Niacinamide (or nicotinamide) has quickly become a skincare favorite, along with “it” ingredients like hyaluronic acid, vitamin C, and retinol. But what is niacinamide? It’s a naturally occurring, water-soluble form of vitamin B3 (niacin) and a powerful anti-inflammatory. It’s considered a brightening ingredient, but it does much more than brighten your skin. Its popularity can be attributed to its many benefits and the fact that it works well for all skin types.
What does niacinamide do?
Niacinamide stabilizes the epidermal barrier, the most superficial layer of the skin, which prevents dehydration. It also helps the skin retain moisture by growing a ceramide (lipid) barrier, stimulating ceramide synthesis. Besides helping your skin stay hydrated, niacinamide is often used to treat hyperpigmentation, as it helps lighten dark spots. Niacinamide also has antiaging properties, reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, and is a powerful antioxidant, protecting our skin against environmental stressors such as UV rays. According to a 2017 study, niacinamide appears to reduce the risk of skin cancer. Due to its anti-inflammatory properties, niacinamide can help treat acne and rosacea, reduce redness, control sebum production, and minimize pores' appearance.
Niacinamide as a treatment for acne
This versatile ingredient might sound a little too good to be true—but scientific studies have demonstrated it to be very effective in treating acne vulgaris. Several studies have found that niacinamide has potent anti-inflammatory effects on acne and rosacea. Still, according to a study published in the International Journal of Dermatology, niacinamide has an advantage over antimicrobials, such as clindamycin, because it doesn’t have the risk of increasing bacterial resistance. This study, which tested the efficacy of a 4% niacinamide gel on the treatment of inflammatory acne vulgaris, found that it helped reduce both acne lesions and acne severity. Overall, 82% of the patients treated with niacinamide were improved. A more recent study, published in 2017, summarized relevant literature regarding niacinamide's role in acne treatment and found that six out of eight studies showed that topical niacinamide significantly reduced acne. Another study that compared the efficacy of niacinamide and clindamycin gels found that niacinamide is working significantly better in oily skin. Niacinamide helps control the amount of oil produced by the sebaceous glands in our skin, preventing breakouts and keeping the pores clear.
Niacinamide sure does a lot to help reduce acne! So, let’s summarize:
- It reduces inflammation, as well as the redness and swelling caused by acne lesions.
- It brightens the skin, evens out texture and tone, and can help fade dark marks.
- It controls the amount of oil produced by glands in the skin, thus improving excess.
What are the best niacinamide products for women with adult acne?
Studies show that between 12 and 22% of adult women suffer from adult acne in the US. Acne is generally caused by excess oil and bacteria. Niacinamide’s oil-balancing, anti-inflammatory, and anti-oxidant properties can help fight those problems. But what’s the best way to use topical niacinamide? Kate Kerr, a professional facialist, told Refinery29 that it could be applied in the morning or evening, but it’s most effective in leave-on formulas, like serums or moisturizers. Niacinamide can also be found in toners, sunscreen, and masks. Because niacinamide is water-soluble, products with this ingredient are ideal for oily, acne-prone skin since most are water-based and non-comedogenic.
Best Niacinamide Serums
With a high concentration of niacinamide and a very affordable price, this serum has gained somewhat of a cult following. It fights blemishes, evens out skin texture, and brightens the skin. That said, 10% is too high for most people and can irritate the skin.
This serum combines a high concentration of niacinamide and vitamin B5, and it’s perfect for people who don’t feel like adding another step to their skincare routine: you can add a few drops to your moisturizer.
Best Niacinamide Moisturizers
This dermatologist formulated an active moisturizer that was specially developed for people with acne. It's hydrating and soothing but still oil-free and non-comedogenic. Regarded as one of the top niacinamide treatments, cream minimizes and tightens enlarged skin pores, strengthens the skin's natural protective layer, and helps balance oil production. In addition, it improves uneven skin tone, reduces skin redness, and diminishes skin dullness. Applying MDacne's niacinamide active moisturizer around the eyes can help reduce the appearance of under the eye dark circles and wrinkles on the eyes' sides (crow's feet). Fits all skin types, including sensitive or rosacea-prone skin.
This moisturizer combines the best hydrating and soothing ingredients and makes for the perfect night cream for acne-prone skin, combining ceramides, hyaluronic acid, and niacinamide. It’s rich, yet it’s oil-free; the non-comedogenic formula prevents it from clogging up pores and causing breakouts.
Another great option for a night cream, this fragrance-free moisturizer is perfect for people with sensitive skin. It contains niacinamide to reduce redness and inflammation and glycerin to moisturize.
Best Niacinamide + Retinol treatment System
This category has one outstanding winner. MDacne's Retinol + Niacinamide cream comes in 2 variations. Retinol 0.25% + Niacinamide 2% for starters and Retinol 0.5% + Niacinamide 4%
for the "pros." This excellent dermatologist formulated active retinol+ Niacinamide cream provides the benefits of Retinol without irritation. Combining Retinol's magic with niacinamide, this retinol + niacinamide treatment cream improves the skin's texture for more youthful-looking skin and helps reduce skin blemishes. Pure Retinol works to unclog pores and prevent acne blemishes and fine wrinkles without over-drying the skin. The niacinamide (vitamin B3), a powerful anti-inflammatory ingredient, hydrates the skin, improves the skin's texture, and helps fade post-acne dark spots. MDacne's Retinol Treatment System allows your skin to adjust to Retinol by starting the treatment with Retinol 0.25% and then switching to Retinol 0.5%. It combines the magic of pure Retinol with Niacinamide.
Best Niacinamide Toners
Combining antioxidants, soothing plant extracts, and niacinamide, this light toner controls oil production, minimizes pores, reduces redness, and hydrates the skin.
Best Sunscreen with Niacinamide
This mineral sunscreen was formulated with acne-prone skin in mind. It protects the skin from UVA and UVB rays, while the niacinamide soothes and refines the skin.
According to the Stylist, Olay was one of the first mainstream beauty brands to include niacinamide. The skin quickly absorbs this cream, minimizing pores, evens out skin tone, and brightens the skin without feeling greasy or heavy. Besides niacinamide, this formula contains vitamins C and E and green tea extract that protects the skin from free radicals.
Best Niacinamide Masks
These sheet masks are perfect for soothing breakouts, hydrating skin, and improving our skin barrier. It has niacinamide, hyaluronic acid, rose water, and is sure to calm and brighten the skin.
Gehring W. Nicotinic acid/niacinamide and the skin. J Cosmet Dermatol. 2004 Apr;3(2):88-93.
Shalita AR, Smith JG, Parish LC, Sofman MS, Chalker DK. Topical nicotinamide compared with clindamycin gel in the treatment of inflammatory acne vulgaris. Int J Dermatol. 1995 Jun;34(6):434-7.
Tanghetti, Emil A et al. “Understanding the burden of adult female acne.” The Journal of clinical and aesthetic dermatology vol. 7,2 (2014): 22-30.
Walocko FM, Eber AE, Keri JE, Al-Harbi MA, Nouri K. The role of nicotinamide in acne treatment. Dermatol Ther. 2017 Sep;30(5).
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