What is the Difference Between Glycolic Acid and Niacinamide

The main difference between glycolic acid and niacinamide is that glycolic acid primarily exfoliates and promotes skin renewal, while niacinamide has a broader range of benefits, including anti-inflammatory and oil-regulating properties.

Glycolic acid and niacinamide are two prominent ingredients in skincare known for their distinct benefits. They can complement each other in a well-rounded skincare routine.

Key Areas Covered

1. What is Glycolic Acid  
      – Definition, Features, Uses
2. What is Niacinamide
      – Definition, Features, Uses
3. Similarities Between Glycolic Acid and Niacinamide
      – Outline of Common Features
4. Difference Between Glycolic Acid and Niacinamide
      – Comparison of Key Differences
5. FAQ: Glycolic Acid and Niacinamide
      – Frequently Asked Questions

Key Terms

Glycolic Acid, Niacinamide

Difference Between Glycolic Acid and Niacinamide - Comparison Summary

What is Glycolic Acid

Glycolic acid, derived primarily from sugar cane, stands out as the smallest molecule among AHAs (Alpha Hydroxy Acids). It has many applications in skincare. The key factor is its small molecular size, enabling it to penetrate the skin more efficiently than other AHAs. Essentially, glycolic acid serves as a versatile exfoliant, aiding in the removal of dead skin cells from the skin’s surface. This promotes cell turnover, revealing healthier, more youthful skin.

Regular use of glycolic acid addresses common skin concerns such as fine lines, uneven skin tone, and hyperpigmentation. By eliminating the outer layer of dead skin cells, it stimulates the production of new, healthier cells, resulting in a smoother complexion. Glycolic acid’s exfoliating properties refine skin texture, smoothing rough patches and reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. It is also effective in tackling uneven skin tone and hyperpigmentation by encouraging the fading of dark spots, unveiling a brighter and more uniform skin tone.

Glycolic Acid vs Niacinamide

Beyond exfoliation, glycolic acid also stimulates collagen synthesis. Collagen, vital for skin elasticity and firmness, tends to decline with age. By promoting collagen production, glycolic acid contributes to a firmer and more youthful appearance. Furthermore, its exfoliating action enhances the efficacy of other skincare products. Removing the barrier of dead skin cells allows subsequent products to penetrate more effectively, maximizing their impact.

What is Niacinamide

Niacinamide, a water-soluble form of vitamin B3, is derived from niacin or nicotinic acid, which are essential nutrients. Unlike its counterpart niacin, which can cause flushing, niacinamide offers benefits without the potential side effects, making it a preferred choice for skincare formulations. Found in various foods and synthesized for cosmetic use, niacinamide has become a staple ingredient in many skincare products.

Niacinamide’s versatility lies in its multifaceted approach to skincare concerns. From addressing inflammation to regulating sebum production and supporting the skin barrier, this vitamin B derivative has earned its reputation as a skincare all-rounder. Niacinamide possesses potent anti-inflammatory properties, making it an excellent choice for those with sensitive or reactive skin. It can help calm redness, soothe irritation, and mitigate the impact of inflammatory skin conditions.Compare Glycolic Acid and Niacinamide

Niacinamide is ideal for individuals grappling with oily or acne-prone skin. It helps regulate sebum production, reducing excess oiliness without stripping the skin of essential moisture. Moreover, this dual action makes it an invaluable asset in managing acne and maintaining a balanced complexion. The skin barrier acts as a protective shield, preventing moisture loss and shielding against environmental stressors. Niacinamide fortifies this barrier, promoting optimal hydration and resilience. 

Similarities Between Acid and Niacinamide

  • Both ingredients have benefits for addressing signs of aging.
  • Moreover, they contribute to achieving a more even skin tone.

Difference Between Glycolic Acid and Niacinamide


Glycolic acid is an acid that belongs to the alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) family, while niacinamide is a water-soluble vitamin that is not an acid.

Molecular Size

Niacinamide has a larger molecular size compared to glycolic acid.


The primary function of glycolic acid is exfoliation. Meanwhile, niacinamide has a broader range of functions, like supporting the skin barrier, reducing inflammation, and addressing issues like uneven skin tone.

Derived from

Glycolic acid is often derived from sugar cane, though it can also be synthesized for use in skincare products, while Niacinamide can be found in various foods and synthesized for cosmetic use.

FAQ: Glycolic Acid and Niacinamide

Which is better, glycolic acid and niacinamide?

Glycolic acid is excellent for exfoliation and addressing signs of aging, while niacinamide supports the skin barrier and targets issues like uneven skin tone. They can complement each other in a well-rounded skincare routine.

What skin type is niacinamide acid good for?

Niacinamide is suitable for various skin types, including normal, oily, and combination skin.

What not to pair with glycolic acid?

Avoid pairing glycolic acid with other potent acids, such as vitamin C or benzoyl peroxide, as they may cause irritation and compromise the effectiveness of both ingredients.


Glycolic acid primarily focuses on exfoliation, improving skin texture, and addressing signs of aging while niacinamide is more versatile, supporting the skin barrier, reducing inflammation, and targeting issues like uneven skin tone. Thus, this is the main difference between glycolic acid and niacinamide


1. “Niacinamide – Uses, Side Effects, and More.” WebMD.

Image Courtesy:

1. “Glycolic acid” By STALLKERL – Own work (Original text: Selbstgezeichnet mit ChemSketch) (Public Domain) via Commons Wikimedia
2. “Nicotinamid” By NEUROtiker – Own work (Public Domain) via Commons Wikimedia

About the Author: Hasini A

Hasini is a graduate of Applied Science with a strong background in forestry, environmental science, chemistry, and management science. She is an amateur photographer with a keen interest in exploring the wonders of nature and science.

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