Niacinamide (aka nicotinamide), is a form of vitamin B3. It is regarded today as one of the safest active ingredients for the treatment of acne, rosacea, wrinkles, and hyperpigmentation. The effects of this compound are incredibly well researched, with results published in the most respected dermatological journals.
What is Niacinamide?
Topical niacinamide is a water-soluble vitamin often found in creams and serums. Unlike AHA (alpha-hydroxy acid) or BHA (beta-hydroxy acid), which are acids (low PH), niacinamide is neutral, tends to be gentler on the skin and doesn’t cause irritation. Because it’s so easy on the skin, niacinamide is suitable for all skin types and is commonly recommended by Dermatologists as an alternative to prescription acne medications.
What does Niacinamide do?
Niacinamide has an essential role in our cell’s energy production cycle. We get vitamin B3 (niacin) in our diet through the consumption of nuts, fish, liver, and multivitamins. When this niacin combines with the amino acids in our cells, it transforms first into niacinamide, and then into two coenzymes called NADH and NADPH. These coenzymes boost cellular metabolism and are partially responsible for the regulation of DNA repair and cell turnover. Niacinamide is particularly effective at influencing cell turnover and treating skin conditions when used topically in creams or serums.
How can Niacinamide improve my skin?
Niacinamide is an impressive compound that can help with acne AND reduce visible signs of aging.
Niacinamide and Acne
Niacinamide helps with acne thanks to its anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and sebum reducing properties.
Anti-inflammatory: Niacinamide has potent anti-inflammatory properties. In people with acne, it reduces skin redness, prevents blemishes, and improves skin repair after a pimple heals.
Reduction of skin oiliness: Niacinamide is one of the few compounds shown to reduce sebum production (which reduces overall skin oiliness). In one study out of Japan, skin oiliness was significantly reduced after only 2-4 weeks of using 2% niacinamide.
Antibacterial: Topical niacinamide helps protect the natural barrier of the skin against infection and inhibits the proliferation of acne-causing bacteria. The antibacterial effects of niacinamide are well-researched. Two double-blind studies published in the International Journal of Dermatology showed that 4% niacinamide treated moderate acne with comparable results to a topical antibiotic (1% clindamycin).
Niacinamide and Aging
As a powerful antioxidant and promoter of collagen production, niacinamide can prevent and reduce wrinkles, reduce hyperpigmentation, and improve the overall color and appearance of skin.
Fighting hyperpigmentation: Recent studies have demonstrated that niacinamide has significant skin lightening effects. Niacinamide 4% works to help fade hyperpigmentation and hormonal pigmentation (melasma). Initial results can be seen as soon as four weeks with optimal effects seen at12 weeks. These lightening properties can also benefit acne patients who are predisposed to post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.
Wrinkle prevention and Reduction: Niacinamide 4% is proven to reduce fine lines and wrinkles. It’s believed that this occurs by increasing collagen production in the dermis and, secondly, by reducing the amount of rigid cross-linked collagen molecules in the skin. Through these two processes, niacinamide improves the quality, elasticity, and strength of the dermis, which reduces wrinkles and improves skins overall appearance.
Effects on skin redness and rosacea:
Rosacea, also called adult acne, is a common skin disorder in Caucasians. Rosacea causes constant facial redness, frequently with acne-like pimples. People suffering from this disorder will flush easily and tend to be very sensitive to sunlight. One of the characteristics of rosacea is damage to the epidermal barrier function, causing the skin to be sensitive to external factors such as the sun, heat, and alcohol-based toners. Niacinamide has proven helpful in restoring the epidermal barrier function, reducing redness, and helping with rosacea.
Additional Benefits of Niacinamide: In addition to helping with acne and aging, niacinamide can also improve general skin health.
Hydration: Niacinamide is an excellent hydrating agent. Many high-quality clinical studies have shown that it increases the production of ceramides. Ceramides, found in the outermost layer of our skin, help the skin form a healthy barrier that keeps water in and toxic environmental elements out.
Skin Brightening: With age, as oxidative stress begins to damage collagen fibers, the skin can start to look dull and yellow. Clinical studies using topical niacinamide have shown that twice-daily applications over several months can reduce skin sallowness and lead to fresher, younger-looking skin.
UV Protection: Niacinamide is not an alternative to sunscreen, but it can help with DNA repair after sun exposure. Niacinamide also protects against the immunosuppression that UVA and UVB rays cause, making it a helpful companion to sunscreen in the fight against aging. In a controlled split-face study researchers found that skin treated with a moisturizer containing 5% niacinamide showed significant improvements in hyperpigmentation and fine lines, and wrinkles when compared to the control skin.
How do I use niacinamide?
Add niacinamide to your morning moisturizer or a retinol night treatment. Niacinamide does not increase skin sensitivity, so it can be used in the morning or in the evening. For best results, cleanse your skin and apply the niacinamide moisturizer directly to clean skin.
Does niacinamide have any side effects?
Niacinamide shows no side effects in concentrations of up to 5%. It can be used safely on all skin types and is a safe alternative to retinoids and topical acne medications during pregnancy and breastfeeding. If you feel any irritation from niacinamide products, it’s likely due to preservatives or other ingredients in the formula, and it may benefit you to switch to another brand or formula. For most clinical needs, a concentration of 4% is optimal. There is no proof that a higher potency would provide better results.
Can I combine niacinamide with other products/ingredients?
Niacinamide is a perfect companion to retinol. Niacinamide can reduce the irritation associated with retinol, enhancing its anti-acne and anti-aging effects.
Beware of using niacinamide with vitamin C. While both are excellent ingredients on their own, using them together can cause a skin flush that can last up to 20 minutes. If you want to use both products, use one in the morning and the other in the evening.