The world of skincare ingredients (and we say packed with capital P) is packed with matches. It feels like a new one hits the increasingly packed scene every day, pretending to be the next big thing. Yet, among the newbies that come and go with a routine regularity, there are a variety of ingredients that remain tried and tested, classics of clinically established results. Of all, niacinamide and vitamin C are perhaps two of the top names on the short list. Any of them possessing a multitude of advantages, the dilemma then becomes this: since they can do such wonderful stuff independently, should or can they be used together?
Is that a peanut-butter-and-jelly situation (you know, where each item is fine on its own, but actually much better when combined with the other one)? Or will the combination of these two power stations cause problems? There’s a lot of contradictory advice on the topic, so we asked the experts to set the record straight.
Firstly, What Are Vitamin C and Niacinamide?
Before we get to the possible complications that can happen when you combine the two, it’s important to consider what these ingredients are and what they can do for your own skin.
Niacinamide is a type of vitamin B3 (also known as niacin) that is, “a wonderful ingredient with a multitude of benefits,” says Chicago dermatologist Emily Arch, MD. “Among its many qualities, it allows the skin to develop ceramides to enhance barrier function and hydration, increases the development of collagen to aid the appearance of fine lines and pores, prevents excess sebum output and can help to reduce discoloration,” she continues. As if it weren’t enough, it has also been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects (especially helpful for those with acne and rosacea) and is a potent antioxidant, according to board-certified dermatologist Charlotte Birnbaum, MD of Spring Street Dermatology in New York City. In other words, no matter what the complexion concerns might be, niacinamide may be helpful.
Vitamin C is not far away when it comes to boasting a long list of advantages. Arch terms it a “favourite skincare product, hands down,” praising it for its strong antioxidant properties and capacity to neutralise free radicals until they can inflict harm. Like niacinamide, it also has anti-aging effects. Vitamin C is essential to the development of collagen, improves the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, and reduces pigment production to further lighten dark spots, Birnbaum describes.
So, Can Both Niacinamide And Vitamin C Be used Together?
The short answer to your question is, yes, you can. Anything you may have read that suggests otherwise is founded on old science that doesn’t translate into a real life situation. “Some studies conducted in the 1960s indicated a negative relationship and that the two could theoretically contribute to the production of nicotinic acid, which can induce redness and inflammation in the skin,” says Perry Romanowski, an independent cosmetic chemist. The major caveat, huh? “This happened when pure ascorbic acid and niacinamide were held at high temperatures,” he adds.
“It is impossible to be a concern in modern-day formulations kept at room temperature.” (Worth note: Most skincare brands use additional, more soluble types of vitamin C, such as ascorbyl palmitate and magnesium ascorbyl phosphate, rather than ascorbic acid.) It is also worth noting that vitamin C is naturally present in our skin: “If the two ingredients weren’t compatible, we’d all suffer from the use of topical niacinamide,” Arch says.
Why should We Use Vitamin C and Niacinamide Together?
Okay, so we know that merging the two isn’t going to be troublesome, but is it going to be beneficial? Again, the short answer to that is yes. “Given the multitude of advantages of all of these ingredients and the complementary quality of these benefits, they are a potent mix,” Arch notes. While both target different indicators of ageing, they have very different methods of intervention, so you’re tackling the problem from a variety of angles. Take brightening of the skin, for example. Combining the two may be beneficial since they are acting in separate ways to achieve this result, Romanowksi says. Vitamin C functions by inhibiting the enzyme known as tyrosinase, which is essential for pigment formation, whereas niacinamide is thought to prevent the transition of pigment to cells.
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How To Use Vitamin C and Niacinamide Together?
As far as the precise way to use niacinamide and vitamin C together is concerned, you can either search for one substance that includes both or different layers, however the experts with which we consulted believe that layering is preferable. This is simply because vitamin C is a notoriously reactive molecule that is quickly made inert by exposure to sunshine, oxygen, and other ingredients. 2 Plus, “generally, vitamin C needs to be used at a low pH level in order to be reliable, whereas niacinamide performs well at a higher/neutral pH level,” adds Romanowski. (Its frightening essence is so many vitamin C drugs have skewed at the top; it’s a difficult ingredient to be formulated with.)
Arch advises the use of stand-alone vitamin C for all of the above purposes, while he states that other antioxidants, especially vitamin E and ferulic acid, may also improve the effectiveness and even stability of vitamin C. (Case in point: Skinceuticals C E Ferulic serum enjoyed by dermatologists and makeup editors all over the world.) No matter which vitamin C product you use, make sure you keep it out of the sun and humidity, Birnbaum adds.
Niacinamide, on the other hand, is much less fragile and finicky than vitamin C, Arch notes. You will find it in a lot of serums, moisturisers, caps, and more, at a number of price points. So it doesn’t really matter when it comes to what product should be on the skin first. Your safest bet is to settle on the recipe of the individual goods you use, applying them from thin to thickest, says Arch. In other words, the serum will always be before the moisturiser, and the oil should always be last added.
In conclusion, Niacinamide and vitamin C are also true power players in the skincare community of their own. And merging them isn’t just a problem, it’s also a perfect step in your search for a brighter complexion.