Niacinamide (aka nicotinamide) is a form of vitamin B3. Today, it is regarded as one of the safest active ingredients for treating acne, rosacea, wrinkles, and hyperpigmentation. This compound's effects are incredibly well researched, with results published in the most respected dermatological journals, and is frequently used in high-quality skincare.
What is Niacinamide?
Topical niacinamide (aka; nicotinamide) is a water-soluble vitamin often found in many 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 (nicotinamide) has an essential role in our cell’s energy production cycle. We get vitamin B3 (niacin) in our diet by consuming 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.
What are the benefits of niacinamide?
Niacinamide is an impressive compound that can help with acne AND reduce visible signs of aging. As with all skincare products, the key to optimal efficacy is using the right formulation.
Does niacinamide help with 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 2-4 weeks of using 2% Niacinamide.
Antibacterial: Topical niacinamide helps protect the skin's natural barrier 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 (nicotinamide) can prevent and reduce wrinkles, reduce hyperpigmentation, and improve the overall color and appearance.
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 at 12 weeks. These lightening properties can also benefit acne patients who are predisposed to post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.
One laboratory study showed that niacinamide decreases the melanin transfer for the melanocytes that produce it to the keratinocytes in the skin's upper layer. One of the advantages of niacinamide is its stability being unaffected by light, moisture, acids, alkalis, or oxidizers. In another study, topical niacinamide was shown to reduce the signs of skin aging in Caucasians and Asians, reducing yellowing, wrinkling, red blotchiness, and hyperpigmented spots.
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 dermis' quality, elasticity, and strength, which reduces wrinkles and improves the skin's 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 rosacea's characteristics 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.
Niacinamide Benefits for 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 our skin's outermost layer, 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. Niacinamide combined with retinol can also help with skin discoloration related to old acne scars, excessive sun exposure, or hormonal imbalance (melasma).
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. Researchers found that skin treated with a moisturizer containing 5% Niacinamide showed significant improvements in hyperpigmentation and fine lines and wrinkles than the control skin in a controlled split-face study.
How do I use Niacinamide?
Add Niacinamide to your morning moisturizer or a retinol night treatment. Niacinamide does not increase skin sensitivity so that it can be used in the morning or the evening. For best results, cleanse your skin and apply the niacinamide moisturizer directly to clean skin.
Does Niacinamide have any side effects?
When applied to the skin, niacinamide cream can cause mild burning, itching, or redness. When applied to the skin, niacinamide cream can cause mild burning, itching, or redness. Niacinamide (nicotinamide) shows no significant 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.
In higher concentrations > 5%, (niacinamide ordinary 10%) niacinamide can cause significant flushing or burning sensation. Niacinamide ordinary 10%shoudl not be applied on dry skin or sensitive skin. If you experience a lasting irritation with the Ordinary 10% niacinamide or the Ordinary 10% niacinamide +zinc, it may be a sign you're using too much or a product with too high of a concentration of niacinamide for your skin type.
If you feel any irritation from niacinamide products, it’s likely due to preservatives or other skincare ingredients in the formula, and it may benefit you to switch to another brand or formula. For most clinical needs, a 2-4% concentration is optimal. There is no proof that a higher potency would provide better results.
Can I combine niacinamide with other products/ingredients?
For optimal results, niacinamide products should be part of a personalized skin skincare routine that will match the individual user's skin type and skin concerns. The clearer treatment cream combined with niacinamide would be different for a younger person with teen acne and an adult with adult and/or initial skin aging signs.
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.
What are the benefits of combining niacinamide and retinol?
Niacinamide is a perfect companion to retinol. Niacinamide can reduce the irritation associated with retinol, enhancing its anti-acne and anti-aging effects. Combined with retinol (0.25% or 0.5%), it can significantly improve skin texture, reduce skin dullness, and reduce the appearance of dark spots and fine lines. In one study, a group of people with acne was treated with a cream containing 4% nicotinamide, 1% retinol, and 0.5% 7-dehydrocholesterol showing a significant reduction of acne lesions.
Can I use niacinamide on dry skin?
Used in a cream base at a concentration of less than 5%, Niacinamide is a great moisturizing agent. It protects the natural skin barrier and can be safely used by people with dry skin, sensitive skin, and even eczema. Having said that, 10% of Niacinamide serums can frequently are irritating for people with dry and sensitive skin.
Does niacinamide cause purging?
Skin purging happens when one starts a new acne treatment. The exfoliation of bacteria and dee skin triggers a reaction of the skin's immune system, increases skin cell l turnover, and increases the risk of redness, dryness, and a few more acne pimples. Niacinamide does not destroy acne bacteria and doesn't increase skin cell turnover, which means that it shouldn't cause skin purging.
Niacinamide vs. niacin; what is the difference?
Niacin (also known as vitamin B3) is one of the B vitamins. Niacin has a few different chemical variations. The most important ones are nicotinamide (also called niacinamide) and nicotinic acid (pyridine-3-carboxylic acid).
Niacinamide (nicotinamide) is the vitamin B3 derivative that is used for skin care. Nicotinic acid is used as an oral medication to prevent and treat niacin deficiency (pellagra). Systemic Niacin deficiency can be caused by alcohol abuse, malabsorption syndrome, poor diet, or long-term use of certain medications (such as isoniazid).
What are the best niacinamide products for people with acne?
Buying Niacinamide products can be confusing. There are multiple formulations (creams, serums) and multiple different concentrations. Similar to other topical skincare products - higher concentration is not always better. Niacinamide products with 10% niacinamide (the ordinary niacinamide 10%, Paula's choice niacinamide booster) can cause, in some cases, severe irritation and itching.
It seems that the optimal concentration range of niacinamide is 2%-4%. It will provide the maximal effect without the adverse effects associated with 10% solutions.
The delivery mode of niacinamide is also important. Most serums include lipids and oils that can clog pores. Thus people with acne-prone skin should look for niacinamide creams and avoid niacinamide serums.
The MDacne acne treatment system includes 2 high efficacy active moisturizers with niacinamide 2 and 4 percent. It provides the perfect treatment moisturizer for a=people with acne and acne-prone skin based on oil-free hydrating ingredients.
Combined with the right anti-acne medications (benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid), niacinamide can help reduce acne breakouts, with decreased skin dryness and irritation.
To find the right acne treatments for your unique skin, take the free skin assessment by clicking here.