Just when you thought you had your skincare routine nailed down, another ingredient comes along that claims to be the end-all to a multi-step, multi-ingredient process. Niacinamide is a water-soluble form of vitamin B3. This easy-to-use and widely available vitamin can benefit a variety of skin types and skin concerns. We’ll explore what this trendy skincare nutrient is and how it may help prevent and manage several skin conditions.
What Is Niacinamide?
The body relies on niacin, also known as vitamin B3, for cell development and function. Rich sources of niacin include poultry, fish, nuts, legumes, and grains, as well as enriched or fortified foods such as bread and cereal. When we ingest these foods, bacteria in the intestines converts niacin into niacinamide. Research suggests that when applied topically, niacinamide can provide a wide range of benefits. Its effects have been extensively studied and touted by many dermatologists as a successful multitasker in skincare routines.
Note: As with all new skincare products, we suggest you test a small amount of any niacinamide product on a small, discreet area of skin, such as behind your ear. Wait at least 24 hours to see if the product causes a reaction.
What Are the Benefits of Niacinamide?
Research suggests that niacinamide, applied topically or taken as an oral supplement, may prevent or treat the following skin conditions.
Acne: The anti-inflammatory properties of niacinamide make it a potentially safer alternative treatment for mild to moderate acne compared to harsher products known to irritate skin. Several studies show that applying niacinamide topically led to a significant reduction in acne without notable side effects. Research also shows that it can limit the production of sebum, an oily, waxy substance secreted by skin glands that has long been linked to acne.
Aging: Several studies show that applying niacinamide topically improves the appearance of aging skin by way of a reduction of fine lines and wrinkles, hyperpigmented spots, and skin sallowness (meaning skin that has lost its natural complexion and appears yellowed). Skin elasticity improved as well. Research also suggests that topical niacinamide increases the production of ceramides (fatty acids that maintain the skin barrier) and decreases water loss in dry skin, resulting in smoother, more hydrated skin.
Hyperpigmentation: In one review study, researchers linked niacinamide to decreased hyperpigmentation (when patches of skin become darker than surrounding skin). It can inhibit the transfer of melanosomes, a component of pigment cells responsible for hyperpigmentation.
Rosacea: Moisturizers containing niacinamide can improve the skin barrier function, which in turn reduces skin dryness and sensitivity related to rosacea. More recent research suggests products with niacinamide can alleviate facial redness in people with sensitive skin.
Skin cancer: One study showed that taking niacinamide orally can protect against further skin damage from UV radiation in those who have had at least two nonmelanoma skin cancers. While there’s little evidence a couple capsules of niacinamide a day will completely prevent skin cancer, it does suggest niacinamide may benefit people at high risk for nonmelanoma skin cancers. When used topically, niacinamide may help prevent skin cancer by protecting skin against both UVB and UVA radiation, according to several studies.
How to Find the Best Niacinamide Products for Your Skin Type
In most studies on niacinamide, researchers use topical solutions that contain two to 10 percent niacinamide. For oily, acne-prone skin, try a serum containing niacinamide. As a water soluble nutrient, niacinamide best absorbs into the skin through a serum. When shopping for a serum, check the label to ensure it doesn’t contain any surprise ingredients or nicotinic acid — a form of niacin linked to flushed skin. Not sure if a product is safe? You can enter the name of the serum or individual ingredients into the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep database to assess any potential risks.
For dry skin, opt for a niacinamide-packed moisturizer to reduce inflammation and add hydration. A daily moisturizer with SPF and niacinamide could play double duty in protecting and repairing skin from sun damage.
If you have a higher risk of skin cancer or do not get enough niacin through your diet, talk to your doctor about niacinamide supplements. Ingesting too much nicotinic acid can make your skin tingle, itch, and turn red, so look for supplements that contain niacinamide. Nicotinic acid at large doses can lead to severe side effects such as low or high blood pressure, nausea, blurred or impaired vision, and extreme tiredness.
While niacinamide doesn’t tend to be irritating for many skin types, discontinue use or talk to your dermatologist if you do experience any irritation. While you can buy niacinamide products over the counter, your dermatologist may also be able to add it to topical prescriptions.
Like all individual ingredients, niacinamide isn’t necessarily a miracle product. That said, you may find it a helpful tool in your skincare routine to alleviate skin issues and improve your skin’s appearance.