What comes first to your mind when you think of a superstar skincare ingredient? Probably vitamin C, hyaluronic acid, and retinol. But have 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, acne, regulate oily skin, fight sun damage, dehydration, and uneven complexion – studies confirm it.
Since niacinamide helps 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.
In skincare, niacinamide is most praised for its ability to increase the skin’s antioxidant capacity. “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 daytime since vitamin C reacts to the sun’s rays and can cause blemishes on the skin.
Do you want another reason to use niacinamide? Here are other research-backed benefits of niacinamide for the skin.
Niacinamide for skin barrier
Another skin benefit of niacinamide is that it increases the skin’s resistance to potential harmful topical agents. Niacinamide 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 may weaken this barrier. What niacinamide does is 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 four weeks applied twice daily. Research also suggests that niacinamide has a stabilizing effect on skin barrier function, seen as an improvement in the skin’s moisture content. This makes niacinamide great for all skin types because all skin types need 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 in dark spots was 62% for niacinamide topical application after eight weeks of daily use.
Niacinamide to reduce wrinkles and fine lines
Besides acting as an antioxidant, niacinamide is believed 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 wrinkles’ appearance. Research found that 5% niacinamide improves aging facial skin appearance in 12 weeks.
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 good to know that niacinamide can decrease sebum secretion. That’s great news for all of us since minimized sebum production reduces pores look!
Who should use niacinamide?
Niacinamide 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 your skin is dehydrated, it will strengthen its defense barrier and reduce moisture loss. Briefly, everyone can use niacinamide!
Are there any side effects?
Generally, niacinamide is considered a safe for all skin types ingredient. It’s uncommon to experience significant side effects from topical niacinamide. However, some people may have a bad reaction to niacinamide, experience redness and irritations, as people in this Reddit thread did.
So, while niacinamide is a safe, gentle ingredient, there might be cases where sensitivity occurs.
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 skincare routine. You can find it in tonics, serums, creams, masks, and even sunscreens. Ideally, use a serum or cream with niacinamide on cleansed skin twice daily. Don’t forget about moisturizer and sunscreen 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 also 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 is known for its simple formulas that provide 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.
Paula’s Choice Skin Balancing Tone
The perfect addition to prep your skin for other products. It works with niacinamide, ceramides, antioxidants, and hyaluronic acid to nourish and protect the skin.