Niacinamide is a skincare ingredient that has been getting a lot of press lately, and mainstream skincare brands are starting to offer niacinamide formulas as stand-alone products in their skincare lines. It’s sometimes even touted as a miracle do-it-all skin savior. So what is this niacinamide and how can it help your skin?
What is Niacinamide?
Niacinamide, also known as nicotinamide, is a form of vitamin B3 which when used in skincare can help the skin by reducing the appearance of pores, redness, irritation, pigmentation, wrinkles and dryness. It also helps to improve blotchiness, increase moisture, supports collagen production and improves barrier function in the skin. Niacinamide has also been shown to improve acne and rosacea. This 2015 study from the New England Journal of Medicine even demonstrated niacinamide’s role in preventing skin cancer.
Sounds too good to be true? Let’s take a look at how niacinamide works and some of its benefits.
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How Your Skin Can Benefit From Niacinamide
I’ll try not to get too technical here, but here’s a quick rundown of how niacinamide can help your skin.
- Niacinamide is a precursor, or building block, to cofactors (chemical compounds) nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD+/NADH) and nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate (NADPH). These cofactors play an important role in biological reactions in your cells. They help to repair cell damage and prevent future damage in the form of free radicals. Free radicals contribute to aging by causing oxidative damage which can result in wrinkles, pigmentation, and loss of elasticity in the skin. NAD+, thanks to niacinamide, can neutralize and control the damage caused by free radicals.
- Niacinamide helps support the skin’s protective barrier through increasing ceramide production. Ceramides are lipids in the outer layers of the skin that support moisture retention. Ceramides comprise about 50% of the outer layer of your skin, and without enough ceramides, the skin is prone to dryness and irritation.
- Niacinamide may also reduce the skin’s production of oil, which will certainly appeal to those who deal with acne. One particular benefit of niacinamide is that it tends to be less irritating and drying than other acne treatments.
- While sensitive skin may experience irritation with some forms of niacinamide, when used in anti-aging treatments, niacinamide is generally better tolerated than other anti-aging treatments such as retinoids and vitamin C.
Scientific Studies on Niacinamide
While these claims seem too good to be true, it would be great to see some scientific studies to back up all of these supposed benefits of niacinamide. Limited studies on the effectiveness of niacinamide on inflammatory skin conditions have shown that it helps to reduce inflammation associated with mild to moderate acne and rosacea.
Unfortunately, niacinamide’s effectiveness in anti-aging skincare has not been widely studied. It is most often studied in combination with other ingredients, so its individual effectiveness has been difficult to measure. As we see more products enter the market whose main ingredient is niacinamide, we should see more data on its effectiveness.
In the meantime, if you want to try this do-it-all ingredient, you can purchase it for as little as $5.90 from The Ordinary. I purchased three products whose main ingredient was niacinamide. Each product included additional ingredients which support niacinamide’s benefits for the skin. I used these products in conjunction with other products in my skincare arsenal and as you’ll read below I think a niacinamide product deserves to be added as a new and easy step to my skincare routine.
The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%
The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1% contains 10% pure niacinamide and 1% percent zinc PCA. Zinc PCA is zinc salt of pyrrolidone carboxylic acid. Niacinamide is used in this formula to help balance and control sebum activity which supports the activity of niacinamide. It is formulated to help reduce the appearance of blemishes and skin congestion and may help to brighten skin tone.
The Ordinary’s parent company website, Deciem, specifically notes that while both ingredients help reduce the appearance of blemishes and sebum activity, neither are intended to actually treat acne.
The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1% has a runny gel-like consistency. I tried this product multiple times, and there is something in this formula that irritates my skin. It’s unfortunate since I’d heard such great reviews about this product and it is well-loved by fans of The Ordinary. Luckily, there are many other niacinamide serums on the market to try.
The Inkey List Niacinamide Serum
The Inkey List Niacinamide Serum has an opaque gel-like consistency. It contains 10% niacinamide to control redness and to fade the appearance of blemishes. It also contains 1% hyaluronic acid for added moisture, a plumping effect, and improved product delivery.
Once applied it dries quickly and does not interfere with other skincare or makeup products. Of the three niacinamide formulas that I tried, this niacinamide definitely provided the most hydration. It’s non-irritating and very inexpensive. Love this niacinamide.
Paula’s Choice 10% Niacinamide Booster
Paula’s Choice 10% Niacinamide Booster is a lightly tinted liquid that can be used alone or added to a serum or moisturizer. It helps to minimize the appears of pores, uneven skin tone and fine lines. You can also apply this product to your neck and chest to see the anti-aging benefits that niacinamide can provide.
I have been using this niacinamide in conjunction with the different retinol treatments that I have been testing and my skin has been amazingly resilient to the retinol. I partially credit that to this niacinamide booster treatment. Once applied, it melts into your skin and practically disappears. It also contains multiple antioxidants and skin-soothing hydrators.
Niacinamide and Vitamin C
There has been conflicting research regarding the use of niacinamide and vitamin C at the same time.
Some believe that niacinamide will decrease the potency of vitamin C or that niacinamide and vitamin C will cancel each other out if used at the same time, or that using them together causes skin redness from the formation of nicotinic acid. As a result, some recommend that they should be used at different times of the day. Deciem’s website (parent company of The Ordinary) specifically suggests alternating vitamin C in the PM and their niacinamide formula in the AM.
Others believe that niacinamide and vitamin C can be used in skincare at the same time without issue. Paula’s Choice even includes vitamin C in its niacinamide booster formula tested above. Their website notes that testing performed in the 1960s which suggested that niacinamide and vitamin C decreased each other’s effectiveness is outdated and was not interpreted correctly. The production of nicotinic acid which may cause reddening of the skin was found to occur at very high temperatures typically not found in the home environment.
Personally, I find that niacinamide helps calm my skin when using retinoids, so I use a niacinamide and retinoid combination in the evening. I do not hesitate to combine it with Vitamin C in the morning. I have not had any redness or irritation from using niacinamide with vitamin C. If you still have concerns or have sensitive skin, you can alternate Vitamin C and niacinamide at different times of the day.
Final Thoughts on Adding Niacinamide to your Skincare Routine
Niacinamide has found a place in my skincare routine, if only for the skin cancer prevention benefits. It also has a slew of other anti-aging related benefits that coincide with my main skin concerns. These concerns center around fine lines and wrinkles, hyperpigmentation, uneven skin tone, dehydration, and the occasional acne flare-up. Niacinamide targets all of these concerns.
Niacinamide appears to be especially helpful while using potentially irritating retinoid products, so I will continue using this all-start ingredient and will find a permanent spot in my beauty routine for this anti-aging powerhouse.
Have you tried niacinamide? What were your results? I’d love to know!
Thanks for reading, and until next time…