6 ways *not* to use niacinamide - to maximise on its myriad of benefits

While it's certainly a versatile crowd-pleaser, there are still some common missteps to avoid when applying niacinamide...

A close up of a glass serum bottle containing a clear liquid, with the sun shining on it creative a silohuette/ in a pink textured template
(Image credit: Getty Images/Olena Malik)

Beloved for its versatility and barrier-supporting powers, niacinamide is a great all-rounder in a skincare routine but even still, there are few things to note when applying it - namely, how not to use niacinamide...

Whether you're looking to diminish the appearance of fine lines or improve the overall texture of your skin, the best niacinamide serums can be really transformative. It's a great multi-tasker and is even compatible with a number of other go-to ingredients, including the best hyaluronic acid serums. That said though, if you're new to the hard-working active, knowing how, or perhaps more importantly, how not to apply it to your skin is key - to avoid any pesky side-effects like irritation.

To that end, we've enlisted the expertise of skincare experts to outline the key niacinamide mistakes to avoid, specifically concerning application, so you can use the powerhouse safely and with confidence...

How not to use niacinamide on your skin

Despite being a very versatile and well-tolerated ingredient, like with all skincare heroes, it's important to know how to correctly apply it - whether it's the amount you're adding or how and where you're actually applying it to your skin. And as with how not to use retinol (to avoid any potential side effects) there is some niacinamide advice to keep in mind - straight from the experts.

1. Don't apply it too roughly

Regardless of whether you're using a cleanser or applying your best moisturisers, being gentle with your skin is very important - more so when you're using concentrated ingredients and actives.

When applying niacinamide, Dr Emma Cunningham, Aesthetic Doctor and founder of Dr Emma says to, "avoid rubbing the product vigorously into the skin, as this can cause friction and potential irritation." Instead, "gently pat the product into the skin until it is absorbed."

2. Don't apply it to broken and irritated skin

A common 'what not to do' with most ingredients is to avoid applying them to broken or irritated skin.

This is also the case with niacinamide as Dr Cunningham notes, "It can cause further irritation and discomfort."

3. Don't apply concentrations that are too high

While niacinamide is known to be fairly gentle and well-tolerated by most skin types, being mindful of the concentration is important. As Dr Magnus Lynch, Consultant Dermatologist and Surgeon explains: "When using niacinamide, do not exceed recommended concentrations, as high levels might lead to irritation."

Dr Cunningham also adds to avoid using niacinamide in high concentrations, "especially for those with sensitive skin," and reminds us to always follow the, "recommended usage guidelines provided by the product manufacturer or a skincare professional."

Like with all skincare ingredients, you should introduce it to your skin gradually, to allow your skin to build tolerance - and to see how it reacts. "A higher concentration than 5% can be irritating to the skin," says Faye Purcell, Head of Research and Development at Q+A, "so bare that in mind if you are new to the ingredient."

4. Don't apply it too often, too soon

While you can use niacinamide every day, it should not - as mentioned - be used in high concentrations or applied at the same time as other potent and sensitising ingredients, like retinol.

If you want to include it in your everyday skincare regime, it's recommended that you start gradually, with a low concentration (between 5 - 10% is advised) to allow your skin to build up a tolerance. It's also best to apply it in the morning, due to its antioxidant benefits.

5. Don't apply too much at once

While it is tempting to douse your skin in your favourite, hard-working formula in the hopes of speeding up and boosting its effects, less is more when it comes to the likes of niacinamide.

Dr Cunningham reminds us to use it in moderation, adding: "When applying niacinamide, it's important not to use too much product. A pea-sized amount is typically sufficient for the entire face." And remember to pat your go-to niacinamide serums or creams into your skin - don't rub.

6. Don't apply it with these actives

While niacinamide is compatible with many other skincare favourites (niacinamide and hyaluronic acid, for instance, can be used in tandem), you should be careful when pairing and layering it with other acids.

Dr Lynch advises to, "refrain from using it alongside acidic products to prevent potential pH conflicts." Equally, if your skin errs on the sensitive side or you tend to see flare-ups when introducing new or potent ingredients to your skin, then be careful about using niacinamide with the likes of retinol and other exfoliating acids - as although these ingredient combos don't necessarily need to be avoided (and can actually be found in formulations together), using these simultaneously can cause irritation.

If you're ever unsure of its compatibility with your skin type or regime in general, Dr Cunningham reminds us to "consult with a dermatologist or skincare expert before incorporating niacinamide into your routine."

Our go-to niacinamide heroes

If you're already a seasoned niacinamide user or are keen to incorporate it into your arsenal, we've rounded up a few of our beauty team's favourites...

Naomi Jamieson
Digital Beauty Writer

Naomi is a Digital Beauty Writer from woman&home, where she covers everything from skincare to fragrance but specialises, particularly, in makeup and nail trends. Through her work, Naomi gets to share her trend expertise and share her own shopping recommendations and product reviews. Previously, she worked as a Lifestyle News Writer for My Imperfect Life magazine, where she used her savvy for TikTok to bring readers the latest beauty buzzwords, fashion movements and must-have products. 

Before that, Naomi split her time between both GoodTo and My Imperfect Life, whilst training for her Gold Standard diploma in Journalism with the NCTJ, for which she earned a Distinction. Interestingly though, Naomi actually has a background in design, having studied illustration at Plymouth University but leapt into the media world in 2020, after always having a passion for writing. Now, when she isn’t reporting on the best perfumes and latest beauty releases, you can find her drinking copious cups of coffee, drawing and probably online shopping...