Skin Care Ingredient Focus: Niacinamide

Written by Kellie Reed, MD, Board Certified Dermatologist on May 10, 2021 No Comments

niacinimade for skin

Niacinamide, also known as nicotinamide, is an amide form of Vitamin B3. The popular skin care ingredient nearly does it all, from skin brightening, to anti-aging, to acne-fighting. Learn more about niacinamide, why you should add it to your skin care routine, and how.

What is Niacinamide (Vitamin B3)?

Niacinamide, also seen on labels as nicotinamide, is a water-soluble amide form of Vitamin B3 and it’s found naturally in poultry, eggs, fish, green vegetables, and some cereal grains. This essential vitamin does wonders for both skin health and appearance. It’s become a widely popular skin care ingredient for its well-rounded benefits. Since niacinamide is not made within the body, it must be consumed or applied topically to have any effect.

Niacinamide vs Niacin

Nicotinamide, or niacinamide, are amide forms of niacin, which is an acid. Niacin causes redness and can be irritating to the skin, while the water-soluble amide form is gentle enough for all skin types, as well as daily usage.

How Does Niacinamide Help the Skin?

B3 vitamins are known to be healing. The restorative properties of niacinamide are so widely applicable they almost seem too good to be true. The benefits below, however, have all been thoroughly studied and proven by science.

Brightening: The ingredient is best known for brightening the appearance of your skin, which it does by preventing the transfer of pigment to reduce redness and brown spots. Glowing skin results from improved fat synthesis, triggered by Vitamin B3.

Hydrating: Vitamin B3 preserves hydration in the skin by stimulating growth of a lipid ceramide barrier. Well hydrated skin may also decrease the size of pores over time.

Anti-Inflammatory: Niacinamide reduces the inflammation associated with acne, and can also ease redness associated with rosacea or eczema.

Acne Fighting: In addition to reducing inflammation, niacinamide helps resolve acne by inhibiting oil and sebum production. Studies show it can be just as effective for acne as antibiotics when used twice daily.

Anti-Aging: Niacinamide is effective in reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. One study found that although it’s not as effective as retinoids for smoothing skin, it comes with far fewer side effects. In fact, doctors recommend using it alongside retinoids to help ease irritation.

Antioxidant: Niacinamide helps neutralize free radicals. These unstable elements cause oxidative stress that can damage DNA and speed the visible signs of aging.

Skin Smoothing: Niacinamide triggers collagen production which makes skin appear smoother and prevents wrinkles.

Skin Protecting: Niacinamide strengthens the skin’s protective barrier and has been shown to reduce the risk of skin cancer. It helps rebuild damaged cells and provides further protection from UV rays.

Niacinamide In Skin Care

Since our bodies can’t produce niacinamide, we must ingest it or apply it topically to reap the benefits. Thus, niacinamide can be taken in a daily supplement or used through a variety of topical skin care products like serums or moisturizers.

Dietary Niacinamide: Benefits & Risks

Niacin is found naturally in green vegetables, beans, cereals, poultry, eggs and fish. When we eat niacin, our body converts it to niacinamide. Niacinamide is also available in a supplement form, as are all sorts of Vitamin B3 derivatives.

Oral niacinamide supplements have been used to treat acne in cases where antibiotics are not an option. While having a positive effect on the entire body, the use of niacinamide in supplement form does not ensure delivery to a specific area like the skin on your face. This is why topical application may be more effective.

Topical Niacinamide: Benefits & Risks

Topical niacinamide is found in multiple skin care products and is generally gentle enough to be used morning and night. This do-it-all skin care ingredient is found in serums, moisturizers, night creams and even sunscreens.

Speak with your doctor about which brands and forms of niacinamide are best. Topically applied ingredients must be formulated to penetrate the skin if they’re going to be effective. Just because you read niacinamide on the label, doesn’t mean the product will do the work you expect.

How and When to Use Niacinamide

Niacinamide is suitable for every skin type, but you may want to use it differently depending on the type of skin you have.

Oily Skin: Choose a niacinamide serum that’s low on water and high in active ingredient. It will help reduce oil production, limit clogged pores, and can minimize the size of pores over time.

Dry Skin: Choose a moisturizer or hydrating toner with a low concentration of active ingredient. The niacinamide will help lock in moisture for more plump and youthful looking skin.

The most effective products contain between 2-10% niacinamide. In general, choose a lower percentage of active ingredient if you have sensitive skin. As always, first test new products on a small patch of skin away from your face. If no negative reaction occurs, introduce the product to your facial routine slowly and over time.

Niacinamide and Other Skin Care Products

Niacinamide is water soluble, so for best absorption, apply it before the use of oily moisturizers or creams. In general, it’s compatible with most other skin care products, so it’s easily incorporated into your skin care regimen. With the wide range of benefits available, there’s no reason not to try it to see if it works for you.

Kellie Reed, MD

Dr. Kellie Reed specializes in aesthetic skin care, general medical dermatology, pediatric, and rheumatologic dermatology. She is passionate about her patient care and attention to detail, and her positive attitude provides a sense of comfort for her patients. Dr. Reed is a member of the Travis County Medical Society, Texas Medical Association, Texas Dermatological Society, Austin Dermatological Society, Women’s Dermatologic Society, Rheumatologic Dermatology Society, and the American Academy of Dermatology.

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