Adapalene and niacinamide might just be the ingredient combination your acne-prone skin has been looking for.
In this article, I will explain the benefits of using each ingredient separately vs. using adapalene and niacinamide together…
What Is Adapalene?
Adapalene is a retinoid, which is a catch-all term for vitamin A products.
Retinoids increase the rate of skin cell turnover, which means that they increase the speed at which new skin cells are made and travel to the surface of the skin.
This can prevent dead skin cells from building up on the surface of the skin and blocking pores. They can also reduce the inflammation that is commonly experienced with acne.
Compared to tretinoin, the original topical retinoid, adapalene is a lot less irritating, more stable, and is better able to penetrate the oil glands which makes it particularly suitable to treat acne.
Lower concentrations of adapalene are available over the counter in some countries, but higher concentrations usually require a prescription.
What Is Niacinamide?
Niacinamide is also known as vitamin B3. It’s a powerful antioxidant that can help protect your skin from external stressors like the sun and pollution. It has a whole host of benefits for your skin, including:
- Increasing collagen production
- Reducing fine lines and wrinkles
- Treating acne
- Reducing inflammation
- Reducing oiliness
- Brightening skin and reducing hyperpigmentation (dark patches of skin)
- Hydrating skin by strengthening your skin’s barrier
It’s suitable for all skin types although some people do find that higher concentrations cause breakouts and irritation (see here for how to avoid that).
Can You Use Adapalene and Niacinamide Together?
Both adapalene and niacinamide are great all-round ingredients with a wide range of benefits for your skin.
Niacinamides’ ability to hydrate skin makes it a particularly good ingredient to combine with adapalene.
Some research suggests that retinoids, like adapalene, can increase skin hydration, however, they often initially cause irritation by damaging the skin’s barrier and increasing the amount of water lost from the skin .
That’s where niacinamide comes in!
Niacinamide is able to stabilize the skin’s barrier function, reducing the amount of water lost and increasing overall hydration.
It is thought that this hydrating effect is due to the fact that niacinamide increases the number of natural lipids within the stratum corneum (the outermost layer of the skin that protects us from environmental pollutants).
The stratum corneum has a ‘brick-and-mortar-like’ structure where the lipids (mortar) fill the gaps between the skin cells (bricks) to create a barrier.
Research suggests that pre-treating skin with niacinamide prior to commencing retinoid treatment can increase the skin’s tolerance towards retinoids, like adapalene, and reduce the chances of irritation.
In one study, participants applied a moisturizer containing niacinamide to one half of their face and a plain moisturizer to the other half of their face twice daily for two weeks.
At the end of this two-week treatment period, each participant was given 0.025% tretinoin (a prescription-strength retinoid) to apply to the whole face at night. They were instructed to apply each of the moisturizers to the designated part of their face five minutes after applying the tretinoin.
The results demonstrated that the side of the face that had been treated with the niacinamide-containing moisturizer tolerated tretinoin better than the side of the face treated with the plain moisturizer. This finding appeared to be down to the improved skin barrier function observed with the use of the niacinamide-containing moisturizer.
Not only can niacinamide help reduce the irritation potential of retinoids, but it may also help improve the effects of adapalene by facilitating the increased rate of skin cell turnover.
This is due to the fact that dead skin cells are held together by structures called ‘corneo-desmosomes’ that need to be broken down in order for the skin cells to be shed from the surface of the skin.
These structures are broken down by enzymes called ‘proteases’. The activity of proteases is highly dependent on skin hydration and they are unable to function properly when the water content of the skin is below a ‘threshold’ concentration.
In the study mentioned earlier, not only did niacinamide increase skin barrier function and reduce irritation, it also improved the effects of retinoids. Specifically, improvements in fine lines, wrinkles, pigmentation, and skin texture were more pronounced with the combination of niacinamide and retinoids.
This may be due to the fact that the improvements in skin hydration increased the rate of skin cell turnover. Alternatively, it may purely be due to the fact that both niacinamide and retinoids are effective treatments for the above-mentioned skin complaints and enhance each others effects when used together.
Either way, adapalene and niacinamide, together, are a great pairing.
How To Use Adapalene and Niacinamide Together
The key takeaway from this article is that you don’t necessarily have to use adapalene and niacinamide together at the same time in order to reap their combined benefits.
Pre-treatment with niacinamide for a couple of weeks before starting adapalene treatment will help reduce skin barrier damage and irritation.
How to get the most out of adapalene and niacinamide together:
- Use niacinamide twice a day for a couple of weeks prior to starting treatment with adapalene.
- Continue to use niacinamide as a ‘buffer’ during treatment with adapalene.
- Niacinamide and adapalene can be used together with a five-minute gap between applications but are likely to be just as effective if you use them at separate times of the day.
- Always use a broad-spectrum sunscreen daily when using retinoids, like adapalene, (you should be using sunscreen daily anyway).
- For those with particularly sensitive skin, start by using adapalene once a week and gradually increase the frequency as your skin builds up a tolerance.
Summary & Take-Away Tips For Using Adapalene and Niacinamide
Adapalene and Niacinamide work well in combination with each other. Niacinamide can help reduce the irritation experienced with adapalene use and can also enhance its therapeutic effects.