You may not have heard of the ingredient niacinamide—a form of vitamin B3—by name, but chances are you’ve already used it on your face. The ingredient has been a staple in skin-care products for literally years, but has recently come into the spotlight as a shining star, particularly for those prone to breakouts, or for sensitive skin types. Niacinamide is also water-soluble, which makes it an easy ingredient to be added into cleansers, serums, creams or sunscreen, Shasa Hu, M.D., F.A.A.D, co-founder of BIA Life, and associate professor of dermatology at Miami University tells SELF.
Niacinamide is compatible with any other skincare ingredients and pairing them together provides even better results. It works well with hyaluronic acid, vitamin C, AHAs (alpha hydroxy acids), BHAs (beta-hydroxy acids), peptides, and vitamin A (retinol).
Another great benefit of niacinamide is that it is a versatile ingredient that works well on any skin type and helps with a lot of different skin concerns. Niacinamide is well-tolerated even by sensitive and rosacea-prone skin. In skincare formulations, it is known to be one of the most stable and non-irritating active ingredients.
Usually, niacinamide comes in the form of lightweight serums suitable for every skin type and concern but especially for oily and blemish-prone skin. Dry skin types can benefit from using an emollient cream with niacinamide.
Are there any side effects?
Niacinamide is one of the safest active skincare ingredients. It is safe to use even during pregnancy or breastfeeding. However, it might cause redness or irritation if used in very high concentrations. In this case you don’t have to avoid the product, as simply lowering the percentage might do the trick.
From its soothing and healing properties to reducing the signs of ageing and protecting the skin from environmental damage, niacinamide is truly one of the most exciting skincare ingredients. It is a real multi-tasking skin booster – backed by science – and you can easily incorporate it into your daily routine without being afraid of adverse reactions.
7 skin-health benefits of Niacinamide
As niacinamide offers so many different benefits and for different reasons, here is the top 7 you don’t want to miss!
Improves skin barrier health
The skin barrier function refers to skin’s process of deflecting old skin cells and regenerating new, healthy ones. When the skin barrier is compromised, skin becomes dehydrated and flaky. Fortunately, niacin improves the skin barrier function in two major ways: reducing Transepidermal Water Loss and improving epidermal cell turnover. Overall, niacin allows the outermost layer of skin to retain more water.
Fights free radicals
Niacin is a known antioxidant that can be taken orally to fight free radical damage within the body. Applying topical niacinamide serums or creams can also encourage antioxidant properties, allowing the skin to fight back against oxidative stress. Since free radicals are known to cause premature aging of the skin, niacin may play a role in anti-aging.
Products containing niacin can improve the appearance of redness and blotchiness by reducing inflammation in the skin. This is partly due to an improved skin barrier function, but niacin also reduces sensitivity in the skin, strengthening skin against inflammation. Its anti-inflammatory properties make it a potent ingredient to apply to sensitive, inflammation-prone skin.
Restores moisture balance
Niacinamide plays a key role in reducing Transepidermal Water Loss, which is when moisture in the skin evaporates. This is usually due to poor barrier function and environmental stressors. Niacinamide moisturizers control oil production, improve moisture content, and prevent dehydration.
Boosts collagen production
When skin is damaged or compromised, niacin boosts collagen synthesis, giving skin a healthier, plumper appearance. Collagen is nature’s way of preserving youthful skin naturally, so anything that can boost collagen levels is a holy grail ingredient in our book.
By strengthening the outer layer of skin, niacin indirectly alleviates acne and restores acne-prone skin. Niacin regulates sebum production, which prevents excessive oiliness from clogging pores and resulting in breakouts and lesions related to acne.
In line with reducing inflammation, niacin also reduces the symptoms of rosacea: inflamed lesions, dryness, flakiness, redness, and uneven skin tone. While niacin may not fully heal rosacea, it can be incorporated as part of a rosacea management skin care routine.
the bottom line
Niacinamide is a water-soluble form of Vitamin B3, which works as an anti-inflammatory to help brighten, repair and firm skin, while slowing the signs of aging.
Niacinamide is most often used to address concerns around fine lines, dullness, and loss of collagen and elastin. Vitamins A, B and C work better in teams, so try to layer products with these ingredients for even better results.
How to choose and use the best niacinamide serum
Look for the right dose: An effective product should have 2 to 10% niacinamide, says Annie Gonzalez, M.D., board certified dermatologist at Riverchase Dermatology in Miami.
Read the label: Despite what the packaging says, scan the ingredients and look for “niacinamide”—not nicotinic acid. “It’s thought that nicotinic acid converts into niacinamide, but nicotinic acid can cause flushing and redness of the skin.
Layer it on correctly: As with any serum, make sure you layer it on after cleansing your skin (to remove makeup, dirt, and oil) and before moisturizer (so it can penetrate the skin more easily.) Serums should also be applied before your SPF in the morning, to ensure the sunscreen can do its job effectively.
Consider this one of the best affordable buys you can find for a niacinamide serum. Angela Lamb, M.D., associate professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai in New York City likes this one, as it’s potent with 10% niacinamide plus zinc to help control skin’s oil production, keep pores clear, and reduce the risk of breakouts. Of course, niacinamide also boosts brightness, so it can tone down the red and pink marks left behind from acne.
Retinol stimulates skin cell turnover to reveal fresh skin underneath, helping to fade dark and red marks. The addition of niacinamide brightens and guards against the potential irritating effects of retinol.
Testers love the silky texture and credit it for reducing the appearance of acne scars and melasma. This product has helped lighten scars, acne marks, and hyperpigmentation while improving the texture of skin.
the inky list
With 10% niacinamide, this well-priced and potent serum is a fan favorite. Not only is niacinamide added to reduce oil production to fight blemishes, but it also relieves redness that comes with acne.
Hyaluronic acid hydrates without contributing to greasiness.
This booster packs in 10% niacinamide to tackle uneven skin tone. (It also helps cinch pores while it’s at it, refining texture.)
Licorice extract tackles redness, while vitamin C provides another boost of brightness. Add two to three drops of this silky serum to your moisturizer (or dab on skin alone) at night and during the day.
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Fatma, born in the Netherlands and currently living in Beirut, is a mother of three.
After studying law and working in the corporate field for years, she knew that her passion was elsewhere. Her dream was to own a clinic for non-invasive beauty treatments, which led her to become a certified beauty therapist.
For years she was the co-owner of a beauty clinic in Beirut – Lebanon, and is co-founder of YIVINA where she is also the Director of Content Development.