What comes first to your mind when you think of a superstar skincare ingredient? Probably vit C, hyaluronic acid, and retinol. But did you heard the legend of another one: niacinamide? The legend says it’s in the form of a gentle gin that works hard in some of our favorite products. Literally, niacinamide is a hero for everything! It’s supposed to lighten small wrinkles, hyperpigmentation spots, acne, regulate oily skin, fight sun damage, dehydration, and uneven complexion – studies confirm it. Since niacinamide help build cells in the skin, it aids in protecting against oxidative stress (pollution, toxins, sunlight). It’s an ingredient that also assists in growing a healthy lipid barrier, which in turn helps skin retain moisture, making it great for mature skin. Wait, one ingredient that does so much? Is it all fiction or reality? Let’s start with the basics.
What is niacinamide?
Niacinamide or nicotinamide is the active form of niacin AKA vitamin B3. Naturally, it’s a food compound found in fish, meat, milk, eggs, green vegetables, and cereals, having an almost neutral pH value. As a result, it’s one of the most stable ingredients used in skincare. Unlike AHA/BHA acids and vitamin C, it has no acidic base. Thus, it’s unlikely to cause irritation or redness. Plus, niacinamide isn’t soluble in oil, so you’ll find it in water-based serums and creams. This makes it perfect for people with oily skin types. And if you like light textures — you’ll adore it.
How does niacinamide work?
In the body, niacinamide is formed when you eat foods rich in niacin or supplements, the body converting the ingested niacin into niacinamide. Another way to reap the benefits of niacinamide is to apply topical products on your skin that contain it since it’s a vitamin that’s not synthesized in the body, and it can penetrate the skin.
Niacinamide is most praised for its ability to increase the antioxidant capacity of skin after topical application. “This is probably the most well-studied anti-aging effect of niacinamide,” confirms research. Plus, you can apply it instead of vitamin C. That is a better option for day time since vitamin C reacts to the sun’s rays and can cause blemishes on the skin.
You want another reason to use niacinamide? It increases the skin’s resistance to potential harmful topical agents. It does that by upregulating the synthesis of ceramides and other lipids known to play a central role in the skin’s protective barrier. Ingredients like retinol and glycolic acid weaken this barrier. What does niacinamide is to improve the skin’s barrier, which may reduce the irritations and dryness caused by harsh ingredients. The increase in ceramide synthesis has been confirmed after topical application of 2% niacinamide for 4 weeks applied twice daily. Research also suggests that niacinamide has a stabilizing effect on skin barrier function, seen as a reduction in water loss and an improvement in the skin’s moisture content. This makes niacinamide great for all skin types because everyone’s skin needs proper hydration.
Niacinamide for hyperpigmentation
Niacinamide can be all you need to reduce hyperpigmentation and even skin tone. There’s data that confirms niacinamide’s abilities to improve skin lightening and reduce dark patches. Briefly, skin pigmentation results from the transfer of melanocytes to melanosomes. Studies show that niacinamide can inhibit melanosome transfer and induce skin lightening. An experiment compared the effects of 4% niacinamide and 4% hydroquinone for melasma (dark patches on the skin). By the end of the study, the average decrease was 62% for niacinamide topical application after eight weeks of daily use. That’s how great niacinamide is!
Niacinamide to reduce wrinkles and fine lines
Besides acting as an antioxidant, niacinamide is believed to have multiple abilities to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Studies found that niacinamide can increase dermal collagen and protein production. Reduced collagen and protein synthesis mean poor skin structure and reduced skin elasticity. Because wrinkles result from a reduction in protein and collagen levels, an increase of these two syntheses can reduce their appearance. Research found that 5% niacinamide improves aging facial skin appearance in 12 weeks. Think this combined with other anti-aging ingredients and a good routine — wrinkles will no longer be a problem.
Niacinamide for acne
Niacinamide is also known to help treat inflammatory acne. In a study, 82% of the patients treated with topical niacinamide presented reductions in acne. Even if you don’t have acne, it’s useful to know that niacinamide can also decrease sebum secretion. That’s good news for all of us since it reduces pores! Still, more data about the effects of niacinamide in acne treatment and sebum production is needed to make a call.
Who should use niacinamide?
Nowadays, there are many influencers recommending beauty products. Is it just me, or we often blindly follow their advice? Did you ever think if they know about the functions of the components? The risk is not being sure whatever it cannot do anything wrong to your body. Even if use is external, systemic absorption still exists.
Because of that, we aim to speak with the experts for you. This time, I spoke with Italian beautician Maya: “Niacinamide should be in your daily beauty routine. Trust me. Your skin will be grateful for that. It helps with pores and wrinkles. And it even prevents the loss of water from the skin and reduces its dryness. I would recommend it also during the summer. However, bear in mind that niacinamide cannot be a replacement for sunscreen.”
Next, I was curious if anyone can use it? “Absolutely! It is an excellent ingredient for the care of all skin types. If your skin is oily, niacinamide will reduce sebum secretion. If you have sensitive skin, it will help soothe inflammation and redness. And if it’s dehydrated skin, it will strengthen its defense barrier and reduce moisture loss. It’s also safe for use in pregnancy and breastfeeding women.”
Are there any side effects?
I have to admit that all seemed too perfect. “Niacinamide is super safe! I’d say it’s an excellent alternative to retinoids and acids that are not recommended for use during pregnancy or breastfeeding. Even if you have irritations from niacinamide products, be sure it is caused by chemicals in the product, not niacinamide itself,” Maya said.
Women are prone to exaggerating — although we wouldn’t admit it to men — so it’s good to know that niacinamide can be used in large doses. You only need to be careful with a suitable concentration for you! “It depends if you have some illness such as diabetes. In that case, a dose of 12% is too strong. But that’s why there are doses of 5%,” Maya added.
As you know, there are skincare ingredients you should mix and the ones you shouldn’t. “You shouldn’t mix niacinamide and vitamin C. I know it sounds surprising since they’re both antioxidants, but they are not compatible together. You shouldn’t use one right after the other.”
Are you one of the lucky few who doesn’t have a skin problem before menstruation? If you’re not, then I’ll reveal to you a trick I’ve been using lately! I apply niacinamide to the skin before the menstrual cycle. I do it because it soothes the skin and reduces fat’s increased secretion!
Can I use niacinamide around the eye area?
Yes, niacinamide products can be used for the eye area, too. Applying a moisturizer or eye cream with niacinamide can help reduce dark circles, lighten the skin, and soften the crow’s feet. It will also help skin retain moisture and resist loss of firmness.
How to apply niacinamide?
The beauty of niacinamide stays in its ability to fit into any existing skincare routine. You can find it in tonics, serums, creams, masks, and even creams with a protective factor. Ideally, use a serum or cream with niacinamide on cleansed skin twice daily. Don’t forget about sunscreen and moisturizer during the day! Most studies used topical products with 2% to 10% niacinamide, so starters should look for something within that range. Stronger formulas (15-20%) are now available, but they might cause some irritation or redness in sensitive skin. Even with niacinamide, it’s best to go slow and raise the concentrations gradually.
The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%
The Ordinary are known for their simple formulas that provides great results. Take this one as for best example: a serum made with 10% niacinamide and 1% zinc, oil-free, that’s just perfect for oily and acne-prone skin types.
EltaMD Moisturizer with Niacinamide
Made with niacinamide and hyaluronic acid to hydrate and brighten the skin, while caffeine and vitamin C offer antioxidant protection. The addition of salicylic acid stimulates cell turnover to improve skin tone. You can’t ask for more!
Paula’s Choice Skin Balancing Tone
The perfect addition to prep your skin for other products. Not only that, but it works with niacinamide, ceramides, antioxidants, and hyaluronic acid to nourish and protect the skin.