Lactic Acid and Niacinamide: Can You Use Them Together?

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Thanks to the rise in luxury-on-a-budget skincare brands like The Ordinary and The INKEY List, lactic acid and niacinamide have gained in popularity. They’re beauty favorites that do a really good job at reducing fine lines and wrinkles, and they brighten dull complexions.

But have you ever wondered what the actual benefits of these two ingredients actually are? Or perhaps you’ve been questioning if it’s even possible to use both of them together in order to increase their effectiveness.

If this is the case, then read on to discover the lowdown on lactic acid and niacinamide, two active ingredients that can help you upgrade your skin’s texture and vitality.

We’ll also discuss how and when to use them together!


The Lowdown on Lactic Acid

Lactic acid is a skincare ingredient that is derived from fruit sugars or fermented dairy products. It is produced from the same bacteria that you’ll find in your own digestive system. This means it is a natural substance that is also found in our blood and muscle tissue.

As far as lactic acid’s use in skincare products, its large molecular size means that it is unable to penetrate deep into the skin’s surface. It works on the outer layers to ‘eat’ away dead skin cells and other buildup that can clog pores and leave the skin feeling congested. That makes it a very effective exfoliant.

Lactic acid is considered to be one of the more gentle facial acids, because it has unique humectant traits that also help to improve the skin’s natural moisture. This means that it has the ability to reduce fine lines and wrinkles to make the skin appear firmer and feel thicker.

This natural acid has even been proven to work in the treatment of reducing acne breakouts, which has helped it gain such popularity. And that’s why it is now found in many facial moisturizers and even body products on the market.

Lactic acid’s exfoliating properties help to increase the rate of cellular turnover to stimulate collagen and leave your skin looking plumper and more radiant.

It also gives your skin better protection from pollution and free radical damage, as well as sun exposure.

The Lowdown on Niacinamide

Niacinamide is a highly effective skin restorer, and is also known as nicotinic acid or vitamin B3. It’s a very stable form of vitamin B3 that is used to help fade the appearance of dark spots.

In modern-day skincare, it is mainly used as an anti-aging ingredient, because of its ability to reduce wrinkles and fine lines at concentrations of around 5%.

Also acting as a unique humectant, this skin hydrator will lock in moisture by keeping your skin’s lipid (fat) barrier moist, which regulates sebum production and makes it suitable for all skin types. It even minimizes the appearance of large pores to give your skin a more even tone and smoothness.

Niacinamide also does more by helping to improve skin conditions like dermatitis, rosacea, and hyperpigmentation caused by acne scarring, and free radical and sun damage. This makes it a multifaceted ingredient that is now found in many facial moisturizers and serums on the market today.

There is one thing to consider when using niacinamide, though.

Many users have reported that using niacinamide, when combined with vitamin C (ascorbic acid), causes skin irritation. However, this problem can be easily remedied by alternating the timing of the application.

For instance, using your niacinamide product in the morning and vitamin C product in the evening.

Can You Use Lactic Acid and Niacinamide Together?

Now that you know more about how lactic acid and niacinamide work in skincare products, you may now be wondering how they work together.

Well, you may be pleased to discover that, in fact, lactic acid and niacinamide make a great skincare combo if you’re looking to achieve any of the following:

Improved texture

The powerful abilities of lactic acid and niacinamide will target irregularities like acne scars and hyperpigmentation, while the exfoliation and pore reduction combination also help to make your skin appear smoother and softer.

Brighter appearance

Both lactic acid and niacinamide help to produce brighter skin by reducing the appearance of pores, which will make your skin look more healthy and radiant.

You do have to use lactic acid and niacinamide in the correct order, though, so that you can reap the benefits of both products.

They have to be layered on in the right way to have the greatest effect on your skin.

Read on to find out how…

Which Product Goes First, Niacinamide or Lactic Acid?

Lactic acid and niacinamide have different pH levels, which is why it makes a huge difference which product you need to use first. To get the maximum effect from both products, you will need to apply your lactic acid product before using niacinamide.

This is because applying them the other way around, or together, will reduce the effectiveness of both products.

Niacinamide has a higher pH than lactic acid. If it’s applied before your lactic acid product, it will be less effective, because it will also raise the pH of the acid and reduce the acid’s exfoliating properties.

Doing it this way can also raise the possibility of causing skin irritation.

The best way to use lactic acid and niacinamide together, then, is to do the following:

  1. Before going to bed, apply your lactic acid product. Then wait for at least 30 minutes before applying your niacinamide serum. By doing this, you will allow your skin to absorb the ingredients of both products fully.
  1. You can also apply your lactic acid serum at night before you go to bed, and then use your niacinamide product as part of your morning routine. This will help you to gain the benefit of both ingredients.
  1. Your final option is to use your lactic acid and niacinamide products on alternate days. However, if you do this, you will need to consider that your lactic acid serum will make your skin more sensitive to sun exposure due to its exfoliating properties. This is why it is better to apply it as part of your nighttime beauty routine.

Our Top Lactic Acid Picks

Lactic Acid 10% + HA 2% Exfoliating Serum from The Ordinary

The Ordinary Lactic Acid 5% + HA 1 oz/ 30 mL For Exfoliating
  • A mild lactic acid superficial peeling...
  • This treatment gently resurfaces the...
  • The Ordinary is born to disallow...
  • Integrity in skincare; The brand was...

This is the most sought-after exfoliating serum on most beauty enthusiasts’ wish lists. Its high concentration of lactic acid at an affordable price has the ability to remove dead skin cells and improve skin texture, as well as reduce hyperpigmentation to brighten your skin’s complexion.

The Ordinary’s serum is also enriched with purified Tasmanian pepper berry, which reduces any inflammation that can happen with the superficial peeling that happens during the exfoliation process.

Its paraben-free formulation will gently resurface your skin to give it a brighter, more even and smoother appearance. See also: How To Use The Ordinary Lactic Acid.

Perfect Image Lactic 10% Gel Peel 

Lactic Gel Peel - Enhanced with Kojic, Bearberry, Licorice, and Botanicals (10% Strength)
  • BOOSTS COLLAGEN – Perfect Image offers...
  • HYDRATES YOUR SKIN – Our facial...

This peel also contains kojic acid to inhibit melanin production, which helps to even out skin tone and reduce the appearance of freckles and age spots.

Perfect Image’s peeling solution removes dead skin cells and is safe to use on dry and sensitive skin.

Also containing bearberry and licorice, the gel promotes collagen and elastin fibroblast production to boost your skin’s elasticity, which makes you look younger.

It is also infused with cucumber and green tea extract, which provide natural antioxidant properties to aid in revitalizing your skin.

Our Top Niacinamide Picks

Naturium Niacinamide Face Serum 12% Plus Zinc 2% 

Naturium Niacinamide Face Serum 12% Plus Zinc 2%, Skin Complexion Treatment & Pore Minimizer, with Hyaluronic Acid & Vitamin E, 1 oz
  • MOST SKIN TYPES: Niacinamide Serum is...
  • PROUDLY FORMULATED: All of our products...
  • SKINCARE THAT WORKS: At Naturium, we are...

Naturium’s serum is a highly concentrated treatment that helps to correct hyperpigmentation and dark spots, balance your skin’s oil production, and purify congested skin to leave and clear and smooth complexion.

This niacinamide serum contains zinc to not only help with reducing excess oily skin, but also to support moisturizing for a plumper and firmer appearance. It glides on smoothly and is easily absorbed, while its non-toxic formula is also paraben and fragrance-free, doesn’t contain synthetic fragrance and is also cruelty-free and vegan.

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This face serum works to brighten your skin to reduce blemishes and acne scars, soothe active acne breakouts, regulate sebum production and minimize the appearance of pores.

Suitable for all skin types, it also contains Japanese fermented rice water to protect your skin from sun damage.

This serum is free of synthetic fragrances, colors, and essential oils. Its non-greasy formula is best used after cleansing and before your moisturizer, whether during the day or before bed.

Plum 10% Niacinamide Face Serum with Rice Water is also 100% vegan and cruelty-free, and doesn’t contain parabens, phthalates, or other chemical nasties.


So as you can see, there are many benefits to using both lactic acid and niacinamide as part of your beauty routine for clearer and brighter skin.

Just make sure that you layer them as described in the procedure mentioned above to ensure that your skin is able to fully reap the benefits of what each active ingredient has to offer.

Written by Kayla Young

Kayla is the founder of LuxeLuminous. She has worked professionally in the tanning industry for years. She has been interested in esthetics since childhood, and has tried every hair, skin, and makeup product ever produced (more or less).