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Should You Use Niacinamide Before or After Kojic Acid?

by Yu-Jun Park 27 Feb 2024

Hey radiant beauties! 

Get ready for a new skincare revelation! 

If you're knee-deep into the world of skincare like us, you've probably heard tales of Niacinamide and Kojic Acid, two rockstars that have taken the beauty industry by storm. 

But here's where the real drama comes in – which one should you apply first? 

It's the skincare equivalent of the age-old 'chicken or the egg?' dilemma, and we're here to crack the mystery wide open!

Should you use niacinamide before or after kojic acid?

First off, both niacinamide and kojic acid are holy grail ingredients for skincare enthusiasts — so let’s understand exactly what we’re dealing with. 

Niacinamide, a form of vitamin B-3, is a true multitasker, tackling issues like inflammation, redness, and hyperpigmentation. 

Kojic acid, on the other hand, is your true BFF when it comes to fading dark spots and uneven skin tone.

So, which comes first? Traditionally, you should apply your skincare products from thinnest to thickest texture. 

But when it’s a toss-up between niacinamide and kojic acid, the answer is: niacinamide first, darlings! 

Why, you ask? 

Well, niacinamide is water-soluble and absorbs pretty much instantly into your skin. It also tends to be a bit more lightweight than kojic acid. 

By applying niacinamide before kojic acid, you ensure your skin absorbs all its yummy goodness, laying a strong base for the kojic acid to work its magic.

Remember, though, everyone's skin is unique and what works for some may not work for others. 

Jot this down: when introducing a new ingredient into your routine, always run a patch test first. Gently dab a small amount on a discrete bit of skin and wait for 24 hours to make sure you don't react to it.

Oh, and queens, always, always follow up with sunscreen during the day, okay? SPF is non-negotiable when you're playing with powerful ingredients like these, and trust us, your future self will thank you!

Which is better for pigmentation: niacinamide or kojic acid?

Alrighty, beauty queens, let's dish about pigmentation and how we can lock horns with that pesky little beast! 

Now, it's down to the wire between our two skincare gladiators - niacinamide and kojic acid. 

Which one will dominate in the fierce battle against pigmentation? 

Let's break it down!


Niacinamide, also known as vitamin B3, is pretty much the Beyoncé of skin care ingredients - it's versatile, powerful, and pretty darn amazing. 

It ups your skin barrier game, hydrates like a dream, and – we're getting to the important part, ladies – it fights hyperpigmentation! 

It'll even out your skin tone like a champ by slowing down the pigment-production process. 

Result? Super-calming and lightening effects that'll make your skin say, "thank you, next" to dark spots and unevenness!

Kojic Acid

But, let's not overlook kojic acid, the dark horse in this race. 

A by-product of fermented soy sauce and rice wine production (who would have thought, right?), kojic acid isn't one to shy away from a duel with pigmentation. 

Acting like a strict high-school principal, it cracks the whip on melanin production, pushing those dark spots to fade into oblivion

Hello, perfectly balanced skin tone!

The Verdict

Now, if you're sitting there wondering if it's niacinamide or kojic acid, then hun, you've got it a touch mixed up. 

They're not like steps in a skincare regimen where one comes before the other. Rather, they're like skin care buddies, each with their own strengths and both fighting for the same cause – a gorgeous and radiant you!

But if we must pit them against each other, here's the skinny: for those of you battling dry skin or rosacea along with pigmentation, niacinamide could be your shining knight. 

On the flip side, if pigmentation is your only nemesis and you're looking to lighten things up pronto, then kojic acid could be your tag-team partner. 

Always remember the golden rule though - patch test first, ladies! Any new ingredient could potentially be a skin irritant, so it's better to play it safe. 

So, whether you're #TeamNiacinamide or #TeamKojicAcid, the bottom line is they both are fabulous warriors against pigmentation.

What not to mix with niacinamide

Alright, skincare warriors, while we're riding high on the niacinamide love train, it's crucial to know what not to mix with this powerhouse ingredient. 

Yes, niacinamide is the ultimate skincare ally, but even heroes have their kryptonite!

1. Vitamin C

The mix of niacinamide and vitamin C is a hotly debated topic in the skincare community. Some say it's a no-go, claiming these two can cancel each other out or turn your skin red faster than a blush. However, recent studies suggest they might actually play nice by providing complementary benefits, like tackling pigmentation from different angles. But to keep the peace and ensure each ingredient works its magic, try using them at different times or wait a few minutes in between applications.

2. Retinol

Now, this is where it gets a bit tricky. Mixing niacinamide with retinol isn't necessarily a bad thing—in fact, niacinamide can help mitigate the irritation retinol might cause. However, for the skincare newbies out there, introducing both at the same time might be overwhelming for your skin. Start slow, and let your skin adjust to one before bringing in the other.

3. Heavy Oils

Layering niacinamide under heavy, occlusive oils might limit its ability to penetrate the skin effectively. While not a direct conflict, it's more about the application order. Save those rich, luxurious oils for the final step in your skincare routine to seal in all the goodness without blocking niacinamide's path.

The Takeaway

Just like in any epic saga, even the mightiest heroes have their vulnerabilities. Niacinamide's strength lies in its versatility, but knowing what to pair it with—or keep it away from—can make all the difference in your skincare journey. Keep these tips in mind, and you'll be well on your way to harnessing niacinamide's full potential without any hiccups.


What Else Can You Layer with Kojic Acid?

Now while we’re here, we couldn’t skip out on giving kojic acid some layering love, could we? 

Yes, kojic acid is the skincare equivalent of a chameleon, blending seamlessly with a variety of ingredients to bring out the best in your skin. 

But like any great ensemble cast, knowing who pairs well with whom is key to a blockbuster hit. 

So, let's spotlight the superstar ingredients that can share the marquee with kojic acid, making your skin the glowing lead it was born to be!

1. Hyaluronic Acid

First up, let's talk about the hydration heavyweight: hyaluronic acid. 

This moisture magnet is like the best friend kojic acid never knew it needed. While kojic acid works its brightening magic, hyaluronic acid swoops in to quench your skin's thirst, plumping it up with hydration. 

This dynamic duo ensures your skin is not only luminous but also as bouncy as a fresh gelatin dessert. Apply kojic acid first to tackle pigmentation, then follow with hyaluronic acid to seal in moisture and softness.

2. Sunscreen

If kojic acid is the sword in your fight against dark spots, then sunscreen is the shield that keeps them at bay. 

Combining kojic acid with a broad-spectrum SPF is non-negotiable. 


Because while kojic acid works to lighten pigmentation, the sun's UV rays are on a mission to darken and multiply them. 

Think of sunscreen as your skin's personal bodyguard, ensuring kojic acid's hard work doesn't go to waste. Plus, it prevents new spots from crashing your clear skin party.

3. Peptides

Peptides are the secret handshake of the skincare world, signaling your skin to amp up its collagen production and firm up. 

When paired with kojic acid, peptides help reinforce your skin's strength and elasticity, essentially working to keep your skin looking young and radiant. 

It's like kojic acid clears the stage of dark spots, and peptides come in to perform the encore, ensuring your skin's texture and tone are smooth and even.

4. Alpha Arbutin

For those looking to double down on the brightening benefits, alpha arbutin is your go-to. 

This gentle powerhouse works in concert with kojic acid, targeting hyperpigmentation and dark spots with precision and care. 

Together, they form a tag team that can help fade discoloration more effectively than either could alone. It's a match made in heaven for those chasing after that elusive, even-toned glow.

Bonus points if you can get hold of a serum that combines the two!

5. Ceramides

Last but certainly not least, let's give a round of applause for ceramides. 

These lipid molecules are the building blocks of your skin's barrier, keeping moisture in and irritants out. 

Pairing kojic acid with ceramides is like ensuring your skin's defense system is fortified while undergoing renovation. 

As kojic acid addresses pigmentation, ceramides work to prevent dryness and irritation, keeping your skin's barrier healthy, resilient, and ready to face the world.

In Closing

While we’ve been all about niacinamide and kojic acid today, a timeless and universal skincare principle still stands: Embracing your unique beauty is paramount in achieving self-confidence and health. 

There are a wide array of options out there, but it's crucial to select those that enhance your natural allure while respecting your wellbeing. 

Remember, true beauty comes from a balanced lifestyle, good skincare habits, and a happy mindset. 

You're the main artist in your beauty journey—so embrace it!

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