Skincare was easier when it was limited to a cleanser and moisturizer. However, with so many skincare products and ingredients targeting multiple skin issues- it can be confusing to know which products you actually need that can help your skin. Of course, it's a blessing that there's an ingredient to target every skin issue, but if you have multiple skin concerns, using them properly does require some professional guidance.
That's why dermatologist Dr. Whitney Bowe came up with the viral TikTok beauty trend of skin cycling. Dr. Bowe told Self, "People were adding layer after layer after layer onto their skincare routines and experimenting with ingredient combinations that were irritating and damaging their skin." She added that people were using too many products, making their skin more sensitive and irritated. In skin cycling, you use chemical exfoliants on night one and retinoids on night two, as they're both potent ingredients.
On the other hand, certain ingredients work better together, such as sunscreen and Vitamin C. Chicago-based dermatologist Steven Mandrea told Real Simple, "I usually recommend applying vitamin C serum in the morning under moisturizer and sunscreen, as it can then work to combat exposure to free radicals and ultraviolet light throughout the day."
Niacinamide is another active skincare ingredient, and board-certified dermatologist Rachel Nazarian said it's "a topical version of vitamin B3," per Everyday Health. Can you use it with Vitamin C to reap more skin benefits, or are they better used separately, like chemical exfoliants and retinoids?
Here's what experts say about combining niacinamide and Vitamin C
When it comes to skincare ingredients, more isn't necessarily better. Some ingredients work beautifully together, while some can make your skin worse, so when it comes to whether or not you should use niacinamide and Vitamin C together, here's what skincare experts have to say.
The simple answer is yes, but it is possible that the combination might not benefit your skin, depending on the form and concentration of the two ingredients.
Cosmetic chemist Perry Romanowski told Byrdie, "Generally speaking, Vitamin C needs to be used at a low pH in order to be effective, while niacinamide works better at a higher/neutral pH." That being said, Vitamin C and niacinamide products are made to benefit the skin but may cause irritation if your skin is too sensitive. However, dermatologist Emily Arch added, "If the two ingredients weren't compatible, we'd all suffer when using topical niacinamide" because our skin naturally has Vitamin C.
According to Healthline, you can safely use the two power ingredients together. Dermatologist Meena Singh debunks the myth that using them together is bad and said, "This stems from outdated research using pure forms of niacinamide with ascorbic acid. They were combined at a very high temperature and shown to form nicotinic acid, which can lead to skin irritation."
Board-certified internist Zion Ko Lamm shared in a TikTok video that you can use niacinamide and Vitamin C together. However, you should let the Vitamin C product dry completely before applying niacinamide.
Best Vitamin C products
Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant with multiple skin benefits, and according to board-certified dermatologist Anna Guanche it has "both active and inactive forms," per Byrdie. Beverly Hills-based dermatologist Jennifer Herrmann told the outlet that L-ascorbic acid is the pure form of Vitamin C, and there are Vitamin C derivatives like sodium ascorbyl phosphate, ascorbyl palmitate, retinyl ascorbate, tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate, and magnesium ascorbyl phosphate, and these work better for sensitive skin.
Alabama-based dermatologist Corey L. Hartman is a fan of the OG of Vitamin C serums: SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic with 15% L-Ascorbic Acid. This serum has a cult following as it provides "environmental protection, reduces fine lines and wrinkles, improves firmness, and brightens." Dr. Hartman told Vogue, "SkinCeuticals CE Ferulic is the gold standard and works well for those with dry skin."
If your skin is sensitive, go with an inactive form of Vitamin C such as Tru Skin Naturals Vitamin C Serum, as it has aloe vera and jojoba oil to help soothe the skin (via Who What Wear). According to the brand, it has sodium ascorbyl phosphate, a stable form of Vitamin C. This serum has over 114,000 reviews on Amazon.
Best niacinamide products
Niacinamide is quickly becoming a popular skincare ingredient that many brands incorporate in their products. You might think the stronger the concentration, the better, but that's not the case. "An effective product should have between 2 and 10 percent niacinamide," Florida-based dermatologist Janet Allenby told Allure. She added that it's easier for skin to tolerate under 5%.
For an affordable pick, The INKEY List Niacinamide Oil Control Serum is perfect (via Prevention). It's pretty strong, so it's great at brightening the skin while reducing breakouts. It has hyaluronic acid to add hydration. Since it's 10%, it might not be the best for sensitive skin.
Another great niacinamide product is Paula's Choice 10% Niacinamide Booster, which you can mix with your serums, per Byrdie. It's infused with licorice root, allantoin, and Vitamin C. It has 4.5 out of 5 stars on Amazon with over 1000 reviews, and one reviewer even said, "This serum is magic potion. It brightened my complexion and made my skin soft. It has a water-like consistency and is non-scented. It didn't irritate my skin at all, considering I have sensitive skin. The downside is that it's really expensive."
If you have sensitive skin, try Glossier Super Pure with 5% niacinamide, as it's a better pick for those with "sensitized skin or dry complexions" (via Cosmopolitan). It has zinc PCA that can help combat breakouts, and even if you aren't prone to acne, it's a gentle serum to hydrate and soothe your skin.