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  • Your dermatology provider prescribes your formula

  • Apply nightly for happy, healthy skin

Niacinamide and vitamin C: Everything you need to know

These powerhouse skincare ingredients have a long history of proven benefits.

Curology Team Avatar

Curology Team
Dec 22, 2022 · 5 min read

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Niacinamide and vitamin C
We’re here to share what we know — but don’t take it as medical advice. Talk to your medical provider if you have questions.
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Ever feel like skincare is, well, full of fads? That’s because new ingredients are constantly being discovered and touted as the “next big thing.” But the truth is, your skin doesn’t really need a lot to produce results—just a basic skincare routine supplemented with products that contain ingredients that are known to actually work. 

Case in point: niacinamide and vitamin C, are staples in the skincare industry thanks to their proven antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Both can be paired with other ingredients to work wonders on the skin. Here we’ll help take the guesswork out of deciding which of these two to combine with other mainstay ingredients in the skincare world (like retinoids) to address signs of aging and help send acne packing. 

What is niacinamide? 

Niacinamide is a form of vitamin B3 (nicotinic acid, niacin) with amazing skin benefits. Its status as a skincare staple comes from its ability to improve certain signs of skin aging (like hyperpigmentation). Research shows that its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties play a significant role in this.¹ 

Here are just a few of the potential benefits of niacinamide: 

  • Improves hydration. Niacinamide helps maintain moisture in the skin, which helps prevent water loss and improve skin barrier function. This also helps improve the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.

  • Boosts collagen production. Collagen and elastin naturally decrease over the years. The antioxidant properties in niacinamide scavenge for free oxygen radicals to help prevent further degradation and enhance collagen production.

  • Helps fade hyperpigmentation (dark spots) and improves skin tone. Split-face studies showed a reduction in the appearance of brown pigmentation after eight weeks of treatment.

Some evidence suggests that the anti-inflammatory properties may reduce facial redness in patients with rosacea. But more research is still needed.

What is vitamin C?

A powerful antioxidant that supports many skin functions, vitamin C is an impressive skincare ingredient in its own right. High concentrations of vitamin C in the skin also indicate its role in skin health. Its primary use in skincare is collagen formation and antioxidant protection. 

Here’s how topically applying vitamin C can benefit the skin:²

  • Stimulates collagen synthesis. Topical vitamin C is proven to slow down skin aging by boosting collagen production, among other things.

  • Provides antioxidant protection against UV-induced photoaging. Vitamin C can neutralize and remove free radicals resulting from environmental factors like UV rays. Free oxygen radicals degrade the skin and accelerate the aging process.

  • Improves dullness and discoloration (pigmentation). The same free radical scavenging properties that protect against photoaging also help improve dull, discolored skin.

  • Accelerates wound healing. Vitamin C jump-starts collagen production and reduces inflammation to promote wound healing on the skin’s surface.

  • Reduces inflammation. Inflammation is associated with underlying skin conditions like atopic dermatitis (eczema), psoriasis, and acne. Vitamin C may help reduce inflammation as an ingredient in anti-inflammatory formulations. 

Can you use niacinamide and vitamin C together?

In short, yes, you can use niacinamide and vitamin C. Benefits may even be improved with combination treatments. In fact, you’ll often find skin-brightening products that contain both ingredients. Just keep in mind these ingredients have very similar roles in skincare, so doubling up may not be necessary.

Vitamin-C-Skincare-Serum-over-orange-background

Niacinamide and retinoids for anti-aging

Combining skincare ingredients is not new, but you should be mindful of how you layer products. Niacinamide tends to be well-tolerated, so you can often use it with ingredients like retinoids. Niacinamide and retinol are also okay to use together. Retinol is a retinoid that’s available over the counter. Prescription retinoids, like tretinoin, are powerful anti-aging ingredients as well. They accelerate skin cell turnover to reveal fresh, new skin below. When paired with niacinamide, their combined benefits can: 

  • Even skin tone

  • Boost collagen production

  • Improve the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles

Niacinamide and retinoids for acne

In addition to their age-defying prowess, retinoids, like tretinoin and adapalene, help unclog pores, while niacinamide helps fade post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (dark spots) from acne. Because retinoids increase cell turnover, they help prevent dead skin cells from clumping and clogging pores. 

If you’re new to retinoids, you may experience side effects. The most common can include:³ 

  • Dryness

  • Peeling or flaking skin

  • Increased sensitivity (including sun sensitivity)

  • Temporary breakouts or worsening of breakouts 

Learning how to use niacinamide and adapalene or tretinoin requires a little know-how to minimize the chances of side effects. That’s why you should follow the expert advice of your dermatologist or dermatology provider. Nonetheless, here are some tips for easing into using retinoids:

  • Use retinoids at night, starting with a few nights a week. Use a pea-sized amount, just enough to thinly cover your face and neck, three times a week. Gradually increase the number of days you use retinoids as your skin adjusts.

  • Cushion with moisturizer. Use a moisturizing gel or lotion before applying retinoids if you notice dry skin or skin irritation. Eventually, your skin will adjust to using retinoids before the moisturizer. 

  • Apply sunscreen daily. Retinoids may cause your skin to be more sensitive to the sun, so use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30+ daily. 

Other acne-fighting ingredients that can be paired with niacinamide include salicylic acid. The benefits of niacinamide with salicylic acid are similar to pairing with retinoids. Salicylic acid is a beta-hydroxy acid (BHA). Salicylic acid helps prevent and treat acne through its exfoliating properties, which remove the buildup of dead skin cells and oil (sebum) deep within the pores.⁴

Ask our skin care professionals for help! 

Curology helps take the guesswork out of your skincare routine—licensed dermatology providers work with you to examine your skin, assess your skincare goals, and provide custom treatment options. It’s one of the easiest ways to get personalized prescription skincare designed for your unique skin using active ingredients like tretinoin. Depending on your skin goals, your Curology provider may also include niacinamide in your personalized formula.

Get your personalized skincare routine with Curology

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We also use niacinamide in Future-Proofᴿˣ. Future Proofᴿˣ is a type of personalized prescription formula, but the active ingredients are geared toward preventing signs of aging and maintaining clear skin. Either way, we’ve got you covered, and most importantly, we’ll be with you throughout your skincare journey. 

Getting started is as simple as answering a few questions and uploading some selfies. If Curology is right for you, we’ll pair you with one of our licensed in-house dermatology providers.

FAQs

What is niacinamide?

Niacinamide is a form of vitamin B3 (nicotinic acid, niacin) with amazing skin benefits. Its status as a skincare staple comes from its ability to improve certain signs of skin aging (like hyperpigmentation).

What is vitamin C?

A powerful antioxidant that supports many skin functions, vitamin C is an impressive skincare ingredient in its own right. Its primary use in skincare is collagen formation and antioxidant protection.

Can you use niacinamide and vitamin C together?

Yes, you can use niacinamide and vitamin C. Benefits may even be improved with combination treatments. Just keep in mind these ingredients have very similar roles in skincare, so doubling up may not be necessary.

• • •

P.S. We did the homework so you don’t have to:

  1. Vlase, L., et al. Mechanistic basis and clinical evidence for the applications of nicotinamide (niacinamide) to control skin aging and pigmentation. Antioxidants. (August 2021).

  2. Pullar, J.M., et al. The roles of vitamin C in skin health.Nutrients. (August 2017).

  3. Baldwin, H.E., et al. 40 Years of topical tretinoin use in review. Journal of Drugs in Dermatology. (June 2013). 

  4. Al-Talib H, et al. Efficacy and safety of superficial chemical peeling in treatment of active acne vulgaris. An Bras Dermatol. (2017 Mar-Apr).

Meredith Hartle is a board-certified Family Medicine physician at Curology. She earned her medical degree at Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine in Kirksville, MO.

• • •
Our medical review process:We’re here to tell you what we know. That’s why our information is evidence-based and fact-checked by medical experts. Still, everyone’s skin is unique—the best way to get advice is to talk to your healthcare provider.
Curology Team Avatar

Curology Team

Meredith Hartle, DO

Meredith Hartle, DO

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