- Niacinamide is a form of vitamin B3, a nutrient essential to skin health
- This vitamin is an important part of an anti-aging strategy
- It can address skin concerns such as acne, dark spots and fine lines, and skin conditions such as acne, rosacea and eczema
- Niacinamide is suitable for all skin types and can be safely used with any other skin care products
Niacinamide, also known as nicotinamide, is a form of vitamin B that is available as an oral supplement and as an ingredient in skin care products. For topical use, it can be found in cleansers, creams and face masks, but is most effective in serum form. Niacinamide benefits include stronger, healthier skin, improved acne, increased hydration and fewer dark spots. With its wide range of applications, topical niacinamide is an ingredient that can benefit almost anyone.
What Is Niacinamide?
Niacinamide is a form of vitamin B3, an essential nutrient for skin, brain and kidney health. As it’s water-soluble (not stored within the body) nor produced by the body, you must include it in your diet to reap its benefits.
To target skin health specifically, it can be applied topically as part of your skin care routine.
Niacin versus niacinamide
Both niacin and niacinamide belong to the B3 family of vitamins, but their molecular structure differs slightly, and each is processed differently by the body. When taken orally or applied topically, niacin, also known as nicotinic acid, is converted into niacinamide by the body.
While niacin is readily available in a range of over-the-counter (OTC) products, it is known to cause redness and flushing of skin; therefore, niacinamide is a preferable form of vitamin B3 for everyday use.
Topical versus dietary uses
Niacinamide is available as both a topical application and a dietary supplement. It’s taken orally to prevent B3 deficiency and related conditions such as pellagra, as well as other diseases such as diabetes, cancer and osteoarthritis.
Niacinamide is an ingredient in many multivitamins, which are generally considered safe and beneficial for anyone to take. However, you should not take high doses of a niacinamide or B3 supplement unless instructed by a doctor.
Getting the recommended daily dosage of vitamin B3 is an excellent way to support your general health. However, topical application will directly benefit the skin.
Skin Care Benefits of Niacinamide
Skin care products containing niacinamide have a wide variety of skin health benefits, most of which fall under the anti-aging umbrella. On the molecular level, it builds essential proteins in the skin and locks in moisture. Topical niacinamide is beneficial for all skin tones and types and has essentially no contraindications.
Minimizes fine lines and wrinkles
Niacinamide prevents dehydration and sun damage, both of which contribute to fine lines and wrinkles. It also increases keratin and collagen production to strengthen and plump skin. Regular application of niacinamide prevents fine lines from forming and minimizes the appearance of existing lines.
Minimizes skin inflammation
Niacinamide has proven anti-inflammatory properties to effectively target swelling, redness and irritation. These properties make niacinamide an effective solution for many inflammatory conditions, including acne, eczema and rosacea.
Niacinamide has demonstrated efficacy in treating hyperpigmented skin such as dark spots, age spots and melasma. It does so by inhibiting the production and transfer of melanin to surrounding cells. Over time, damaged hyperpigmented skin cells are replaced by healthy cells.
Protects against oxidative stress
By supporting the body’s antioxidant process, niacinamide protects the skin from environmental stressors, including sunlight, pollution and toxins. It can prevent damage caused by ultraviolet rays, reduce the incidence of skin cancer and support DNA repair.
Cutibacterium acnes (formerly Propionibacterium acnes) bacteria trigger inflammation, redness and irritation. Niacinamide has been shown to inhibit interleukin-8 production, a proinflammatory cytokine produced in the skin in response to this inflammatory stimuli.
Strengthens the stratum corneum
The outermost layer of skin, the stratum corneum, functions as a barrier to prevent moisture loss and to prevent environmental contaminants from penetrating into deeper layers of the skin.
In one study, niacinamide was found to strengthen the stratum corneum barrier function by reducing inflammation, minimizing trans epidermal water loss and thickening the barrier. It also increased the size of corneocytes, cells that make up the skin barrier that are vital for proper functioning.
Topical niacinamide is typically found in serum form in 2% and 5% formulations. While 5% is considered the most effective concentration for generally healthy skin, if you have eczema or sensitive skin, you may wish to start with a 2% product to minimize the risk of irritation.
This vitamin is also found in creams, cleansers and face masks. However, cleansers and face masks containing niacinamide may be less effective as they are washed off; a serum remains on your face, allowing the active ingredients to absorb into skin.
Niacinamide can also be found in some sunscreens or can be layered under sunscreen for additional sun protection.
Niacinamide isn’t typically used in DIY recipes. It’s possible to make your own niacinamide serum using powdered niacinamide, but it’s not necessarily the most cost-effective option.
While some online recipes recommend using niacinamide-rich egg whites for a DIY face mask, this is not advisable due to the risk of salmonella contamination.
How to Use Niacinamide in Your Skin Care Routine
A niacinamide serum should be applied after you cleanse and apply toner but before moisturizing. Niacinamide is safe to use both day and night.
Niacinamide can be an effective alternative to retinol for people with dry skin. It hydrates the skin while offering all the same anti-aging, anti-acne benefits.
What skin care ingredients work best with niacinamide?
Niacinamide can be used in combination with any other active ingredient. For example, it can be paired with hyaluronic acid to increase absorption of a niacinamide serum to boost its effects.
When treating hyperpigmentation, niacinamide may be more effective when used alongside other pigmentation-fighting ingredients. These include arbutin, hydroquinone, kojic acid and soy.
For darker skin tones, it is advised to avoid combining niacinamide with other skin-lightening agents as this can lead to skin irritation and possibly skin damage.
Potential Side Effects of Niacinamide
While topical niacinamide is considered safe, it can potentially cause undesirable side effects, including redness, itchiness and swelling.
Niacinamide is a form of vitamin B3 with many proven skin care benefits. When applied topically as part of your daily skin care routine, it treats conditions such as acne, rosacea, eczema and hyperpigmentation.
Niacinamide fights the signs of aging, improves skin barrier function, increases hydration and protects skin from environmental stressors.
Niacinamide is widely available as a serum but is also found in moisturizers, cleansers and face masks. It is safe for day and night use and can be combined with any other skin care product.
Side effects are minimal, and include redness, itching and irritation. For skin of color, proceed with caution when combining with skin-lightening agents as this could result in skin damage.
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