Can you use Vitamin C and Niacinamide together? Vitamin C and Niacinamide are the Britney and Xtina of the skincare world. Rumour has it, these two skincare superstars hate each other’s guts and can’t stand working together. They deactivate each other, make the other product useless and just don’t layer well together. Or so they say. But, when you peek behind the curtain, you’ll see them get on like a house on fire. What is going on here? Can you use these powerhouses together and, if so, how? Here’s the truth about Vitamin C and Niacinamide and why you CAN and should use them together:
What Is Vitamin C?
Vitamin C is one of the most popular ingredients in the skincare world – for a reason. It’s a water-soluble antioxidant with multiple superpowers:
- It fights free radicals: Free radicals are the nasty molecules that give you wrinkles and dark spots. By neutralising them, it prevents skin from aging prematurely.
- It boosts collagen production: Vitamin C is essential for the production of collagen, the vitamin that keeps skin firm. The more collagen your skin has, the longer wrinkles take to form and the shallower they are.
- It fades dark spots: High concentrations of Vitamin C brighten the complexion and fade away uneven patches in your skin tone.
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.
- Drunk Elephant C-Firma Day Serum ($80.00/£67.00): This CEF serum contains marula oil to moisturise dry skin, but that gives it a slightly sticky texture. Available at Cult Beauty, Sephora and SpaceNK
- Paula’s Choice C15 Booster ($49.00): A powerful CEF serum that brightens skin and fights premature aging. Available at Sephora, Nordstrom and Paula’s Choice
- Skinceuticals CE Ferulic ($166.00): The original CEF serum, it’s still the gold standards on the market to prevent wrinkles, boosts sun protection, and brighten the complexion. Available at Dermstore
Related: Spotlight On Vitamin C: What Does It Do For Your Skin?
Struggling to put together a skincare routine that minimises wrinkles, prevents premature aging, and gives your complexion a youthful glow? Download your FREE “Best Anti-Aging Skincare Routine” to get started (it features product recommendations + right application order):
What Is Niacinamide?
Niacinamide is my fave skincare ingredient ever. If I could only ever use one skincare ingredient for the rest of my life, this is what I’d pick. Why? Niacinamide is a form of Vitamin B3 that does EVERYTHING:
- It moisturises skin: It increases ceramides levels in the skin to strengthen your skin’s protective barrier and keeps it softer and suppler.
- It’s soothing: It has anti-inflammatory properties that reduce irritations and even soothe rosacea. If you have sensitive skin, this is definitely an ingredient to add to your stash.
- It fights free radicals: It neutralises them before they can give you wrinkles and dark spots.
- It treats acne: While it doesn’t single-handedly fight acne, it does help reduce it.
- It brightens skin: It fades away dark spots and reduces sallowness.
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?
- Paula’s Choice Resist 10% Niacinamide Booster ($42.00): It shrinks your pores, hydrates your skin, and brightens the complexion. Plus, it’s full of antioxidants (including Vitamin C) to help you keep those pesky premature wrinkles at bay, too. Available at Cult Beauty, Dermstore, Paula’s Choice, Sephora, and SpaceNK
- The Inkey List Niacinamide ($6.99): On top of hydrating niacinamide, it also has hyaluronic acid to add moisture back into the skin and Squalane to strengthen its protective barrier. Plus, it brightens skin and helps prevent wrinkles. Available at Boots, Cult Beauty, The Inkey List
- The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1% (£5.00): Suitable only for oily skin, it reduces excess oil, helps treat acne, and reduces redness and inflammation. Available at Beauty Bay, Boots, Cult Beauty, Sephora, SpaceNK, The Ordinary, and Ulta
Related: Spotlight On Niacinamide: What Does It Do For Your Skin?
Vitamin C VS Niacinamide: The Feud
If rumour is to be believed, you shouldn’t use Vitamin C with Niacinamide because 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.
Can Niacinamide Cause Flushing When Used With Vitamin C?
“Some research done in the 1960s showed a negative interaction and that the two could potentially react to produce nicotinic acid, which can cause redness and itching in the skin,” explains Perry Romanowski, an independent cosmetic chemist. “That occurred when using pure ascorbic acid and niacinamide held at high temperatures. It’s unlikely to be a problem in modern day formulations stored at room temperature.”
Let’s take a closer look at the science here. 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 that anything apart form water irritates it, then even this tiny amount may 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.
Can Vitamin C And Niacinamide Deactivate Each Other?
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.
Can You Use Vitamin C And Niacinamide Together?
You can use Vitamin C and Niacinamide together – and you should. They both have so many benefits for the skin, so together, they make a powerful combination. I especially recommend using them together if you want to fade away dark spots faster. Both Vitamin C and Niacinamide help fade away dark spots, but they do the job in two different ways: Vitamin C works by inhibiting the enzyme tyrosinase, which is essential for producing melanin, the pigment that gives skin its natural colour. Reduce its production and slowly your skin colour goes back to normal. Niacinamide, on the other hand, prevents the transfer of pigments within cells.
How To Use Vitamin C And Niacinamide Together
So, you want to use Vitamin C and Niacinamide together. Here’s how to do it the right way. You could use a product that has both or you can use separate products. If you’re going to layer, apply Vitamin C first. It needs to be as close to clear skin as possible to work its magic. Niacinamide works great even in thicker moisturisers, so use it afterwards. Keep in mind that Vitamin C is best used in the morning to boost sun protection. You could use both ingredients at night as well, but I do recommend using Vitamin C in the morning and retinoids and exfoliants at night, so you get the best of both worlds without irritating skin.
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. Instead, by using them together, you get plenty of benefits, like wrinkle presentation and faster skin brightening.
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.