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Differin and niacinamide can be an excellent combination for your skincare routine! Both products have unique benefits that complement each other and improve skin concerns such as acne and discoloration.
However, it is important to remember that these two actives can easily be misused, which could lead to issues such as compromised skin barrier and irritation.
Therefore, if you are thinking of incorporating Differin and niacinamide into your skincare routine, continue reading this article to learn how to use them together for best results and minimize the risk of adverse effects.
How Does Differin Work?
First, let’s start by explaining what Differin is since many people confuse this product with an ingredient.
Differin is just the name of a product manufactured by a Swiss company called Galderma which specializes in manufacturing cosmetic products for acne.
However, the main active ingredient that’s responsible for the product’s success in treating acne is called adapalene, which is classified as a retinoid.
Adapalene works by increasing the cell turnover process in our skin and encouraging the skin cells to shed from the skin’s surface faster.
This process prevents excess skin cells that are clumped together with hardened oil inside the pores from causing the pores to become clogged, which leads to pimples.
So, theoretically, any retinoid can help improve acne, but adapalene used in Differin is unique due to its high strength and efficacy.
Namely, adapalene is the strongest retinoid you can get over-the-counter in US stores like Walmart, Target, and even online stores like Amazon and Ulta; a prescription for it is still required in Europe, and it can only be bought from a pharmacy.
There are currently two most popular adapalene products in the market: Galderma’s Differin and La Roche-Posay’s Adapalene 0.1% Gel (I have a review where I compare the two in terms of how well they worked on my oily, acne-prone skin.)
And although Differin can be highly effective against acne, it still comes with a few side effects experienced by most people when they start using it.
Some side effects of using Differin include:
- Peeling and shedding.
- Increased sun sensitivity.
How Does Niacinamide Work?
Niacinamide is a form of vitamin B3 that has been shown to be effective in improving a number of skin concerns, including acne, uneven skin tone and texture, post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, post-inflammatory redness, and rosacea.
It’s also loved by many because it’s gentle yet potent but is generally easily tolerated by all skin types, including sensitive and reactive skin.
Additionally, niacinamide is an antioxidant that can help protect the skin from environmental stressors like pollution and free radical damage.
And lastly, niacinamide is also an excellent hydrator and a barrier-repairing agent that helps renew the surface of the skin as well as prevent moisture loss and dehydration by helping the skin improve its natural production of barrier-strengthening ceramides.
However, although niacinamide is generally a gentle ingredient that’s well tolerated by all skin types, there are still potential side effects that some can experience, including:
These side effects don’t necessarily occur because niacinamide requires time to adjust to the skin (which is the case with retinoids.)
On the contrary, these side effects of niacinamide are generally not a good sign and are likely to occur if your skin doesn’t tolerate the niacinamide product you are using.
This could be due to several factors, including overusing it, combining it with other irritating products, or using a niacinamide product containing other ingredients that make you break out.
So, if you experience any of these side effects, it’s best to discontinue using the product and find niacinamide that’s better tolerated by your skin.
Can You Use Differin And Niacinamide Together?
Yes, Differin and niacinamide can be used together as they work well to improve a number of skin concerns.
Differin helps unclog pores and fight the overgrowth of the acne-causing bacteria, while niacinamide helps tackle a number of skin concerns, including balancing excessive oil production, reducing acne, evening out uneven skin tone and texture, fading post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation and redness, as well as strengthening the skin barrier and reducing inflammation.
These two can be an excellent match for anyone dealing with acne, uneven skin texture, hyperpigmentation, and inflammation.
However, although they seem like a match made in heaven, using Differin and niacinamide together should be done with caution as they can both cause irritation, dryness, and peeling.
This is why it’s advisable to lay off other active ingredients when starting Differin and solely focus on nourishing your skin barrier while your skin is getting used to this retinoid.
So, you might be wondering why shouldn’t you use niacinamide if I already mentioned that this ingredient strengthens the skin barrier instead of damaging it.
Well, the answer to this is the percentage of niacinamide in your products.
For example, niacinamide is effective in as little as 4%, which is usually found in products that contain it as a side and not the main ingredient.
In this percentage, niacinamide is unlikely to be irritating to the skin and can provide several benefits, including strengthening the skin barrier.
On the other hand, popular serums that contain 10% or even 20% niacinamide can, when combined with another potent active such as a retinoid, trigger irritation in the beginning.
This is why it’s important to pay attention to the products you are using and how your skin reacts to them.
If you start using Differin and niacinamide together and start experiencing side effects such as redness, dryness, peeling, irritation, and discomfort, it’s best to take a step back and either use the products separately or find other products that are better tolerated by your skin.
On the other hand, if your skin is already used to niacinamide and you are now thinking of introducing Differin into your routine, it’s best to lay niacinamide off for a little while and see how your skin reacts to this change before you can consider re-introducing it back into your routine.
Side Effects of Using Differin With Niacinamide
While niacinamide is generally a gentle ingredient, using it with Differin still has the potential to cause irritations and damage your skin barrier.
When your skin barrier is compromised, the skin usually becomes red, irritated, or even itchy and uncomfortable even when in contact with everyday chemicals, such as plain water.
Short-term effects of a damaged moisture barrier are peeling, irritation, redness, and discomfort; however, the long-term effects could be extremely sensitive skin and even some permanent conditions such as rosacea or irritant dermatitis.
This is why it’s important to be extremely careful with both actives as well as heavily rely on other hydrating and barrier-repairing products that contain ingredients such as ceramides, panthenol, zinc, shea butter, etc., that will help soothe, calm, and hydrate the skin while you’re using Differin with niacinamide.
Additionally, if you start noticing any of the side effects mentioned, it’s important to give both actives a break and heal your skin barrier until you can try using them separately again.
Best Niacinamide Serums That You Can Combine with Differin
As I already mentioned above, when using Differin, try to go for a minimal niacinamide percentage to avoid potential irritations.
Some of the best niacinamide serums that can be used with Differin are:
Vichy – Mineral 89 Prebiotic Face Serum – $35
Vichy Mineral 89 Prebiotic Recovery & Defense Concentrate is a face serum that contains 4% niacinamide alongside nourishing propanediol and hydrating hyaluronic acid that help hydrate and repair the skin and improve its health, radiance, and overall appearance.
Glossier – Super Pure Niacinamide + Zinc Serum – $29
Glossier’s Super Pure Niacinamide + Zinc serum is a lightweight serum that contains 5% niacinamide alongside other hydrating and nourishing ingredients, such as glycerin, propanediol, zinc PCA, and honeysuckle flower extract, which is a good antioxidant with skin-soothing properties.
SkinCeuticals – Discoloration Defense Corrective Serum – $102
Excellent for brightening hyperpigmentation and evening out uneven skin tone, the SkinCeuticals Discoloration Defense Corrective Serum contains 5% niacinamide alongside other brightening actives, including tranexamic acid, kojic acid, and 5% HEPES, which is a proprietary complex that targets discoloration in as little as two weeks.
My name is Simone and I am a certified skin specialist. I created this website to teach my readers how to take great care of their skin and I also like to occasionally share my honest opinions on skincare products I’ve tried. You can learn more about me here.
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