Azelaic acid and niacinamide are two ingredients that you may be familiar with if you experience acne, rosacea, or hyperpigmentation as they both help treat all three – but what if you want to use both ingredients in the same routine? Can you use azelaic acid and niacinamide together?
Yes, you absolutely can! In fact, in some instances they may be more effective when paired together and here’s why…
Azelaic acid is a dicarboxylic acid that is found in grains like wheat, barley, and rye, and has excellent benefits for your skin, including:
- Reducing inflammation
- Improving redness and rosacea
- Exfoliating pores to remove dirt, bacteria, and oil
- Preventing the growth of bacteria
- Treating acne and acne marks (post-inflammatory erythema/hyperpigmentation)
- Preventing melanin synthesis to brighten skin and reduce dark marks/hyperpigmentation
- Reducing skin sensitivity
- Improving skin texture
It does a lot, although it can sometimes be quite slow to work.
Niacinamide is a water-soluble form of vitamin B3 that acts as an antioxidant and has a wide-range of benefits for your skin, including:
- Reducing the appearance of enlarged pores
- Controlling oil production
- Reducing hyperpigmentation (dark marks, age spots, melasma, etc.)
- Brightening skin
- Reducing inflammation and redness
- Improving acne
- Improving skin barrier strength by encouraging the natural production of ceramides.
- Boosting collagen production to improve fine lines and wrinkles
- Helping to protect skin from sun damage and skin cancer
It’s one of those all-rounder skin ingredients that does pretty much everything and is suitable for all skin types.
Azelaic Acid vs Niacinamide
Both azelaic acid and niacinamide address similar skin conditions and may complement each other’s effects. Particularly when it comes to:
- Enlarged pores
- Dull skin
They both have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antibacterial properties but, unlike niacinamide, azelaic acid also acts as a mild exfoliant. Niacinamide may be slightly better for drier skin than azelaic acid due to its ability to strengthen your skin barrier.
However, both ingredients are suitable for all skin types, including sensitive skin.
Can You Use Azelaic Acid and Niacinamide Together?
If you can’t decide which ingredient you want to use, the good news is you don’t have to choose! You can use azelaic acid and niacinamide together! In some instances, they may actually work better when combined together!
This is particularly the case when it comes to treating hyperpigmentation like dark marks, age spots, melasma, and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. Azelaic acid is a tyrosinase inhibitor which means that it prevents the activity of the tyrosinase enzyme that is essential for the production of melanin.
No tyrosinase enzyme = no melanin production.
Niacinamide works slightly differently to reduce hyperpigmentation. Instead of preventing the production of melanin, niacinamide prevents the melanin that has been produced from transferring from your melanocytes (melanin producing cells) to your skin cells.
Combining azelaic acid and niacinamide together gives a double-dose of brightening – azelaic acid prevents new melanin production while niacinamide prevents the melanin that has already been produced from changing the colour of your skin cells.
They’re also effective at similar pH levels, with niacinamide being most effective at a pH of 5.0-6.0 and azelaic acid being most effective at a pH of 4.0-5.0.
However, Even if they were ideally used at different pH levels, your skin’s natural surface pH is around 5.0 – 6.0 so they would have to adjust to your skin’s natural pH anyway.
How To Use Azelaic Acid and Niacinamide Together
Some skincare products already contain this combination of ingredients for you which is the easiest way to use azelaic acid and niacinamide together. However, you can use them in separate products too.
If using the ingredients in separate products, it’s usually best to apply your products in order of thinnest to thickest, for example, applying a serum before a moisturizer. This is because products with a thinner consistency usually penetrate your skin quicker than those with thicker consistencies.
So if you’re using a moisturizer with niacinamide and an azelaic acid serum, you would ideally use azelaic acid before niacinamide. If you were using a toner containing niacinamide and an azelaic acid serum then you would ideally use niacinamide before azelaic acid.
If using both azelaic acid and niacinamide as serums it doesn’t really matter which way round you use them. However, you should only introduce them one at a time. This will help identify if your skin reacts negatively to one of the ingredients as well as help prevent skin barrier damage.
Both azelaic acid and niacinamide can be used twice daily but you will still see results using them once a day. It’s also easier to use multiple active ingredients if you’re only using each one once a day, for example, niacinamide in the AM and azelaic acid in the PM.
As always, remember to use sunscreen daily as any UV protection offered by either ingredient isn’t enough to forgo sunscreen use.
Summary – How To Use Azelaic Acid and Niacinamide Together
If you have acne-prone skin, enlarged pores, rosacea, or hyperpigmentation then the combination of niacinamide and azelaic acid is an excellent choice for you as they can enhance each other’s effects – particularly when it comes to brightening skin. Plus, niacinamide helps strengthen your skin barrier and may help reduce any irritation from azelaic acid.
Laura is a skincare addict and sunscreen enthusiast with more than 10 years of experience working in healthcare and over 5 years of experience working as a nurse. She has experience in plastic and reconstructive surgery, dermatology, and aesthetics and has received training in laser treatments. Laura is currently working in healthcare education and writes for ScienceBecomesHer in her spare time. Read More.