Niacinamide is the magical ingredient that does it all. If you haven’t heard about it yet, it is time to tune in, because this wonderful active ingredient belongs in almost every skin care routine.
While many skin care addicts have known about this cure-all for a while now, the general population is only starting to tune in. Regardless of whether you are dealing with issues related to oily, dry, sensitive, or mature skin, you are sure to find some respite in niacinamide.
In this comprehensive guide to niacinamide, I will give you the complete lowdown. You will learn exactly what niacinamide is, and how it works for different skin concerns. I will give a thorough explanation of how you should use niacinamide along, along with recommendations for the best niacinamide products for every skin type and concern.
What Is Niacinamide?
In the skin care world, Niacinamide is an antioxidant, also known as vitamin B3 or nicotinic acid. It occurs naturally in our bodies, as well as in a ton of the food we eat, including most meats, fish, and many healthy, dark green veggies.
Niacinamide is responsible for all kinds of healthy body functions, and is essential for our brain, digestive system, and nervous system.
Niacinamide Benefits for Your Skin
Niacinamide is an exceptional skin care ingredient because it can treat nearly any skin concern. It is an effective treatment for the following issues:
• Acne and breakouts
• Hyperpigmentation and dark spots
• Uneven skin texture
• Oversized pores
• Redness and sensitivity
• Compromised skin barrier, which looks like itchy, flakey, or overly thin skin
• Premature aging, especially fine lines and loss of tone
• Overproduction of oil
• Dullness and sallowness
How Does Niacinamide Work?
Is beautifully a good answer? I guess not. Niacinamide works in a variety of ways, some of which are better understood than others.
In order to be effective, the amount of niacinamide in your product has to be significant. Between 10% and 2% will usually be enough for noticeable results. Looking at the ingredients list of a product, you want some form of niacinamide to be one of the first 5 ingredients listed.
The way niacinamide works for preventing premature aging is quite simple – this ingredient is an antioxidant that blocks the free radical damage caused by sun exposure and pollution. Niacinamide is best paired with other antioxidants, like vitamin E, vitamin C, and a variety of natural plant oils and extracts.
Mature skin, along with dry, sensitive, and compromised skin, will also benefit from niacinamide’s skin restoring properties.
Niacinamide has been shown to improve the skin’s barrier functions by increasing cell turnover and proliferation, as well as lipid production, all of which make the skin better able to retain moisture, heal itself, and combat irritants. These same properties also mean that the look of fine lines and wrinkles will be reduced, and redness is also very likely to fade.
Niacinamide helps minimize the look of dark spots and hyperpigmentation as well. As an anti-inflammatory ingredient, niacinamide helps reduce the redness and swelling that is so characteristic of active acne, as well as rosacea and other sensitive skin conditions.
This anti-inflammatory effect also helps prevent acne from becoming severe in the first place, so it is a good addition to a skin care routine that already includes anti-bacterial agents like benzoyl peroxide.
I’m unsure exactly how this last one occurs, but many loyal users of niacinamide along with some scientific studies reported that overproduction of oil in their skin was reduced when they started using niacinamide regularly. This is especially incredible, since niacinamide does all of that without drying out the skin or compromising its ability to retain moisture – quite the opposite!
How to Use Niacinamide
The beautiful thing about niacinamide is that it is a fairly stable skin care ingredient that can fit into one’s skin care routine at almost any stage, in a bunch of different forms. For example, if you like a speedy, easy 2-step routine, you can simply switch to a moisturizer that contains a significant amount of niacinamide.
The second you opt for a more involved skin care routine, there are a few ways to incorporate niacinamide.
The beautiful thing about this ingredient is that, unlike many other actives, it does not make the skin extra sensitive to sun exposure, and can be safely used both during the day and in the evening.
Since niacinamide requires a relatively high pH (at least compared to other ingredients) in order to work well, it is better to use at a later stage in your routine. A more involved evening skin care routine using niacinamide, for example, would look like this:
• Cleanse the skin thoroughly with a face wash of your choice.
• Tone with a pH balancing, alcohol-free toner.
• After your pH-dependant actives, you can basically apply your niacinamide at any point. If it is in a more liquid based formula, apply it next. If it is a thicker serum or cream, apply your thinner niacinamide serums first.
• Finish off with your heaviest cream or balm, and enjoy a restful sleep!
A morning skin care routine with niacinamide could look the same, with the addition of a final sunscreen step. I also think that cleansing is not mandatory in the mornings, and that in general, it is better to not overdo steps in the morning.
How Long to Use Niacinamide Until I See Results?
Unlike more aggressive skin treatments like retinol or acid peels, niacinamide takes its time to produce results. This also means that niacinamide is more gentle on the skin, and is less likely to cause irritation or thin it out.
There were many studies done to see the effects of niacinamide over time, to treat various skin concerns. A 5% niacinamide solution was able to improve the look of wrinkles, pigmentation, sagging skin, and other signs of premature aging, after 12 weeks of regular application.
Another study tested the effect of niacinamide on acne, and it showed a significant reduction on 80% of the subjects after 8 weeks. In other words, take your time with it, and be patient, because you’re looking at least a two months of consistent use of niacinamide before you can expect really noticeable results.
Are There Any Side Effects to Using Niacinamide?
For the most part niacinamide is a very safe choice, and it tends to cause less side effects than other skin care ingredients that are used for the same skin concerns.
However, those with very sensitive skin might notice that their skin does become red or irritated when they use niacinamide. If that happens to you, you can try to reduce how often you apply niacinamide to your skin, or you can switch to a product with a lower percentage of niacinamide. If that doesn’t work, discontinue use.
Some people do have allergies to niacinamide, as can happen with any other skin care ingredient. That is why patch testing any new product you may introduce to your routine is very important. If you notice persistent itchiness, redness, or bumps, discontinue use.
It is not very common, but some people do break out after using niacinamide. If, after a few weeks, you are still breaking out from using niacinamide, it is best to stop and try a different acne treatment.
Does Niacinamide Work with Vitamin C?
You might want to be careful combining vitamin C serums with niacinamide skincare products. While the two active ingredients are perfectly safe together (and they, in fact, boost each other’s efficacy), using them at the exact same time can cause a flush to the skin.
That red flush normally goes away after 20 minutes or so, but if you want to avoid them altogether, simply use one in the morning and another in the evening. Since vitamin C can boost the effects of sunscreen, it is usually the better choice for the morning routine.
Best Niacinamide Products for Different Skin Types and Concerns
If you have decided to include niacinamide in your skin care routine, it’s important to pick the right niacinamide creams, serums and skin care products for your skin type and concern.
Best Niacinamide Skincare Products for All Skin Types
1. Paula’s Choice Resist 10% Niacinamide Booster
Paula Begoun is a woman known for making products that are as loaded with beneficial ingredients as possible, without too much fuss or hype. This niacinamide serum is no exception, boasting more than double the amount of niacinamide you would normally see in a product.
You can use it on its own for a powerful effect, or blend it with another moisturizer or serum for a customized cocktail. Find it for yourself at Nordstrom.
2. CeraVe Facial Moisturizing Lotion AM SPF 30
I love saving skin care steps, so having an amazing moisturizer with both niacinamide and a sunscreen is a big treat. The light texture would work for any skin type, and it is loaded with lots of other beautiful anti-aging and hydrating ingredients like ceramides and hyaluronic acid. It is available for purchase at Ulta.
Best Niacinamide Skincare Products for Oily and Acne-Prone Skin
1. The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%
This silky formula is quite the deal. Simple and to the point, the focus here was on a niacinamide product for oily skin.
The addition of zinc PCA boosts the ability of niacinamide to control sebum production, and the simplistic formulation means you can safely blend it with other moisturizers or serums if you find the 10% content is needlessly high. Buy this star product directly from Adore Beauty!
2. Philosophy No Reason to Hide Multi-Imperfection Transforming Serum
This multi-functional niacinamide serum is a perfect solution for those dealing with both acne and its aftermath. Niacinamide and salicylic acid work together to calm and minimize breakouts, while licorice root extract and vitamin C help the niacinamide brighten hyperpigmentation and acne scars.
Ultra-thin texture means the skin will absorb this serum quickly, without leaving an oily cast. You can pick it up for yourself at Nordstrom.
3. DDF Wrinkle Resist Plus Pore Minimizer Moisturizing Serum
I have a hard time deciding if this is a good primer with lots of skincare properties, or a skincare product that happens to be a fantastic primer. The silicone-y texture mattifies the skin and makes pores invisible, while 2% niacinamide helps clarify the skin and fight wrinkles.
You cannot go wrong with this option as one of the best niacinamide products for daytime. It is available for sale at Ulta.
Best Niacinamide Skincare Products for Mature Skin, Dry Skin, and Wrinkles
1. Olay Regenerist Regenerating Serum
In this light and silky formula, you can find a wonderful anti-aging solution. Olay only used 2% niacinamide, but it is boosted with some very powerful wrinkle-fighting ingredients like peptides and green tea extract.
Those with dry skin will likely have to layer a moisturizer above it, but for oily skin, it more than suffices. It is available for sale at Ulta.
2. NIA24 Skin Strengthening Complex
As the most moisturizing of the niacinamide serums, this should be your go-to option if you have parched skin. It is loaded with skin-repairing ceramides and botanical oils, and the powerful wrinkle-fighter vitamin A. The texture is on the richer side, so it can work as a moisturizer for almost anyone. You can try it for yourself through SkinCareRX.
3. Strivectin-SD Intensive Concentrate for Stretch Marks and Wrinkles
This robust anti-aging solution packs a serious punch, with a ton of incredible actives to target sagging skin and wrinkles in a few different ways. It includes myristyl nicotinate, a gentle version of niacinamide, along with super hydrating ingredients that mean it can easily double as your moisturizer.
The texture is creamy, but not overly so, so can enjoy it even if your skin runs the gamut from very dry to combination. You can pick it up at Nordstrom.
Best Niacinamide Skincare Products for Brightening the Skin and Hyperpigmentation
1. Goodal Waterest First Essence
This unique niacinamide skincare product does it all, because it has been filled to the brim with some very high-powered ingredients. Those with very sensitive skin might choose to avoid it, but for anyone looking for effective skin-brightening and anti-aging results, this is the perfect product.
Niacinamide here is boosted with the proven skin-brightening licorice root extract, and anti-aging properties come from peptides, yeast ferments, and hydrating humectants. This holy grail of Asian beauty can be purchased at Ulta.
2. Sulwhasoo Snowise Brightening Spot Serum
This luxury spot treatment comes in a tiny bottle, so it is something you should certainly cherish. In addition to the extremely effective brightening effects of niacinamide, there is also mulberry leaf extract here, and skin-softening rice ferment and ginseng.
Considering the price, it is probably best to save this product just for the dark spots that really need it. You can find it for sale at Neiman Marcus.
Have you tried using niacinamide before? How did it work for you? Are you thinking of trying it? Let us know!
Photos via @5hapa, Sephora, Nordstrom