective treatment for melasma as it reduces pigmentation and inflammation.

If you suffer from acne, niacinamide can help regulate sebum production, leading to a reduction in acne and breakouts.

Related Post: Can You Use Salicylic Acid with Niacinamide?, Crepe Erase Review

The Benefits of Niacinamide and Retinol When Used Together

Of direct importance to this conversation about using niacinamide and retinol together is niacinamide’s ability to protect skin from certain topical agents, like, none other than retinol!

When used together, niacinamide can help to reduce the irritation associated with retinol and retinoid use. This study examined the use of tretinoin, a prescription-strength form of Vitamin A, which is much stronger the retinol. It determined that using a moisturizer containing vitamins, including niacinamide, panthenol, and tocopheryl acetate, before and during tretinoin use, improved barrier function, tolerability, and treatment response.

Another study showed that when treating subjects for photodamage, retinol yielded better tolerability when used with moisturizing actives, including niacinamide.

While retinol’s optimal pH is 5.5 – 6.0, niacinamide is most viable around 6.0, so unlike other actives that don’t play well together, niacinamide and retinol work synergistically and won’t cancel out each other’s benefits.

Retinol and Niacinamide: A Double Whammy for Acne

As noted earlier, retinol and retinoids can help to reduce acne by increasing unclogging pores, increasing cell turnover, and decreasing inflammation.

Niacinamide is also helpful for acne-prone skin since it lowers sebum excretion rates and levels and helps to reduce the appearance of pores. This study demonstrated that nicotinamide (niacinamide) at 4% was as effective as 1% clindamycin gel in the treatment of acne.

When used together, Niacinamide and retinol help to increase cell turnover, which helps to unclog pores and reduce the look of acne scars and hyperpigmentation. Plus, they both have anti-inflammatory properties to soothe redness caused by acne and acne scars.

Related Post: The Benefits of Alpha Arbutin for Skin

When to Use Retinol and Niacinamide

Using niacinamide for a few weeks before starting a retinoid regimen can strengthen the skin barrier and prep it for retinoid use. When using retinol and niacinamide in the same skincare routine, they should be applied in your PM skincare routine because retinol can cause sensitivity to the sun.

Although you are applying these products at night, it is still important to wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF 30 or higher and for 7 days after.

TIP: For additional anti-aging and antioxidant benefits, use a vitamin C serum or cream in your morning skincare routine.

What Order to Use Retinol and Niacinamide

If you are wondering whether to use niacinamide before or after retinol, it depends on the type of product you are using. If you use a niacinamide serum and a retinol moisturizer, use the niacinamide serum first since serums are usually applied before moisturizers.

If you are using niacinamide and retinol at the same time and they are both in serum format, you may want to apply the niacinamide serum first to act as a buffer to minimize irritation and redness that a retinol serum can cause.

If you choose to replenish moisture with a hyaluronic acid serum in addition to niacinamide serum and retinol serum, consider applying hyaluronic acid first to give your skin a moisture boost and then follow with niacinamide and finally retinol.

Related Post: Drmtlgy Needle-Less Serum Review

Retinol and Niacinamide Products

Paula’s Choice 10% Niacinamide Booster


Paula’s Choice 10% Niacinamide Booster contains 10% niacinamide (vitamin B3) and replenishing actives to brighten, protect, calm, and hydrate the skin. It works on uneven skin tone, rough skin texture, redness, and dryness, for a more radiant complexion.

This niacinamide serum also contains ascorbyl glucoside, a vitamin C derivative that offers antioxidant and brightening benefits. Sodium hyaluronate (the salt form of hyaluronic acid) hydrates while ubiquinone, epigallocatechin gallate, beta-glucan, carnosine, and genistein offer antioxidant protection.

The serum is extremely lightweight, so it is ideal for layering under other skincare products. It is so light that you can apply it under retinol without interfering or causing pilling under other skincare products.

Due to the lightweight formula, you can mix this serum with moisturizer to provide a brightening and soothing boost. If you add it to a moisturizer and use it with a retinol serum, apply the retinol serum first and then follow with moisturizer.

For a less expensive niacinamide serum, Niacinamide Serum 12% Plus Zinc 2% serum from Naturium is formulated with 12% niacinamide plus 2% zinc PCA (pyrrolidone carboxylic acid) to boost its blemish-fighting abilities with its antibacterial properties. It also contains hyaluronic acid to plump and hydrate the skin.

Related Posts: Can You Use Niacinamide with Hyaluronic Acid?, Can You Use Azelaic Acid and Niacinamide Together?

The Ordinary 0.2% Retinol in Squalane


The Ordinary 0.2% Retinol in Squalane serum contains 0.2% retinol in a squalane base. It is a water-free solution that helps to reduce the look of the signs of aging, including fine lines and photodamage.

The Ordinary cautions that this serum may cause redness, irritation, and peeling until your skin has built a tolerance to retinol usage. To avoid this irritation, The Ordinary suggests using their Granactive Retinoids. The Ordinary’s Granactive Retinoids generally cause little to no irritation, and you can use them with niacinamide to boost anti-aging benefits.

NOTE: This retinol is in a squalane base which has a light oil texture. If using with a water-based niacinamide serum, apply the niacinamide serum first and then follow with this retinol in squalane serum.

Related Post: The Ordinary “B” Oil Review

Niaicinamide and Retinol All-In-One Products

SkinMedica Age Defense Retinol Complex .25


If you want to use a single product to get the benefits of both niacinamide and retinol, SkinMedica Age Defense Retinol Complex .25 is an excellent option. It improves skin tone, texture, and resiliency with a slew of active ingredients, including niacinamide, retinol, squalane, a ceramide, vitamin E, and plant extracts.

Niacinamide and retinol work together to increase cell turnover and reduce the appearance of fine lines and coarse wrinkles while brightening the skin and reducing dullness. The serum uses SkinMedica’s proprietary PhytoShield Complex, an antioxidant complex that improves skin texture while minimizing irritation.

NOTE: SkinMedica also offers stronger versions of this serum: SkinMedica Retinol Complex 0.5 concentration and SkinMedica Retinol Complex 1.0.

La Roche-Posay Retinol Face Serum with Vitamin B3


For a more affordable niacinamide and retinol duo, La Roche-Posay Retinol Face Serum with Vitamin B3 combines retinol and niacinamide (vitamin B3) to create a supercharged face and neck serum. This anti-wrinkle concentrate smoothes, resurfaces, and hydrates skin.

Retinol helps to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles while reducing premature sun damage. Both pure and gradual release retinol maximize effectiveness and tolerability.

Niacinamide acts as a buffer to the potential irritation caused by retinol. It also brightens, soothes, and improves discoloration and hyperpigmentation. Sodium hyaluronate plumps and hydrates the skin.

La Roche Posay notes that this lightweight retinol and niacinamide serum is suitable for sensitive skin and eyes, but please note that it does contain fragrance. It’s paraben-free, non-comedogenic, and oil-free.

Related Post: The Best Avène Products

Conclusion – Niacinamide and Retinol: Better Together!

While niacinamide and retinol offer multiple skincare benefits on their own, when used together, you really ramp up their effectiveness and minimize retinol’s side effects, including irritation, redness, and peeling.

Thanks for reading, and here’s to your good skin health!

Related Post: The 10 Best Body Lotions for Crepey Skin on Arms and Legs in 2021