Vitamin C and Niacinamide are the Britney and Xtina of skincare.
Rumour has it, these two skincare superstars hate each other’s guts and can’t stand working together.
But, when you peek behind the curtain, you’ll see them get on like a house on fire.
What the heck is going on here?
Here’s the truth about Vitamin C and Niacinamide and why you CAN and should use them together:
What Is Vitamin C?
A water-soluble antioxidant with multiple superpowers:
- It fights free radicals
- It boosts collagen production
- It fades dark spots and brightens the complexion
The catch? Pure Vitamin C, a.k.a. L-Ascorbic Acid, is very finicky to formulate with. If the ph’s not right, it won’t work. If it comes in contact with light and air, it throws a tantrum and stops working.
That’s why cosmetic chemists often ignore it. They prefer to use its derivatives, instead. They don’t work as fast, but are a lot less demanding.
FIY, according to rumours, Niacinamide has “problems” only with L-Ascorbic Acid, NOT its derivatives.
Related: Spotlight On Vitamin C: What Does It Do For Your Skin?
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What Is Niacinamide?
Niacinamide is a form of Vitamin B3 that does EVERYTHING:
- It moisturises skin
- It soothes irritations and rosacea
- It fights free radicals
- It treats acne
- It fades dark spots and brightens skin
See that last one? Both Vitamin C and Niacinamide can fade dark spots. It’s no wonder you want to use them together to speed up the process. So, why are you told you can’t?
Related: Spotlight On Niacinamide: What Does It Do For Your Skin?
Vitamin C VS Niacinamide: The Feud
If rumour is to be believed, Vitamin C plays a couple of nasty tricks on Niacinamide:
- Mixing Niacinamide with L-Ascorbic Acid (or any other acid, for that matter) turns it into Niacin, a substance that can cause temporary flushing and tingling. This is a problem only if you have inflammatory acne or erythema.
- When mixed together in aqueous solutions, Vitamin C and Niacinamide form of a complex that turns the solution yellow, making both ingredients ineffective.
Should You Worry About Niacinamide Turning Into Niacin?
Vitamin C may be finicking, but Niacinamide isn’t. Niacinamide is an amide and those are tough. They don’t go bad when you expose them to light, air or heat, like other antioxidants do.
That’s why you need a LOT of heat to trigger the reactions mentioned above. You can heat Niacinamide up to 120 °C (240 °F) WITHOUT Niacin forming.
Of course, the more heat Niacinamide is exposed to, the faster the conversion occurs. But, at home, you NEVER expose Niacinamide to those temperatures.
At home, you store your Niacinamide lotions and serums at room temperatures. That’s around 25 °C (77 °F). How long does it take for the conversion to occur at this temperature?
If the solution has an acidic (low) ph, it’ll take 6 weeks to convert only 1% of Niacinamide into Niacin. If the solution uses thickeners (and most skincare products do), the conversion occurs even more slowly.
For most people this isn’t a problem. The amount of Niacin formed under normal conditions is so tiny, you won’t even notice it.
If your skin is super sensitive, then even this tiny amount will be enough to trigger flushing and tingling. This isn’t dangerous, but I still recommend you avoid this combo.
Either way, you can always store your Niacinamide lotions and potions in a cool place. This’ll slow down the conversion even more.
Should You Worry About The Niacinamide And L-Ascorbic Acid Complex?
If you mix Niacinamide and L-Ascorbic Acid together, the solution turns yellow. That’s the colour of death for Vitamin C. It usually means it has oxidised and become useless.
BUT, not in this case!
In this case, the yellow colour is caused by the formation of Niacinamide Ascorbate. Basically, an electron transferred from Vitamin C to Niacinamide, holding them together.
pH matters here. Niacinamide Ascorbate forms at a pH of 3.8. Change the pH and way less of it appears.
You know what this means? This reaction is reversible. This matters because the surface of your skin has a pH of around 5, but the deeper layers a pH of 7. So, as Niacinamide and Vitamin C move deeper into the skin, they tend to go their separate ways, forming less and less Niacinamide Ascorbate.
The best part? Niacinamide Ascorbate isn’t as useless as it seems. Studies show it can still help fight sun damage.
The Bottom Line
You can totally use Vitamin C and Niacinamide together. The chemical reactions they trigger are very slow or reversible so they can’t compromise their effectiveness.
Reddit cosmetic chemist Stephen Alain Ko was the first to point out they can be used together. For more skincare science, go check out his blog.