If you’re a skincare nerd like me, then reading about and researching skincare products is probably one of your favourite things to do. Skincare is a huge business and new products, and formulations bombard our feeds daily.
It gets overwhelming and confusing and who can you trust to just tell you what to put on your skin. Don’t trust marketers they just want to sell you ‘the latest and best new serum ever’.
There is a lot of incorrect information online about skincare ingredients and what you can and can’t use together. The top two mismatched lovers of the skincare world are niacinamide and vitamin C. Both have huge skin benefits, we’ll get to those in a minute.
Ingredients don’t lie and once you understand them, getting better skin is a whole lot easier and way less expensive than you think. When there are controversy and huge marketing budgets involved, I like to lean into research and science and see what makes sense.
So can you use niacinamide and vitamin C together or is that going to lead to big problems?
Niacinamide is a very stable molecule and because of this, it is not reactive. Niacinamide stabilises other molecules, such as vitamin C. Because of it’s stabilising ability you can safely use niacinamide with vitamin C.
First, let’s look at each of these ingredients separately.
Niacinamide, also known as Nicotinamide, is a form of the essential nutrient, Vitamin B3. Our bodies need vitamin B3 to ensure healthy digestive function, brain health, and improved circulation: plus it is also a massive player in skincare.
With a multitude of properties that can benefit all skin types, you’ll see this ingredient popping up in all kinds of beauty products.
So just what exactly does niacinamide do for your skin?
Protects Against Sun Damage
The sun can wreak havoc with your skin by causing cellular level damage. On the surface, this damage takes the form of sunspots and prematurely aging skin. Studies have shown that this B3 vitamin can help protect your skin against sun damage by increasing the rate of cellular reproduction whilst stimulating and ensuring healthy DNA reparation. This means the skin is repaired faster and reduces the chances of developing dark spots or ‘sunspots’.
It is currently being studied for its use in skin cancer prevention because of its immune-protective qualities that help prevent UV-induced damage. Nothing has been proven as of yet, but it may hold a promising future in this area.
Helps Treat Acne
As one of the most potent anti-inflammatory ingredients in skincare, this nutrient can be useful in calming conditions marked by inflammation, like acne. Whilst it may not actively zap spots, it has been proven to help regulate the production of oil that our sebaceous glands produce (the glands under our skin’s surface). Combined with its antibacterial properties, niacinamide is a perfect preventative treatment.
Being an anti-inflammatory, it has also shown to help with rosacea and eczema. As it is relatively non-irritating compared to other acne treatments, it is perfect for all skin types, even those with dry or sensitive skin.
As we age, our cellular reproduction slows down, as does our body’s production of collagen. This means our skin takes longer to renew, resulting in fine lines, wrinkles, and loss of firmness. We already know this vitamin has the ability to increase the rate of cellular energy and reproduction, but it also is used by the body to produce collagen and keratin. This, in turn, improves cell turnover, circulation and offers antioxidant protection, which all slows down skin aging.
A clinical study published by the Dermatologic Surgery Journal showed that using a 5% moisturizer twice daily reduced the appearance of wrinkles after just eight weeks. After 12 weeks, skin elasticity was significantly improved.
Protect the Skin Barrier
This form of vitamin B3 has been shown to improve the skin barrier function, which works to prevent water loss and protect against environmental damage. For those with dry skin, it can be very beneficial by helping to lock in moisture whilst also increasing ceramide and elastin production. Ceramides are tiny lipids that moisturize and hold healthy cells together. They keep the skin healthy, smooth, and hydrated.
As an added benefit, it has been proven to work as a natural exfoliant, helping with the removal of dead skin cells which can affect the skin tone and texture.
Research has shown that this nutrient may be one of the most effective components in brightening the skin and helping to fade hyperpigmentation. It is thought that it works to reduce the production of melanin, the pigment that causes darker skin. Pairing it with other ingredients like hydroquinone and soy can make it work 10 times better.
The British Journal of Dermatology published a clinical study that demonstrated that using a 5% niacinamide moisturizer and applying it twice daily for two weeks, significantly improved hyperpigmentation.
Protects Against Antioxidative Stress
This form of B3 is a component in coenzymes NADH and NADPH. These enzymes work at the cellular level as direct antioxidants, which means they protect cell membranes from the damage of free radicals and oxidative stress. This is important for skin health as we are surrounded by everyday stressors constantly, including environmental pollution and UV exposure.
A 12-week study showed that this vitamin B3 treatment significantly reduced pore size and improved the texture of bumpy skin. This is because of its ability to reduce the skin’s oil production. By producing less oil the pores are less clogged, which means they are not so stretched. Tighter pores mean a softer and smoother skin texture.
Soothes and Calms Red, Blotchy Skin
As an anti-inflammatory, B3 helps to reduce redness and irritation on the surface of the skin. This is because of its ability to strengthen and improve the skin barrier function. This is good news for those who have had to resort to treatments like steroids or antibiotics, as these can leave your skin sensitive to the sun and may also develop resistance.
Niacinamide is a skin care specialist and because it’s non-reactive and stabilising to other ingredients it is added into lots of skincare products, so chances are you are using it already.
Vitamin C is also loaded with lots of skincare benefits and is a favourite skincare ingredient of many dermatologists and skincare nerds alike.
What are the benefits of Vitamin C in skincare?
Reduces Free Radicals on a Cellular Level
Free radicals can mutate and alter the DNA of a cell leading to inflammation, breakdown of collagen and elastin as well as destroying the cells ability to repair itself.
Boosts Collagen Production
Vitamin C is a co-factor for the enzymes that make collagen within the skin and keep it there. The more collagen the less fine lines and wrinkles your skin will have. The smoother and softer it will look and feel.
Vitamin C effectively disrupts melanin production. Melanin is the pigment packets that cause dark spots and hyperpigmentation. By stopping the enzyme tyrosinase from triggering melanin production the skin appears brighter and uneven skin tone is reduced.
Stops the production of NFkB which is the enzyme that triggers inflammation. This stop inflammation, helps skin to heal, lessens redness and is useful in treating acne and rosacea.
Vitamin C has UV protectant properties and can stop UV damage and photoaging from occurring. Vitamin C is not a replacement for sunscreen, but it does boost the effectiveness of sunscreen, so is recommended to be used under sunscreen.
Side Effects of Vitamin C?
Vitamin C comes in many derivates and most of them are highly sensitive to air and light. This can be a problem because when vitamin C breaks down in the presence of oxygen – which means instead of doing great things for your skin it becomes toxic, and changes into a potent free radical that can damage and irritate your skin.
Stabilizing vitamin C is tricky and it’s hard to work with. This is why some vitamin C containing products can be expensive. The most beneficial form of vitamin C in skincare products is L-ascorbic acid. It is however notoriously unstable and requires vitamin E and ferulic acid to stabilise it.
L-ascorbic acid is the vitamin C used in SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic serum and it is in my opinion the best vitamin C serum on the market, but it is very expensive.
To create more stable products many formulations contain vitamin C derivatives such as magnesium ascorbyl phosphate and ascorbyl-6-palmitate. Studies have shown that these vitamin C substitutes did not increase the levels of vitamin C in the skin.
When it comes to vitamin C you get what you pay for so look for L-ascorbic acid combined with vitamin E and ferulic acid if possible.
How To Combine Niacinamide and Vitamin C together.
Given the abundance of benefits that these ingredients have separately and the fact that they can be used together to complement each other, what is the best way to combine them?
You might have notices that they target a lot of the same skin issues so do you even need to use both? You do because they come at the problem from different angles so by using both you’re giving your skin double the benefits.
But, I have read that they react badly with each other?
The internet rumours have been circulating that you can’t use niacinamide with vitamin C together. That is not true, where this misinformation probably comes from is that niacinamide and vitamin C in the same product has minimal benefits.
This is because they work best at different pH levels.
Vitamin C is a hard ingredient to stabilise and it needs to be in an acidic environment of pH 3.5 to work best. Niacinamide on the other hand works best at closer to neutral pH of 5 – 6.
Your skin can take up to 20 minutes to return to its neutral state after applying an acidic product like a vitamin C product. As long as you give your skin time to reset you can use niacinamide directly after vitamin C.
We recommend using vitamin C in the morning either in your moisturizer or on its own before applying moisturizer and sunscreen.
If your budget can take it then SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic is the best hands down. If you haven’t tried this cult product superstar of the last 5 years then I am not sure we can be friends. It does have an eyewatering price tag and smells really odd. As much as I wanted to find it ‘meh, no big deal, I adore this product.
Is it worth the money? I think it is, you use a very small amount so it should last you 6 months + and it is a skin-changer. It is the product that put vitamin C and ferulic on the skincare map.
But there are plenty of others to choose from just make sure they are using L-ascorbic acid or Sodium ascorbyl phosphate (this vitamin C derivative turns to L-ascorbic acid in the skin) as the vitamin C part of there formula. Some of the other vitamin C products we recommend are:
Mad hippie Vitamin C Serum
Mad Hippie is a natural skincare company that creates products without parabens, synthetic fragrance, dyes, petrochemicals, PEGs, SLS or other additives.
This product contains vitamin C in the form of Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate. Which also boosts its acne-fighting abilities.
Paula’s Choice C15 Super Booster
This is a great vitamin C serum and contains L-ascorbic acid, vitamin E and Ferulic acid. This is our favourite dupe for the Skinceuticals C E Ferulic Serum.
Niacinamide is not nearly as fussy as vitamin C so you have lots of very affordable and high-quality options.
One of the best is of course The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% and Zinc 1%
It is hard to beat this hero product so if you want to try niacinamide definitely start here.
Niacinamide and vitamin C belong together like marshmallows and hot chocolate, great separately but so much better together.