Glycolic acid and niacinamide are the most hyped actives in the skincare routine. It makes sense as they improve your skin's texture, even out the skin tone, and exfoliate all the layers of your skin to give smoothly textured skin (among many other benefits). So why not include this duo in your routine?

This article explains what glycolic acid and niacinamide can do for your skin, why they work better together, how to use them both in a routine, and which products work the best.

Glycolic Acid: What does it do for your skin?

Glycolic acid, a chemical exfoliant, can easily infiltrate the skin, as it is the alpha-hydroxy acid (AHA) with the smallest molecular size. Here are some key benefits of glycolic acid:

  • Exfoliates dead skin

Glycolic acid disintegrates the "glue" holding dead skin cells on the stratum corneum (uppermost layer ) together. This makes it possible for dead skin cells to shed, unveiling the new, fresh skin underneath.

  • Smooths texture

The glycolic acid serum deeply exfoliates all skin layers, giving you an even skin tone and smooth texture. According to one study, using as little as 5% led to a noticeable improvement in overall skin texture and photoaging after three months. Exfoliating serum containing glycolic acid with salicylic acid has added exfoliating effects.

  • Brightens and fades pigmentation

Glycolic acid aids skin brightening by eliminating old, dead skin cells that contribute to the appearance of dull skin. Glycolic acid has also been shown to improve sallowness and hyperpigmentation due to sun exposure. AHA and BHA serum can penetrate deeper into the skin layers, thanks to the chemical peeling process.

  • Improves hydration

Glycolic acid acts as a humectant, drawing moisture into the skin. As a result, glycolic acid ensures that the skin is less irritated and remains hydrated throughout the application. In addition, it also raises the amount of hyaluronic acid in your skin.

Benefits of glycolic acid for your skin

Listed below are some cases of use of glycolic acid:

  • It diminishes the appearance of dark spots and hyperpigmentation due to UV damage.
  • It brightens your skin by eliminating the old, dead skin cells that contribute to dull-looking skin.
  • By boosting collagen production, glycolic acid can give you firm, tight skin.
  • The use of glycolic acid consistently for six months increases epidermal skin thickness.
  • It keeps your skin hydrated by locking moisture in the skin cells.

Who should use glycolic acid?

Glycolic acid is a good option for those with non-sensitive skin types. Those who want to reduce the visibility of hyperpigmentation and increase brightness can add glycolic acid with vitamin C to their skincare routine.

You can add it to your skincare routine if you want to boost collagen, thicken the epidermis, and treat uneven skin tone from sun exposure.

Niacinamide: What does it do for your skin?

Niacinamide is an active vitamin B3 that gives our skin cells the energy they need to function. Because of this, it can effectively treat various skin concerns with hardly any adverse reactions. Here are some key benefits of niacinamide:

  • Brightens and fades pigmentation

Niacinamide is known to reduce hyperpigmentation and treat melasma. It reduces hyperpigmentation, dark patches, and freckles by preventing melanosome transfer. In addition, niacinamide brightening serum with other ingredients like 0.3% Alpha Arbutin inhibits melanin synthesis, shields the skin from UV rays, and brightens the complexion.

According to one study, it enhanced skin even tone in six weeks when used with vitamins E and B5.

  • Reduces wrinkles

Numerous studies have shown that niacinamide helps with aging signs like wrinkles and fine lines. A study showed that after 12 weeks of using 5% niacinamide, wrinkles were considerably reduced. According to another research, a 4% concentration of niacinamide alleviated wrinkles around the eyes in just eight weeks.

  • Reduces oil and clears acne

Niacinamide is known to decrease the amount and pace of sebum secretion and reduce excessive oil production. According to studies, niacinamide is equally effective in acne treatment, like the topical antibiotic clindamycin. For instance, pore control serum containing salicylic acid and niacinamide lowers acne by cleansing your pores and reducing oil production, removing debris, sebum, and dead skin cells.

  • Calm redness

It enables the skin's protective barrier to function against external stressors and thus can assist with rosacea and red, blotchy skin.

Benefits of niacinamide for your skin

Here are some primary uses of niacinamide:

  • It considerably reduces hyperpigmentation, black patches, UV-related discoloration, and melasma, giving you brighter skin with consistent application.
  • Lowering transepidermal water loss and raising ceramide levels enhances the performance of your skin barrier.
  • Niacinamide helps you fight aging signs like wrinkles and fine lines.
  • Regularly applying 4% to 5% niacinamide improves your skin texture significantly.
  • It reduces sebum and oil production, thereby benefiting your skin if it's acne-prone.

Who should use niacinamide?

Niacinamide is well tolerated by all skin types, from sensitive to dry and acne-prone skin. Therefore, if your skin concerns are sensitivity, frequent barrier damage, or congestion, using niacinamide in a skincare regime can benefit you. If you want to reduce the appearance of hyperpigmentation without irritating your skin, introduce the use of niacinamide to your skincare routine.

Can you use glycolic acid and niacinamide together?

Although glycolic acid and niacinamide have the potential to benefit skin individually, combining the two in the right way will yield the best results.

As glycolic acid has a low molecular weight, it can irritate your skin. Those with sensitive skin might initially experience dry, flaky skin and mild redness. But when you layer it with niacinamide, it can lessen these possible side effects by strengthening your skin's barrier.

How often can glycolic acid and niacinamide be used together?

The frequency of using glycolic acid and niacinamide together is an individual choice. It mostly depends on how your skin responds, so pay close attention to it. If your skin adapts to it, you can layer both actives once or twice daily.

Tips to Use Glycolic Acid and Niacinamide Together

The pH level at which glycolic acid is 3.0 to 4.0, and the pH of niacinamide is about 6.0. Therefore, if you combine the two actives, the niacinamide will alter the glycolic acid's pH, making it less effective. You have the following options to avoid this and get the best results:

Step 1 - Combine them into a single product

Mixing two different active serums in one routine is not advised. However, you can use a prepared product containing glycolic acid and niacinamide. As such, serums are expertly formulated to be stable and functional at a particular pH level.

Step 2 - Use them at different times of the day

The simplest approach to utilizing glycolic acid and niacinamide is to use them in two different routines. Preferably, apply niacinamide in the morning because it is non-acidic and may be applied over products with a similar pH, such as moisturizing serum, moisturizer, and sunscreen.

Glycolic acid needs time to act at its acidic pH; it must be kept apart from products with higher pH levels for around 30 minutes. However, as most people have more time in the night routine, it's ideal to incorporate it into the PM routine.

Step 3 - Use them alternately in the mornings and at night

Another option is to alternate applying your niacinamide and glycolic acid in the mornings or at night, i.e. on one day use glycolic acid & the next day use niacinamide.

Step 4 - Make sure you apply them 30 minutes apart

One more option is to use these two actives in one routine. Start with the product with the lowest pH level, like glycolic acid. Give it at least 30 minutes to work on your skin, and allow your skin to return to normal pH. Then you can apply niacinamide.


If you need clarification about using niacinamide and glycolic acid in the same skincare regimen, be assured that you can. It is essential to maintain their pH levels as intended and follow time intervals between the two to prevent the dreaded red flush.


Q1. Can I use glycolic acid before niacinamide?

Yes. In fact, if you use both in the same routine, use glycolic acid 30 minutes before niacinamide. With the pH of glycolic acid (3.0 -4.0) and niacinamide (6.0), applying glycolic acid and niacinamide without a time interval of 30 minutes between both can make glycolic acid ineffective.

Q2. How do you use glycolic acid and niacinamide?

There are four ways to use glycolic acid and niacinamide:

  • Use glycolic acid and niacinamide in two different routines, like PM and AM.
  • Use glycolic acid and niacinamide on an alternate day or night.
  • Use both in the same routine with an interval of 30 minutes.
  • Use an expert-formulated combination of glycolic acid and niacinamide.

Q3. What happens if you mix glycolic acid and niacinamide?

The pH range for glycolic acid is commonly 3.0 to 4.0. However, the pH of niacinamide is substantially higher, at about 6.0. Therefore, when combining the two active ingredients, the niacinamide changes the glycolic acid’s pH, making it less effective for skin concerns.

Q4. What goes first, niacinamide or glycolic acid?

As a golden rule in skin care actives, the serum with low pH goes first. Thus, being low in pH, glycolic acid goes first, followed by the high-pH niacinamide.