Niacinamide Vs Vitamin C

woman washing her face

Niacinamide vs vitamin c is way over due. I would like to apologise for this.

This post is a natural follow up to niacinamide vs salicylic acid (which you can read here) because so many of you have searched this term.

It’s a good question because they are both known to be very powerful ingredients. They are often touted to be transformative.

So, should you use one or the other. Or both?

If you’ve read these posts before, you’ll know how it goes. First, we look at each of them. Then compare and decide which is for you and whether they can be used in conjunction.

This is the best way I can simplify it.

However, I do want to remind you that this information is here for a very specific reason. To inform. I’m not telling you what you should or shouldn’t do.

What you choose to put on your skin is completely your prerogative, as it should be. The information I’m sharing here is based on my own experiences with the ingredients and research I’ve done.

When finding the right skincare routine for yourself, you have to be intuitive and pay attention. Pay attention to how your skin feels and reacts after using something. Only then can you be sure that a product, ingredient or concentration is right for you.

That’s why I love The Ordinary. You can find the right actives for yourself, without breaking the bank.

Read The Ordinary Is Officially the World’s Most Popular Skincare Brand, Here’s What To Buy.

Now we have that cleared up let’s start with niacinamide.


This superstar ingredient is a vitamin. Vitamin B3 to be exact.

It’s used to treat a wide range of skin problems including rosacea, acne and pigmentation issues.

The reason it can do so much is because it’s a precursor to two essential biochemical cofactors: nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD+/NADH) and nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate (NADP+). 

If you’ve ever studied Biology, you’ve definitely heard of NAD+/NADH. It’s ingrained in my head from university.

These molecules are central to the chemical reactions in your cells. Chemical reactions including skin cell repair and propagation (spreading signalling that ensure normal functioning of cells).

It has anti-inflammatory properties, which make it great for treating acne and rosacea. Due to this, it’s recommended to those with sensitive skin. However, everyone has a different reaction to it. Some people find niacinamide difficult to tolerate.

Its ability to treat fine lines and wrinkles is more limited although, it does have antioxidant properties. Its antioxidant properties are linked to preventing skin cancer.

Can niacinamide prevent skin cancer?

In 2015 a study in the New England Journal of Medicine proved this. In the study 386 patients were given 500mg of oral niacinamide or a placebo. They had to take it twice a day for 12 months.

The patients had at least two non-melanoma skin cancers within the previous five years. Results showed that those who had taken niacinamide had 23 percent fewer new cases of skin cancer when compared with those who had the placebo.

However, this type of prevention is only sustained with consistent use of the the oral niacinamide.

As the study reported, “the effect of nicotinamide on non-melanoma skin cancers was not maintained into the 6-month follow-up period after the drug was discontinued”.

Nevertheless, if you suffer from skin cancer, it is worth talking to a dermatologist about oral niacinamide.

It seems there’s nothing that niacinamide can’t do. However, the research on it is still limited and many don’t tolerate it very well.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is pretty much at icon status, as far as skincare goes.

It constantly dubbed as one of the most impactful skincare ingredients available. It’s up there with retinol.

So, what does it do, how does it do it and what are its drawbacks?

Vitamin C is very much aimed at retexturing and brightening the skin. This means it can treat rough texture, fine lines, acne scars, general dullness and hyperpigmentation.

The basis of all of its benefits comes from its ability to regenerate skin cells and inhibit melanin production.

Therefore, vitamin C is an antioxidant, acidic and a melanin inhibitor. You can find many ingredients with these properties but what sets vitamin C apart, is it’s potency.

Vitamin C really works and it works well.

Because it is so potent, it can irritate the skin. This is one its major drawbacks alongside it’s reactivity, which makes storing it difficult.

Using vitamin C means quickly and concisely, making sure you’re checking the reactivity of your skin along the way.

Can niacinamide and vitamin C be used together?

Many people suggest this is not a good idea. Reasons for this include a decrease in potency and irritation.

Other’s would argue that skincare formulations are very advanced. The potential to mix these two ingredients to create something potent and effective exists.

My opinion is that you should always be careful when mixing two potent skincare actives. The potential for irritation and overwhelming your skin’s barrier is always there.

I prefer a slow and easy approach to skincare but if you are desperate to try them together, then do it. Your skin won’t burn off and you may very well like the results.

Niacinamide vs vitamin C

To conclude niacinamide vs vitamin C, I came up with a simple rule. Use vitamin C for hyperpigmentation caused by melanin and use niacinamide if your skin can’t handle vitamin C.

Keep in mind this is a very hard and fast rule because they aren’t easy to compare without really knowing your skin concerns and skin sensitivity.

They are both incredibly useful and the way they react to your skin is very personal. Skincare is intuitive and you have to try them to really know but if you’re in a crunch, just stick to the rule above.