Health Benefits of Retinol and Niacinamide

Medically Reviewed by Debra Jaliman, MD on February 29, 2024
3 min read

Retinol and niacinamide are in numerous skincare products. If you're a fan of either one, you may be wondering if you can use them together. Combining skincare products can be tricky. 

Sometimes one product can cancel out another one. Mixing two ingredients can also cause unintended side effects. The good news is retinol and niacinamide actually enhance each other when you combine them. 

Retinol is a standard ingredient in many anti-aging creams and treatments. It is a manmade derivative of vitamin A. Retinol speeds up the rate at which your skin creates new cells. It also boosts your skin's collagen production. This can minimize the appearance of fine lines.

Retinols help improve your skin in the following ways:

  • Thicken the outer layer of skin
  • Increase your skin's production of natural chemicals like hyaluronic acid to keep it plump
  • Increase collagen production
  • Slow down the breakdown of collagen
  • Block skin reactions that can make acne worse

Retinol is used to treat the following skin conditions:

Results take time. Don't expect results overnight. It will take several weeks to see results. Most results are not seen until 6 months or longer.

Skin irritation. The side effects of retinol can include skin irritation like redness, dryness, and peeling. These can be reduced by using retinol less often or by using it with niacinamide. Skin irritation from using retinol usually only lasts for a few weeks.

Niacinamide is a form of vitamin B3. It's an antioxidant that helps your body fight free radicals. These are reactive chemicals that can damage your body's cells. Topical and oral niacinamide can offer the following benefits.

Reduce your risk of skin cancer. In 2015 a study was done of 386 people who previously had at least two skin cancers that weren't melanoma. The participants were divided into two groups and took either a placebo or 500 mg of niacinamide twice daily. The group that took niacinamide for a year reduced their rate of new nonmelanoma skin cancers by 23%.

Treat acne. Topical niacinamide was as effective as an antibiotic at treating acne in a 2013 study. Niacinamide 4% was applied twice daily for 8 weeks. It was especially effective for people with oily skin.

Reduce the signs of aging. Some research suggests topical niacinamide may help reduce yellowing, wrinkling, blotchiness, dark spots, and fine lines. A 2011 study of Caucasian women between the ages of 40 and 60 showed significant improvements when they used niacinamide 5% on their skin.

Retinol and niacinamide can be used together. Using them together can help decrease the side effects of dryness and irritation of retinol. Retinol alone can irritate your skin. Niacinamide helps protect your skin's barrier. This can help with the irritation.

Another study showed that pretreating your face with a moisturizer containing niacinamide may reduce the side effects of using retinoids. 

Participants applied a moisturizer with niacinamide to half their face and a normal moisturizer to the other half for 2 weeks. The side of their faces pretreated with niacinamide tolerated the retinoid treatment better.

Using niacinamide before retinol works well. So does combining them into one product. A 2016 study found that a product containing retinol, niacinamide, hexylresorcinol, and resveratrol improved fine lines, sallowness, wrinkling, hyperpigmentation, and skin tone.