Good News: It's Safe AND Effective to Use Niacinamide and Vitamin C Together

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Why Niacinamide and Vitamin C Are a Power CoupleLAUNCHMETRICS SPOTLIGHT

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There's been no better time to be really, really into your skincare routine, with more active ingredients than ever to choose from. (Hyaluronic acid basically being a household term at this point, tbh.) But that brings us to the next big Q: What ingredients can you combine to max out your benefits—and what's off-limits?

That comes up often with vitamin C and niacinamide, which are both powerful ingredients for tackling discoloration and dark spots (among other things!). "Both niacinamide and vitamin C are antioxidants and anti-inflammatories," says Melanie Palm, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in San Diego, CA. But that doesn't necessarily mean that they're BFFs. So: Should you be pairing these two ingredients together? Here's what you need to know.

What is niacinamide?

This ingredient, a form of vitamin B3, can kinda do it all. For one, "it can help your skin build keratin, a protein that helps support your skin barrier by retaining moisture and protecting it from environmental damage," says Dr. Palm.

In skincare products, too, niacinamide can also soothe inflammation, reduce the appearance of pore size, regulate oil production, and address abnormal pigmentation production, thus evening out skin tone. (Whew.) For that reason, it's often paired with more irritating ingredients—what up, retinol—to buffer their side effects.

What is vitamin C?

Vitamin C is key for executing a ton of functions throughout your body, but for your skin in particular, it serves an antioxidant, meaning "it can protect your skin from free radicals, which cause signs of aging," says Dr. Palm. Not only does it offer protection against these free radicals (which are caused by sun exposure and pollutants), but "vitamin C is clinically proven to brighten, promote collagen production, reduce hyperpigmentation, provide some protection against photo-aging, and prevent skin laxity," she says. Translation: It's an MVP for your beauty routine.

What's the deal with niacinamide and vitamin C together?

Good news: The idea that vitamin C and niacinamide don't mix is a total myth. "It comes from early studies that suggested potential interactions between the two ingredients," says Claire Chang, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in New York City. "These suggested that combining vitamin C and niacinamide might lead to formation of a compound called nicotinic acid, which can cause irritation, flushing, and redness in the skin."

But those early studies have been one-upped by more recent research, which has shown "that the interactions between these two ingredients are minimal, and the combination is generally well-tolerated," says Dr. Chang. In other words, you're good to go.

Not only that, but they can also be a killer duo for dark spots and discoloration in particular. Vitamin C inhibits tyrosinase, which is an important enzyme for melanin, or pigment, production in skin—and in blocking tyrosinase, it prevents excess pigment from forming. Meanwhile, "niacinamide works by decreasing how much melanin is transferred and accumulated in the skin," says Dr. Chang. So each ingredient works on a different front to reduce excess pigment production, thus brightening skin and evening out tone.

For that reason, "I believe these two ingredients have synergistic benefits for the skin, including skin brightening, anti-aging, and antioxidant effects," says Dr. Chang.

Which is better for skin?

It depends! If you have sensitive skin, niacinamide might be your best bet, since it's "been shown to help reduce inflammation and improve hydration," says Dr. Chang, who adds that vitamin C can be irritating for some patients. Niacinamide might also be a better option if you're prone to acne, since it can help control oil production. Or, of course, you could just use both.

How to use niacinamide and vitamin C in your skincare routine

If you're using them in two separate products, use the age-old advice of applying your products in order of thinnest to thickest texture. For example, "lighter serums can be applied before moisturizers," says Dr. Chang. "If your vitamin C is in a serum and niacinamide in your moisturizer, you can use the vitamin C first and then the niacinamide-containing moisturizer."

Even better? You can now find the two ingredients paired together in a ton of different products, where they work overtime to brighten skin and fade dark spots more quickly.

Milk Marvel Dark Spot Serum

I swear by this serum for my extremely hyperpigmentation-prone skin, which was formulated with skin of color like mine in mind! It pairs niacinamide with an encapsulated vitamin C, which minimizes irritation.

<p><a href="" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Shop Now;elm:context_link;itc:0;sec:content-canvas" class="link ">Shop Now</a></p><p>Milk Marvel Dark Spot Serum</p><p></p><p>$68.00</p>

Vitamin Enriched Smoothing Serum

Listen up, makeup buffs: This silky-smooth serum not only delivers niacinamide and vitamin C, but it also moisturizes and leaves skin smooth—creating a perfect base for seamless foundation application.

<p><a href="" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Shop Now;elm:context_link;itc:0;sec:content-canvas" class="link ">Shop Now</a></p><p>Vitamin Enriched Smoothing Serum</p><p></p><p>$85.00</p>

CC Me Vitamin C + Niacinamide Serum

This lightweight serum uses not one, but two concentrated forms of vitamin C, so it's best reserved for people who already use some form of C in their routine. That said, niacinamide does come to the rescue to minimize any redness.

<p><a href="" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Shop Now;elm:context_link;itc:0;sec:content-canvas" class="link ">Shop Now</a></p><p>CC Me Vitamin C + Niacinamide Serum</p><p></p><p>$68.00</p>

Green Machine Vitamin C Serum

Along with the vitamin C and niacinamide in this fun, oil-jelly serum is azelaic acid, another winning brightener that evens out skin tone without irritating.

<p><a href="" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Shop Now;elm:context_link;itc:0;sec:content-canvas" class="link ">Shop Now</a></p><p>Green Machine Vitamin C Serum</p><p></p><p>$34.00</p>

In addition to serums that offer the best of both worlds, you can also take advantage of their combined free radical-fighting benefits in your sunscreen. (Bonus! Since sun exposure is a huge factor in discoloration and dark spots, sticking with daily SPF use is a game-changer for helping to fade them, too.)

Weekend Skin SPF 50 + Vitamin C + Glow

Ideal for weekends, vacay, and lazy days in between, this one-and-done formula pairs mineral-based SPF 50 with vitamin C and niacinamide to undo existing dark spots while defending skin from future marks. Genius.

<p><a href="" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Shop Now;elm:context_link;itc:0;sec:content-canvas" class="link ">Shop Now</a></p><p>Weekend Skin SPF 50 + Vitamin C + Glow</p><p></p><p>$50.00</p>

Olay Regenerist Vitamin C + Peptide 24 Face Moisturizer - SPF 30 - 1.7oz

Overachiever alert! Another do-it-all winner, this moisturizer packs broad-spectrum SPF 30, vitamin C, niacinamide, and peptides into a sunny little bottle.

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The takeaway

There's ultimately little to no risk from using both niacinamide and vitamin C in your skincare routine, especially if you're looking to target post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation after a breakout or just want a li'l lit-from-within glow. Not only will they do no harm when paired together, but they can actually complement one another to deliver even better brightening than either one alone.

Meet the experts:

  • Claire Chang, MD, is a board-certified dermatologist at Union Square Laser Dermatology in New York, NY.

  • Melanie Palm, MD, is a board-certified dermatologist at Art of Skin in San Diego, CA.

Why trust Cosmopolitan?

Deanna Pai is the interim deputy beauty editor at Cosmopolitan with more than 12 years of experience covering skincare, makeup, and beyond. She’s an authority in all skincare categories, but is an expert when it comes to active ingredients, since she's used most of them (alas). When she's not testing skincare formulas, she's chatting up top dermatologists to learn about everything new and innovative.

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