- Niacinamide is effective for treating both inflammatory and non-inflammatory acne
- It is one of the most-well tolerated OTC treatments for acne
- Niacinamide can also be used to get rid of hyperpigmentation marks and patches
- You can use niacinamide for acne topically or orally
What Is Niacinamide?
Niacinamide, also known as nicotinamide, is a form of vitamin B3 naturally found in foods like meat, milk, eggs, and green vegetables.
As a medication, niacinamide can be in the form of vitamin supplements or topical creams. Whether in supplement or cream form, niacinamide can be formulated alone or in combination with other ingredients.
Niacinamide is used to treat a host of medical skin conditions, including acne, hyperpigmentation, skin inelasticity, fine lines, wrinkles, and general skin aging.
What Types of Acne Can Niacinamide Treat?
Niacinamide’s antibacterial properties make it effective for treating inflammatory acne, which is typically caused when propionibacterium acnes (p.acnes), thrives in clogged pores.
Niacinamide also has sebum-reducing and mild exfoliating properties. So It can help prevent and treat non-inflammatory acne like blackheads and whiteheads, which are caused by excess oil production and the skin’s inability to shed its dead cells properly.
Niacinamide is likely not effective for treating acne that’s triggered by hormones, stress, or certain dietary habits. It may, however, be able to diminish the appearance of the breakouts and soothe any redness or swelling.
Niacinamide for acne scars
Niacinamide can treat post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation—a form of acne scarring—effectively.
Unlike some other ingredients used to treat hyperpigmentation, niacinamide is very stable. It is not affected by light, moisture, and oxidizers (substances that introduce oxygen into environments). Typically, these things that cause other ingredients, such as vitamin c, to breakdown, become ineffective, and potentially irritate the skin.
Niacinamide treats hyperpigmentation by impeding the transfer of melanin (skin pigment) to the skin surface. Another advantage that niacinamide has is that, unlike other skin lightening treatments for hyperpigmentation, it does not cause photosensitivity.
Niacinamide is likely not effective for pitted or raised scars, which are usually left by severe or cystic acne. Those types of scars typically need to be treated using lasers, fillers, peels, or other procedures traditionally performed in-office by a dermatologist or at a skin clinic.
Niacinamide Benefits for Acne
Niacinamide has been solidly established as an effective treatment for acne. It works in multiple ways, including:
- Sebum reduction: Sebum is the oily substance your skin’s sebaceous glands produce. Niacinamide is sebostatic, which means it reduces how much sebum is secreted. This is important because both inflammatory and non-inflammatory acne start to form when excess sebum gets trapped in your pores, along with dead skin cells. Consequently, by reducing sebum production levels, niacinamide significantly reduces the chances of acne worsening or even forming at all.
- Anti Inflammatory activities: Niacinamide has anti-inflammatory properties, which allow it to reduce redness and swelling in acne. One of the ways it does this is by blocking the actions of enzymes that play a significant role in the manifestation of inflammation-promoting genes. Using niacinamide for acne can help soothe breakouts and make them less noticeable.
- Accelerating cell turnover rate: The inability of the skin to properly shed its dead cells contributes significantly to the development of acne. Although not yet proven, niacinamide may help increase the turnover rate of your skin’s surface cells—reducing the chances that dead ones will get trapped in your pores.
Other skin care benefits
Niacinamide improves the skin’s epidermal barrier function, which is essential for moisture retention and environmental protection. It can also help to improve your skin’s elasticity, slow down its aging process, and reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. It can improve the texture of your skin, reduce the visible size of your pores, and smooth your skin’s surface.
Finally, niacinamide has photo-protective properties which allow it to provide some measure of sun protection for your skin.
How to Use Niacinamide for Acne
You can use niacinamide for acne topically or orally, and both ways are safe and effective. However, before taking any oral supplements, you should consult your doctor or dermatologist. They are in the best position to confirm its suitability for you. They will also direct you on when and how often to take it.
If you plan to use topical niacinamide for acne, here’s how to:
- Wash your face thoroughly with a non-irritating cleanser.
- After rinsing, use clean fingertips to apply a thin layer of niacinamide cream to you face
- Complete your regular skin care routine
This treatment can be applied every day. Although to prevent irritation, it may be safer to use niacinamide creams just once a day.
Aside from being available as a topical cream, niacinamide can be found as an active ingredient in many types of skin care products like cleansers, serums, and moisturizers.
Niacinamide creams are sometimes formulated in combination with an antibiotic called clindamycin. There is, however, no evidence that niacinamide and clindamycin combination creams are more effective than niacinamide-only creams.
Niacinamide can also be found in combination with many other ingredients In skin care products like lotions and serums. If the other ingredients in these products are safe and have acne-fighting properties, too, there is a chance they may be beneficial to acne treatment. Nevertheless, there is no way to know beforehand whether or not they would be more effective than using niacinamide alone, as products have widely varying formulations and ingredient concentrations.
Finally, you can combine niacinamide with other mainstream treatments for acne. For instance, niacinamide can be used during the daytime and topical retinoids or benzoyl peroxide at night. Zinc has also historically been used to manage acne, and it can be used topically in addition to niacinamide in a skincare routine.
If you use niacinamide for mild-to-moderate acne, you can expect to get rid of your acne, or at least get it under control and keep breakouts to a minimum. The results are dependent on other factors like hormones, stress, diet, and your daily skin care routine.
How long does it take to work?
If you’re using topical medication where niacinamide is the sole ingredient, you should expect to start seeing significant results after 4 to 8 weeks. If you’re simply using skin care products that have niacinamide as one of their active ingredients, you should wait at least 6-8 weeks before expecting any positive results.
Depending on the severity of the acne, and other individual factors, some people may start to see their breakouts clear faster than others when using niacinamide for acne.
Side Effects of Using Niacinamide on the Skin
Niacinamide, even in high concentrations of up to 4%, is typically well-tolerated and has not been shown to cause any major side effects. Although unlikely, you may experience minor side effects like itching, burning, irritation, mild dermatitis, and oily skin. When used orally, niacinamide has not been shown to cause any side effects.
Other topical acne medications can be used in place of niacinamide for treating acne. However, not all of them are as well-tolerated as niacinamide is. They include:
Niacinamide is a safe ingredient that’s effective at treating acne. Side effects are uncommon, and when experienced, mild. Niacinamide can also be used to get rid of hyperpigmentation scars caused by acne. It can be used topically or taken as an oral supplement.
Niacinamide does not require a prescription and can be bought over the counter.
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