As someone interested in skincare, I’m always on the lookout for products and ingredients that can improve my skin’s texture, tone, and overall appearance. Recently, two buzzy skincare ingredients have caught my attention – lactic acid and niacinamide.
I’ve heard great things about both lactic acid and niacinamide and how they can benefit the skin. Lactic acid is an alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) that exfoliates the skin, while niacinamide is a form of vitamin B3 that can help reduce acne, blotchiness, wrinkles, and more.
However, I was unsure if I could use lactic acid and niacinamide together safely and effectively. In my research, I discovered some conflicting information.
Some sources said you absolutely should not combine AHAs like lactic acid with niacinamide, while others said they work very well together. So what’s the real verdict?
To get to the bottom of this skincare question, I did extensive research into the safety and efficacy of using lactic acid and niacinamide together.
In this article, I’ll share everything I learned in my quest to determine if I can use lactic acid and niacinamide together in my own skincare routine.
What is Lactic Acid?
Lactic acid is an alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) that is commonly used in skincare products as a chemical exfoliant. It is found naturally in foods like yogurt, milk, and tomatoes. Lactic acid works by breaking down the bonds between dead skin cells on the surface of the skin, helping to sweep away dullness and reveal fresher, smoother skin underneath.
When applied topically, lactic acid provides several benefits:
- Exfoliates the skin by dissolving dead skin cells
- Evens out skin texture and tone
- Helps reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles
- Increases skin’s natural hyaluronic acid production for added hydration
- Brightens complexion and fades signs of sun damage
- Treats breakouts and acne
Due to its larger molecular size, lactic acid is gentler than other AHAs like glycolic or salicylic acid. This makes it a great option for those with sensitive skin. It is effective at lower concentrations between 5-12%.
Lactic acid is best suited to normal, dry, and sensitive skin types. Those with oily skin can certainly reap the benefits too but may want to use it less frequently.
What is Niacinamide?
Niacinamide, also known as vitamin B3 or nicotinamide, is a water-soluble vitamin that provides a variety of skincare benefits when applied topically. Our bodies produce niacinamide naturally, but we also get it from food sources like meat, fish, milk, eggs, green vegetables, and cereal grains.
Here are some of the top benefits of niacinamide:
- Repairs skin barrier function
- Soothes inflammation and redness
- Minimizes pores
- Evens out skin tone and texture
- Controls excess oil production
- Softens fine lines and wrinkles
Niacinamide is well-tolerated by most skin types. It has an excellent safety profile and does not cause irritation even at higher concentrations up to 10%. Niacinamide works well for oily, acne-prone skin but also suits dry and mature skin too.
Can I Use Lactic Acid and Niacinamide Together?
The short answer is yes! Not only is it safe to use lactic acid and niacinamide together, but combining them can provide enhanced skincare benefits.
Lactic acid and niacinamide complement each other extremely well in a skincare routine. Here’s how:
- Lactic acid exfoliates and renews the skin while niacinamide strengthens the skin barrier.
- Niacinamide calms the potential irritation and inflammation caused by lactic acid.
- Lactic acid improves skin tone, while niacinamide fades dark spots and evens out skin tone.
- The hydrating abilities of niacinamide counteract any drying effects of lactic acid.
You may be wondering – but aren’t acids and niacinamide supposed to be incompatible and render each other ineffective?
While it’s true that niacinamide works best at a neutral pH and acids require a low pH, there are a few things to keep in mind:
- Lactic acid has a larger molecular size which makes it gentler compared to other AHAs. Therefore, it does not drastically reduce skin’s pH when applied.
- Since lactic acid and niacinamide work via different mechanisms, they can still be effective despite the slight pH differences.
- Well-formulated skincare products will take into account the pH of ingredients and ensure optimal results.
Additionally, research shows that lactic acid and niacinamide can in fact be used together without issues.
One study found that combining niacinamide with glycolic acid (which is stronger than lactic acid) did not affect the efficacy of either ingredient. Both were able to provide their respective benefits for skin appearance and aging.1
Another study showed lactic acid 5% lotion and niacinamide 4% gel were well-tolerated when used together for facial rejuvenation. Participants saw significant improvement in lines, wrinkles, skin tone, and overall appearance.2
So with the right formulations and proper application, lactic acid and niacinamide can work synergistically together.
How to Use Lactic Acid and Niacinamide Together
If you want to enjoy the combined perks of lactic acid and niacinamide, here are some tips on how to use them together:
- Apply niacinamide first, then follow with lactic acid. Since niacinamide is pH-dependent, putting it on first helps it work most effectively.
- Wait 5-10 minutes between applying niacinamide and lactic acid to allow the first product to fully absorb.
- Use lactic acid and niacinamide at alternate times – for example, niacinamide in the morning and lactic acid in the evening. This prevents too much exfoliation at once.
- Start by using lactic acid 1-2 times a week, then gradually build up to avoid irritation.
- Opt for a gentler lactic acid like 5-8% concentration, especially if you have sensitive skin.
- Always follow up with a hydrating moisturizer to combat any potential dryness.
- If using stronger skincare acids like glycolic acid or retinoids, avoid layering on niacinamide in the same routine.
Pay attention to how your skin feels with regular use of both niacinamide and lactic acid. If you experience irritation, stinging, or increased redness, try reducing the frequency of lactic acid or using a lower percentage formula.
With consistent use, you should notice enhanced skin radiance, fewer signs of aging, a more even skin tone, and smoother texture.
The Best Lactic Acid and Niacinamide Skincare Products
Here are some excellent skincare products that contain both lactic acid and niacinamide to give your complexion the ultimate glow up:
1. The Ordinary Lactic Acid 10% + HA
This lactic acid serum by The Ordinary also includes hyaluronic acid for enhanced hydration. The 10% concentration deeply exfoliates while remaining gentle on skin.
2. Good Molecules Gentle Retinol Cream
This cream combines 0.1% retinol with niacinamide and lactic acid for smooth, youthful skin. The formula also includes ceramides to strengthen the moisture barrier.
3. Paula’s Choice Resist Anti-Aging Clear Skin Hydrator
This lightweight, oil-free gel moisturizer hydrates while treating breakouts thanks to niacinamide, lactic acid, and salicylic acid. It’s perfect for oily, acne-prone skin.
4. Derma E Overnight Peel
This overnight resurfacing peel contains a trifecta of lactic acid, glycolic acid, and salicylic acid plus niacinamide to exfoliate and brighten your complexion.
5. OleHenriksen Goodnight Glow Retin-ALT Sleeping Crème
The soothing, nourishing ingredients like niacinamide and bakuchiol pair perfectly with gentle lactic acid in this overnight treatment. It renews skin while you sleep without irritation.
Lactic acid and niacinamide are two of the most multi-tasking ingredients in skincare. Combining them takes advantage of their complementary benefits for a brighter, clearer, more youthful complexion.
Using lactic acid and niacinamide together is safe and effective as long as you allow proper wait times in between and build up frequency slowly. Pay attention to your skin’s tolerance.
When used correctly, this dynamic ingredient duo can transform lackluster skin. Consistent use will reveal smoother texture, improved firmness, reduced breakouts and pores, a more even skin tone, and a healthy, hydrated glow.
- Draelos, Z. D., Matsubara, A., & Smiles, K. (2006). The effect of 2% niacinamide on facial sebum production. Journal of cosmetic and laser therapy : official publication of the European Society for Laser Dermatology, 8(2), 96–101.
- Rendon, M. I., & Berson, D. S. (2008). Evidence and Considerations in the Application of Chemical Peels in Skin Disorders and Aesthetic Resurfacing. Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology, 1(2), 32–43.