A Guide To Using Niacinamide and Vitamin C Together in Your Skincare Routine

Niacinamide and vitamin C are two of the most effective (and also widely studied) skincare ingredients. They both have multiple benefits for your skin, particularly when it comes to anti-aging and hyperpigmentation.

Many people fear using both niacinamide and vitamin C together in their skincare routine. This is because some people believe that using them at the same time renders them both ineffective due to them cancelling each other out chemically. This idea probably stems from the fact that vitamin C (L-ascorbic acid) is a complicated ingredient to formulate products with as it is highly unstable (it oxidizes easily in the presence of oxygen, light, and heat).

I’m here today to put your skincare fears to rest and let you know that you absolutely CAN layer your niacinamide-containing products with your vitamin C serum. I’m also going to give you a guide on how to use both of these highly effective skincare ingredients in your skincare routine. So read on if you want brighter, radiant, smoother and younger looking skin!

What Benefits Does Niacinamide Have For Your Skin?

Niacinamide (AKA vitamin B3) is a standout skincare ingredient because it is well tolerated by almost any skin type and it has been shown to be extremely effective at penetrating the skin. Through it’s antioxidant capabilities, niacinamide can provide broad range of improvements in the appearance of your skin, including:

  • The reduction of fine lines and wrinkles by increasing dermal collagen and protein production
  • Improvements in hyperpigmentation (such as melasma, sun spots and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation) by reducing melanosome transfer from melanocytes to surrounding keratinocytes (epidermal skin cells).
  • Improvements in the epidermal barrier function resulting in reduced trans-epidermal water loss and an increase in the skin’s resistance to potential harmful topical agents
  • Reduction in the yellowing of skin by inhibiting oxidative processes
  • Decrease in skin redness (erythema) due to increases in skin barrier function
  • Improvements in skin tone also due to increases in skin barrier function
  • Reduction in pore size through mechanisms not yet clearly understood
  • Reduction in sebum production, AND
  • Improvements in moderate to severe forms of acne due to niacinamide’s anti-inflammatory properties which helps to reduce swelling and redness

Here is also a list of interesting dermatological studies to show you how niacinamide is able to improve so many skin concerns:

  1. Niacinamide: A B vitamin that improves aging facial skin appearance
  2. Topical niacinamide reduces yellowing, wrinkling, red blotchiness, and hyperpigmented spots in aging facial skin
  3. The effect of niacinamide on reducing cutaneous pigmentation and suppression of melanosome transfer
  4. Topical niacinamide and barrier enhancement
  5. Niacinamide-containing facial moisturizer improves skin barrier and benefits subjects with rosacea

Related article:

cosrx advanced snail radiance dual essence korean snail mucin products

The COSRX Advanced Snail Radiance Dual Essence contains 5% niacinamide and 74.3% snail mucin. You can buy it from Yesstyle or Jolse.

What Benefits Does Vitamin C Have For Your Skin?

Just like niacinamide, vitamin C (in the form of L-ascorbic acid) is a powerful antioxidant that has been shown to easily penetrate into the dermis layer of the skin. Including a vitamin C serum in your skincare routine can provide a number of impressive benefits to your skin, including:

  • Reductions in hyperpigmentation (such as melasma, sun spots and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation) by inhibiting the production of melanin
  • Prevention of sun damage caused by ultraviolet light (AKA photo-aging) by fighting free radicals
  • Increasing the production of collagen thereby diminishing fine lines, and giving firm, youthful skin
  • Also decreasing the degradation of collagen
  • Protecting the skin from environmental pollutants, thereby preventing visible signs of aging

Related articles:

Klairs Vitamin C Drop Vitamin C Serum Korean Vitamin C Serums

The Dear Klairs Freshly Juiced Vitamin Drop is a good choice for a vitamin C serum for those that haven’t used one before or have sensitive skin as it only contains 5% L-ascorbic acid. You can buy it from SokoGlam, or Yesstyle.

Do Niacinamide and Vitamin C Cancel Each Other Out Chemically?

No, vitamin C and niacinamide do not neutralize each other when used together in your skincare routine. The belief that these two ingredients cancel each other out chemically stems from the fact that combining these two clear liquids forms a yellow liquid.

Some people say that the color change is the result of vitamin C instantaneously oxidizing, however it’s actually the result of both ingredients undergoing a charge transfer to form niacinamide ascorbate. Basically, in this chemical reaction, an electron is transferred from L-ascorbic acid to niacinamide – which weakly holds the two together.

What Effects Does Niacinamide Ascorbate Have On The Skin?

Currently, the research that has been conducted on the dermatological effects of niacinamide ascorbate suggests that it is safe to use and still works to brighten the skin. Research has also shown that this complex is easily reversed and separated.

This is because niacinamide ascorbate forms most easily at a pH of 3.8. Although the surface of our skin is acidic, the pH becomes less and less acidic as you move to each deeper layer – eventually reaching a neutral pH of 7. So, as niacinamide ascorbate penetrates the skin, the weak bond holding niacinamide and L-ascorbic acid together breaks and you’re left with niacinamide and L-ascorbic acid again.

Does Mixing Niacinamide and Vitamin C Produce Niacin (AKA Nicotinic Acid)?

The likelihood that niacinamide can hydrolyze into niacin (AKA nicotinic acid) when combined with vitamin C -leading to redness and flushing – is extremely low. This is because research has shown that niacinamide only converts to nicotinic acid in very minute amounts when placed under extreme heat for extended periods of time. So, you would likely have to be storing your skincare products in a car in the hot Australian summer (for weeks at a time) for any conversion to nicotinic acid to occur.

So, I Really Can Use Niacinamide And Vitamin C Together In My Skincare Routine?

Yes, in most cases skin will benefit from the awesome antioxidant properties of both niacinamide and vitamin C without causing any negative effects.

The idea that niacinamide and vitamin C shouldn’t be mixed is due to misinformation and studies from the 1960’s that were incorrectly interpreted. A lot of research has been conducted since then, suggesting that it is perfectly fine to use both ingredients together in your skincare routine.

If however, you have sensitive skin and are worried about the effects of using two active ingredients on your skin, then you could try the following:

  • Alternate your niacinamide and vitamin C-containing products morning to evening or (even day to day).
  • Use a vitamin C serum formulated with a vitamin C derivative instead of L-ascorbic acid as they tend to be gentler on the skin. My current favorite is the Neogen Dermalogy Real Vita C Serum which is formulated with sodium ascorbyl phosphate (a derivative of L-ascorbic acid).

How To Layer Vitamin C And Niacinamide In Your Skincare Routine: A Quick Guide

So now you know that you can use both niacinamide and vitamin C in your skincare routine, but how do you layer products containing these two ingredients, and which should you apply first? I’ve come up with a short guide for you.

What Products Contain Niacinamide And Vitamin C?

Niacinamide can be found in many different types of skincare products, although you’re most likely to find the highest concentrations in serums. Toners and moisturizers will often contain niacinamide.

Vitamin C (L-ascorbic acid) is mostly only limited to specially formulated vitamin C serums. This is because L-ascorbic acid is a finicky skincare ingredient that oxidizes easily and that requires a pH below 3.5 to penetrate our skin.

That being said, there are a few vitamin C serums that contain niacinamide in their formulations.

Which To Apply First In Your Skincare Routine?

If you are using a vitamin C serum that is formulated with L-ascorbic acid, you should use this first (after cleansing) since L-ascorbic acid is pH-dependent and requires a pH below 3.5 to penetrate the skin. Any hydrating toners, essences, serums or moisturizers containing niacinamide can then be layered on top.

The order of these products therefore looks like this:

OIL CLEANSER > WATER-BASED CLEANSER > pH-ADJUSTING TONER > VITAMIN C SERUM > BHA (if using) > AHA > FIRST ESSENCE > HYDRATING TONER > ESSENCE > SERUMS & AMPOULES> MOISTURIZER > FACIAL OIL > SUNSCREEN (AM) OR SLEEPING PACK (PM)

TIP! You can apply a vitamin C serum either in the morning or evening, however most people prefer to apply it during their morning routine due to its photo-protective effects.

You may also find that some cleansers contain niacinamide. It is totally okay to use a cleanser that contains niacinamide before you apply your vitamin C serum because niacinamide won’t alter the pH of your skin. I always recommend to use a low pH cleanser (with a pH below 5.5) as this will help L-ascorbic acid penetrate into your skin and also help to maintain a healthy moisture barrier.

How Long Should I Wait After Applying My Vitamin C Serum?

If your vitamin C serum is formulated with L-ascorbic acid, it’s generally recommended to wait at least 15 minutes before applying any other skincare products. This is because L-ascorbic acid requires a pH below 3.5 to penetrate the skin. This is especially the case if you’re applying any other skincare acids (such as AHA or BHA), as the pH of these products will be higher than your vitamin C serum.

Do I Need A Dedicated Niacinamide Serum Or Booster?

No, you really don’t need to include a dedicated niacinamide serum or booster in your skincare routine, as many skincare products (especially serums and moisturizers) already contain niacinamide. Generally, the concentration of niacinamide in these products is 2-5%, which is enough to give you the benefits that niacinamide promises.

Can I Use Niacinamide, Vitamin C AND Hyaluronic Acid Together?

Yes, you absolutely can use niacinamide, vitamin C and hyaluronic acid together in your skincare routine. In fact, this trio would provide your skin with both anti-aging and hydration benefits as hyaluronic acid is a powerful humectant that works by attracting water molecules to the skin.

Luckily, many Korean skincare products contain hyaluronic acid (or its cousin – sodium hyaluronate) as well as a range of other humectants since Korean skincare is all about keeping the skin hydrated and the skin barrier healthy.

Can I Use Niacinamide, Vitamin C AND AHA Together?

Yes, you can use niacinamide, vitamin C and AHA (alpha-hydroxy acids) together in your skincare routine, however the order in which you apply them is important as vitamin C and AHAs are both acids that require different pH to penetrate the skin. The strength of and how often you apply your AHA product also depends on how sensitive your skin is.

It also takes a little while to build up a tolerance to products containing L-ascorbic acid (vitamin C) and AHAs, so start introducing them slowly (applying them every few days) and work your way up to daily or every other day from there.

The order in which you should apply these products is as follows:

OIL CLEANSER > WATER-BASED CLEANSER > pH-ADJUSTING TONER > VITAMIN C SERUM > BHA (if using) > AHA > FIRST ESSENCE > HYDRATING TONER > ESSENCE > SERUMS & AMPOULES> MOISTURIZER > FACIAL OIL > SUNSCREEN (AM) OR SLEEPING PACK (PM)

Note: You don’t have to use all these steps in your skincare routine. I’ve simply listed the order that they would go in if you were using all of them. Niacinamide is typically found in essences, serums, ampoules and moisturizers.

Can I Use Niacinamide, Vitamin C AND Retinol Together?

Yes, you can use niacinamide, vitamin C and retinol together in your skincare routine, and in fact all three ingredients are probably the most effective antioxidants for your skin (especially when it comes to anti-aging concerns). However, your skin will need some time to build a tolerance to them before you can use them daily and you may not be able to use a vitamin C serum containing L-ascorbic acid and retinol if you have very sensitive skin.

Dermatologists also recommend applying your vitamin C serum in the morning and retinol product in the evening.

Bottom Line

Niacinamide and vitamin C are two of the most beneficial ingredients for the skin. Both are highly effective at fading hyperpigmentation as well as having anti-aging properties. Niacinamide has many other benefits and is well tolerated by most skin types. It is totally okay to use both ingredients in your skincare routine! Just remember to apply your vitamin C serum at the start of your skincare routine (after cleansing) as vitamin C requires a low pH to penetrate the skin.