Which is Better: Niacinamide or Peptides?

Personal/Inspirational, Skin Care

Submitted via the FutureDerm.com Facebook page as a private message:

Hi Nicki, I was wondering what you thought was better to layer over a retinoid (ie tretinoin) niacinamide or peptides? I saw in one study Draelos et al Cutis 2066;78:275-281 layering a niacinamide over it improved results and reduced side effects. Are there studies with peptides showing similar results? I was debating use of nia24 intensive recovery or complexion MD over my retinoid.


Dear Priscilla,

Thanks for such a great question!

The simple answer

Choose niacinamide if you have:

  • Early stages of fine lines and wrinkles and skin sagging
  • Hyperpigmented spots
  • Mild acne
  • Red blotchiness or rosacea
  • Skin sallowness (yellowing)

According to Bissett et. al., niacinamide does it all: reduces fine lines and wrinkles, hyperpigmented spots, red blotchiness, and skin sallowness (yellowing), and increases elasticity. Further, according to a 2005 study by Draelos et. al., niacinamide may help alleviate some of the symptoms of rosacea by increasing hydration and barrier function of the stratum corneum (uppermost layer of the skin), and may have some anti-tumor characteristics as well. And finally, in a 1995 study by Takozaki et. al., it was reported that a 4% topical niacinamide treatment applied twice daily may help to treat acne by reducing inflammation with similar efficacy to 1% clindamycin gel.

Please note that NIA 24 contains nicotinic acid, not niacinamide.  That said, according to NIA 24 company data, the results of nicotinic acid and niacinamide are similar, except that nicotinic acid requires an up-front “adjustment” period, whereas niacinamide does not.  For application over a retinoid, I would recommend waiting 20-30 minutes, as retinoids work best at a neutral pH, whereas NIA 24 is acidic.  With niacinamide, this matters less.

Will it still work if you apply NIA 24 immediately after a retinoid?  Certainly.  But for maximal, optimal effects, wait 20-30 minutes between applying a retinoid and any acidic product, or better yet, use them on alternating nights.

Choose peptides if you have:

  • Deeper fine lines/wrinkles (palmitoyl pentapeptide-3 only)
  • More significant loss of skin firmness/sagging skin

In a 2005 study in the International Journal of Cosmetic Science, palmitoyl pentapeptide-3 was found to significantly improve the appearance of wrinkles/fine lines, as well as overall moisturization levels.  Given that this was 12-week, double-blind, placebo-controlled, split-face, left–right randomized clinical study, it’s one of the best I’ve read regarding peptides to date.  Research has also shown that palmitoyl pentapeptide increases skin firmness over time (Cosmeceutical Peptides, 2007).

For the full review on Complexion MD, please visit the original post here.

You Don’t Have to Choose…

Though not as potent as NIA 24, Olay ProX contains both vitamin B3 and peptides, so you don’t have to choose. Results will take 2-3 months.

Although you mentioned higher-end products, keep in mind that the Olay Pro X line contains both niacinamide and peptides.  If you’re looking for a nighttime treatment, the Pro X Hydra Firming Cream is a solid one.  Despite what the commercials say, however, both niacinamides and peptides are slow to work and typically drastically different from a surgical procedure.  You have to use the products consistently for 2-3 months to see a significant difference – but, to be honest, this is the case with virtually all ingredients except high-grade retinoids, alpha hydroxy acids, and concentrated vitamin C, though there are exceptions.


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  • Maria

    I like to mix ce feruluc with an antioxidant/witch hazel toner during the day under SPF. Otherwise it’s hard to wear CE Feruluc during day because it looks greasy & a little orang in color — is it best to use vitamin C during the day – or both day & night? Thanks!

  • Jenn

    Love your website! Just an FYI for people who can’t afford Olay’s Pro-X line, Olay’s Regenerist line contains both niacinamide and peptides too. Olay seems to repeat the same ingredients in most of it’s lines just changing the packaging. I usually put Regenerist Serum or Regenerist Microsculpting Cream over my Retin-A.

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