Niacinamide is one of those skin-care ingredients that’s a jack of all trades but a master of none. It brightens discoloration, protects against environmental damage, and soothes skin, but there are other ingredients that do each of those things separately—and better. That’s why Marisa Garshick, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in New York City, says this particular active works best as “a supporting cast member” instead of on its own. One ingredient that it pairs particularly well with is retinol.
“Niacinamide has anti-inflammatory properties, so it calms redness and soothes redness,” says Dr. Garshick. “When used in combination with retinol it improves the tolerability both visibly and functionally of the retinoid. This means that you’ll be less likely to experience redness and irritation when you use the two together.”
Beyond making your retinol easier to handle, niacinamide (AKA vitamin B3) also complements and boosts some of its strengths. For example, “niacinamide can be helpful for hyperpigmentation and discoloration and we know that retinol also helps with discoloration and evening out the skin tone. So you’re going to get that dual benefit from using it,” says Dr. Garshick. Plus, both ingredients also promote collagen production.
Using retinol with niacinamide is also a great one-two punch for managing acne: Retinol speeds up cell turnover to prevent the abnormal keratinization (aka sticky skin cells) that leads to clogged pores and pimples, and niacinamide helps regulate oil production by mitigating the skin effects of inflammation and stress hormones. “For somebody who’s using a retinol for acne, this one is a helpful combination because you’ll get the benefit of niacinamide as well as the retinol for the breakouts,” says Dr. Garshick.
To experience the double benefits you can pair niacinamide with your existing retinol. Dr. Garshick recommends The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1% ($6) and DRMTLGY Needle-Less Serum ($69 to $119).
Alternatively, you can use a retinol that’s made with niacinamide. Shop the four that Dr. Garshick loves below.
CeraVe Skin Renewing Retinol Serum — $23.00
“All the CeraVe products also have ceramides and hyaluronic acid so those are nice and nourishing,” says Dr. Garshick. Plus, it combines retinol and niacinamide with glycerin and shea butter to provide tons of moisture.
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