Niacinamide: List of Benefits & How to Use

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Niacinamide is a form of Vitamin B3 that is a hydrating, anti-pigmentation, anti-aging, basically an all-rounder skincare ingredient that has a lot of scientific evidence that it can completely transform your skin health and a must have in your skincare routine. 

 

There are 2 types of Vitamin B3: Niacin (found in foods) and Niacinamide (Nicotinamide, used in skincare products). You will find Niacinamide in water-based serums, moisturizers and masks. Niacinamide has an array of benefits for your skin and is good for all skin types.

What niacinamide does

Benefits of Niacinamide include:

  1. Restores hydration & improved skin barrier

A clinical study demonstrated that a moisturizer with niacinamide in it when applied twice a day to people suffering from eczema significantly improves hydration in the top layer of the skin in objective measurements and also decreases the degree of trans-epidermal water loss.

  1. Reduces redness & rosacea

Since niacinamide improves your skin barrier function, it is also found to be beneficial for people with persistent redness of rosacea. Rosacea is a skin condition with symptoms like red skin tone with flare ups that bring red bumps and pustules.

  1. Reduces Melasma

A clinical study used 4% niacinamide use on one half of the face and 4% hydroquinone (which is the standard medication care for melasma) on the other half of the face for 8 weeks and demonstrated similar improvements on both sides of the face, however the niacinamide side of the face had far less irritation and side effects than the side of the face receiving hydroquinone.

  1. Promotes collagen production

A clinical study found increased collagen synthesis in the deeper layers of the skin and improvement of the fat composition of the top layer of the skin.

  1. Controls sebum production

A clinical Study has proved measurable amounts of decreased oil after 2-4 weeks of consistent use.

  1. Controls Mild Acne

A clinical study demonstrated a decrease in acne lesions with topical niacinamide. Another study found that use of niacinamide for 8 weeks was as effective as clindamycin (standary acne medication prescribed along with benzoyl peroxide). Since Niacinamide can help in controlling sebum production, that also means that it will help to alleviate mild to moderate acne. Furthermore, niacinamide has antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties. 

  1. Minimizes the appearance of enlarged pores

Since niacinamide controls excess oil production in your skin, it will help you in reducing the appearance of enlarged pores as well because if the clogged pores are clogged with reduced sebum and dead skin, the finer and smaller the pores will appear.

  1. Reduces Hyperpigmentation

Niacinamide prevents melanosomes (packets of melanin) from reaching the keratinocyte cells (cells in the top layer of skin - epidermis). This means that you don’t see the hyperpigmentation on your face. It also helps in inhibiting the production of melanin by producing keratin, which increases the thickness of the skin’s outer layer. A clinical study also concluded 4% niacinamide to be as effective as 4% hydroquinone for skin brightening.

  1. Evens out the skin tone & texture

As niacinamide prevents melanin from reaching your skin surface, it therefore would lead to a brightening effect and even skin tone with no irregular melanin spots on your face. 

  1. Gets rid of free radicals

Mopping up free radicals is also the main benefit of Vitamin C. The benefit of using Niacinamide to do this job is that niacinamide is stable while Vitamin C is highly unstable, acidic and degrades quickly when in air or light.

  1. Reduces fine lines & wrinkles

Since Niacinamide improves your collagen production and skin barrier function thereby improving the hydration within your skin, it results in reduced fine lines and wrinkles. It is also demonstrated to decrease UV radiation mediated damages to the skin. Wrinkles, Sagging and dry persistent hyperpigmentation is directly related to reduced hydration, UV radiation damage from free radicals that lead to damaging our skin’s collagen framework.

 

So if we were to put all the expected results from Niacinamide in one line, it is a hydrating, anti-pigmentation, anti-aging, all-rounder skincare ingredient that has a lot of scientific evidence that it can completely transform your skin health.

How Niacinamide Works on Skin

Niacinamide is a water soluble vitamin, which means it won’t dissolve in oil. As soon as you apply Niacinamide on your skin, it gets easily absorbed by the outer layer of skin without disturbing the acid mantle (combination of oils and proteins on the outer layer of the skin).

Who needs to use Niacinamide

The skin conditions for which niacinamide has been demonstrated to be useful include dry skin, eczema, dark spots, melasma, rosacea, acne and oiliness.

How To Use Niacinamide

Niacinamide works well on a higher pH level. Niacinamide comes in the form of water based serums, masks or powder and should be applied in the serum stage of your skincare routine. After cleansing and exfoliating your face and applying all your low-pH water-based serums and toners, apply a thin layer of niacinamide serum (2-3 drops) all over your face. The reason why you want to apply your low pH serums like Vitamin C serum first is because niacinamide prefers a high pH skin when applied. Finish off your routine by applying a moisturizer to hydrate and seal off all the ingredients. 

How long to work

Most clinical studies conclude that the benefits of niacinamide on your skin can be seen after 8 to 12 weeks of daily application. If you don’t see results, the niacinamide is probably not dissolving well into your skin due to clogged pores and dead cells. Another reason could be that your product does not have a good amount or quality of niacinamide in it to deliver the anticipated benefits.

 

Consider double cleansing and exfoliation. Another reason why you may not be seeing results with niacinamide is that niacinamide is not classified as a drug like salicylic acid or vitamin C. This means that it is not regulated by the FDA to check for efficacy and quality of niacinamide so you are at the mercy of skincare companies that they use a good quality non-degraded niacinamide with good concentration. So you may consider trying niacinamide from another brand if you don’t see results with the one you are using.

Niacinamide Breaking You Out?

Niacinamide is one of the most stable ingredients in skincare with a pH of 7 (neutral) which means that it is non-acidic so it won’t make your skin dry (which may cause acne) and it is also not alkaline to cause any potential irritation or damage your skin barrier (which again, may lead to acne). If you are experiencing a breakout while using niacinamide, it is very likely not niacinamide that is the culprit.

Niacinamide burn?

Niacinamide is extremely safe to use even in high percentages of 10% and should not cause any burning sensation when applied. If you are experiencing burn when applying niacinamide, it is probably another ingredient in your niacinamide product that may be irritating your skin. Also try to use any other ingredient like alpha arbutin or even applying a moisturizer and if you still feel the burn, it is very likely that your skin barrier is compromised and you need hydration and moisture. Also note that if you have just started incorporating a retinoid in your routine, it is a normal reaction for your skin to flake and purge in the first few weeks of use. This is also true with several other ingredients, however this is not the case with niacinamide.

 

Get rid of any other treatment serums and focus on the hydrating non-irritant products in your routine and keep the routine simple for a few days until the burning sensation goes away. Also make sure your niacinamide or any other products that you use should not have any fragrance and irritants.

Niacinamide and Vitamin C

The myth surrounding the use of niacinamide and Vitamin C is based on a clinical study done in the 1960 where they used non-stable forms of both ingredients (which is not what is used in skincare products) at a very high temperature. So basically the study was conducted in a scenario that does not fit the skincare industry use. On the contrary, using niacinamide and vitamin C in the same routine could provide a wealth of combined benefits.

Niacinamide and The Ordinary Vitamin C

If you are using Niacinamide and Vitamin C from The Ordinary, they do not recommend using Niacinamide serum with the Vitamin C (The Ordinary L-Ascorbic Vitamin C powder) probably based on that old 1960s study. You can still use the Niacinamide serum with the derivatives of Vitamin C like Magnesium Ascorbyl Glucoside, Ascorbyl Glucoside and Ascorbyl Tetraisopalmitate Glucoside. If you are using a Niacinamide powder, you cannot use Vitamin C at all - neither the pure forms of Vitamin C nor the derivatives.

 

If you don’t want to remember the different types of pure vs derivative Vitamin C’s from The Ordinary, when using Vitamin C, just don’t use Niacinamide in your routine when you are using any form of Vitamin C. You can use Vitamin C in the evening without Niacinamide, and then use Niacinamide in the morning without Vitamin C. Easy Peasy!

 

Although don’t be so scared if you mix them, your skin won't burn. That is not the case. The reason why the mixture of these is not allowed is because it basically reduces the effectiveness of one ingredient over the other. So if you mix them, you won’t necessarily get irritation but it will just not be a very effective skin care routine.

 

The Ordinary Product

Vitamin C Allowed

Vitamin C not allowed

Niacinamide Serum 10%

Vitamin C Derivatives

Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate

Ascorbyl Glucoside

Ascorbyl Tetraisopalmitate Glucoside

Pure Vitamin c

L-Ascorbic Acid Powder

Vitamin C 23%

Vitamin C 30%

Ethylated Ascorbic Acid

Ascorbic Acid + Alpha Arbutin

Niacinamide Powder

No Vitamin C allowed to be used along with Niacinamide Powder.

Pure Vitamin c

L-Ascorbic Acid Powder

Vitamin C 23%

Vitamin C 30%

Ethylated Ascorbic Acid

Ascorbic Acid + Alpha Arbutin

Vitamin C Derivatives

Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate

Ascorbyl Glucoside

Ascorbyl Tetraisopalmitate Glucoside

 

Niacinamide vs Retinol

Some of the benefits of using Niacinamide are comparable to that of using Retinol, namely stimulating collagen production, decreased fine lines, controlling sebum production and acne control. Retinol is a less potent form of retinoids but is still irritating to the skin while niacinamide is very stable and non-irritating. Each ingredient on its own also offers other benefits and complement each other.

 

If you have very sensitive skin and have had bad experience using retinoids in the past, it is best to stick with using niacinamide as it also offers almost the same benefits with regular use. However, if you are an experienced retinol user and your skin has adapted to the use of stronger concentrations of retinoids, it is recommended to use both in your skincare routine weather formulated in one product or used separately as serum.

Top 5 Niacinamide Products

  1. The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1% ($8 | 30ml)

The ordinary Niacinamide 10% zinc 1% for acne scar treatment

The booster used for improving the efficacy of niacinamide in The Ordinary is Zinc which is completely non-irritating and a great niacinamide.

  1. The Inkey List Niacinamide ($7 | 30ml)

The Inkey List niacinamide serum

  1. CeraVe PM Facial Moisturizing Lotion ($24 | 90 ml)

CeraVe Niacinamide Lotion PM Facial Lotion

  1. Paula’s Choice 10% Niacinamide Booster ($44 | 20ml)

Niacinamide Serum bottle of Paula's Choice

  1. CeraVe Eye Repair Cream ($15 | 14ml)

CeraVe Eye Repair Cream for Dark Circles Puffiness

The Second ingredient in this product is Niacinamide. It has got humectants. Glycerin, Ceramides, Jojoba esters. If your skin is feeling dry around the eye area, these ingredients will help.

Citations

Following clinical studies were read in order to provide you with the most accurate information about niacinamide:

  1. A Double-Blind, Randomized Clinical Trial of Niacinamide 4% versus Hydroquinone 4% in the Treatment of Melasma
  2. How Much Do We Really Know About Our Favorite Cosmeceutical Ingredients?
  3. The effect of 2% niacinamide on facial sebum production
  4. An Investigation of Efficacy of Topical Niacinamide for the Treatment of Mild and Moderate Acne Vulgaris
  5. Comparison of topical 5% nicotinamid gel versus 2% clindamycin gel in the treatment of the mild-moderate acne vulgaris: A double-blinded randomized clinical trial
  6. A Double-Blind, Randomized Clinical Trial of Niacinamide 4% versus Hydroquinone 4% in the Treatment of Melasma
  7. Moisturizing effects of topical niacinamide on atopic dry skin
  8. Niacinamide-containing facial moisturizer improves skin barrier and benefits subjects with rosacea
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