A Guide to Niacinamide (Vitamin B3) in Skin Care
Do you suffer from enlarge pores, uneven skin tone or fine lines? Find out why skin care products with niacinamide are best for you.
Whether it's vitamin C, retinol, hyaluronic acid or CBD (cannabis extract and oil), these buzzy words have taken the spotlight in recent years. Niacinamide is also part of this trend, but it's definitely an underrepresented ingredient among the superstars.
One of the many reasons why niacinamide should deserve praise is that it is literally a multi-tasker for skin care. Who doesn't love using one product that can treat multiple skin issues at once, such as pigmentation, wrinkles, pimples and redness?
Thanks to its unparalleled benefits, many brands and companies have used this "everything ingredient" in their skin care products. Now, check your favorite serums, moisturizers and boosters, chances are you've found nicotinamide lurking in some of these products.
But if you're still not sure what niacinamide is or what it does in your moisturizer, you're not alone. Here's what you need to know before adding it to your skin care routine.
What exactly is niacinamide?
Niacinamide, also known as nicotinamide, is a water-soluble vitamin B3 and one of the two main forms of this vitamin, the other being niacin (nicotinic acid). It is an essential nutrient for the development and function of your body's cells.
Niacinamide is found in B-complex supplements, in foods such as fish, meat, milk, yeast, eggs, beans, vegetables and grains.
It is easily absorbed by the skin and works brilliantly when applied topically in skin care for acne, eczema and other skin conditions. It can be taken orally for diabetes, oral cancer, osteoarthritis and many other conditions.
What Is the difference between niacin and niacinamide?
Niacinamide is a water-soluble amide form of niacin or vitamin B3—and your body can convert niacin to nicotinamide.
Niacin and nicotinamide have similar efficacy when used as vitamins; however, their pharmacological properties differ, as high doses of niacin can cause flushing.
In contrast, nicotinamide is marketed as a form of niacin that does not cause flushing, making it a more appropriate component in cosmetic products or when a doctor is preventing or treating niacin deficiency or pellagra.
What are the benefits of niacinamide for the skin?
As a skin care product, niacinamide has a long list of benefits, including supporting the skin barrier (the outer surface of the skin), increasing skin cell turnover, restoring moisture, and protecting the skin from environmental damage such as sun exposure and pollution.
In addition, it helps improve the texture of your skin by visibly minimizing and tightening pores and correcting imperfections, while softening fine lines and wrinkles and diminishing dullness, blackheads and pigmentation issues.
Vitamin B3 has anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties, and can inhibit excessive sebum production that leads to breakouts. It also unclogs pores and prevents unwanted hair growth and acne.
The benefits of vitamin B3 for skin care include:
- Strengthens the skin barrier
- Regulate oil production
- Improve skin texture
- Improves uneven skin tone
- Fade hyperpigmentation
- Reduce signs of ageing
- Shrink enlarged pores
- Lessen blackheads
- Improve skin's hydration
- Soothe rosacea and eczema
- Brighten skin and improve dullness
- Reduce inflammation in moderate acne
- Protect against oxidative stress
- Minimize redness and blotchiness
- Boost collagen production
- Great for all skin types
Does niacinamide fade dark spots, acne scars?
Niacinamide is a potent antioxidant that can assist with improving tone and reducing the look of discoloration, acne scars, and dark patches, resulting in a more even-toned complexion. Studies have shown that nicotinamide can also be effective against melasma.
Which skin types will benefit from niacinamide?
Niacinamide is a multi-tasking gloss that can benefit from being added to their skin care routine for most people of all ages and skin types. Because different aspects of this ingredient can benefit each of your skin types and concerns.
For example, if you have oily or combination skin, you will appreciate its property of reducing excess oil. It's also a natural anti-inflammatory, so it's great for calming irritated skin, which is ideal for people with sensitive skin and those who suffer from acne.
Dry skin can also benefit from it as it helps to improve skin hydration by preventing the evaporation of moisture from the skin into the environment. Topical vitamin B3 is also an excellent choice for mature skin as it helps lighten age spots and reduce wrinkles after prolonged use.
How long does it take for niacinamide to work?
It really depends on the product you use, its formula and its concentration. For a mild skin problem, you will notice some visible effects within two weeks; however, for stubborn concerns such as hyperpigmentation, results may take 8 to 12 weeks.
Can I layer niacinamide and hyaluronic acid?
Yes, you can definitely use niacinamide and hyaluronic acid together, as they are both water-based treatments designed for all skin types, especially those with dehydrated, oily, acne-prone skin.
Just remember that you should always apply hyaluronic acid first to lock in the high volume of water in the skin cells, then nicotinamide to keep the skin hydrated and prevent moisture loss.
Can I use niacinamide with vitamin C?
There is a debate on the subject but niacinamide cannot be mixed with vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, is a misconception. This pair can be a particularly powerful combination, making your skin more radiant and smooth.
In particular, a product that contains both vitamin C and niacinamide has probably been specially formulated, so they should work wonders on the skin.
However, if you are using two separate products containing these ingredients, wait 15-20 minutes between applications or incorporate one in the morning and the other at night.
This is because combining these two ingredients turns niacinamide into niacin, which is not harmful, but can cause short-term effects such as skin redness, irritation and stinging in people with sensitive skin, rosacea.
( A related blog post: What does vitamin C do for skin? )
Can I use niacinamide with glycolic acid (AHA), salicylic acid (BHA)?
Yes, it is possible if you stagger the application to avoid negative reactions and maintain the effectiveness of Alpha hydroxy acids and Beta hydroxy acids. Because combining niacinamide with AHA or BHA will affect the effectiveness of the acids due to their pH levels.
Vitamin B3 has a much higher pH, around 6.0, while glycolic acid and salicylic acid usually has a pH between 3.0 and 4.0. This means that the niacinamide raises the pH of the hydroxy acids so that it is no longer acidic when used together. This can also lead to redness and flushing of the skin as well.
( A suggested blog post: How are AHA, BHA, and PHA different? )
Can niacinamide be used with retinol?
Pairing these two amazing ingredients can enhance the benefits of each from improving fine lines, sallowness, skin tone and texture to neutralizing the damaging effects from environmental stressors.
In fact, dermatologists say that retinol and niacinamide is a recommended combination for achieving quicker results.
If you decide to layer them, it is recommended that you apply the niacinamide first to help moisturize the skin and protect it from the effects of retinol.
What can I layer niacinamide with?
Niacinamide can be compatible with other active ingredients for optimal results. Per those acne-fighting benefits, nicotinamide is often paired with salicylic acid (beta hydroxy acid), copper, folic acid, zinc, centella asiatica, which is a mainstay in anti-acne treatments.
If it's plumper, younger-looking skin you're after, you can combine it with retinol, peptides, hyaluronic acid and other stable, potent antioxidants, such as catechins, quercetin and tocopherol(vitamin E), and Camellia Sinensis (green tea).
Can niacinamide break you out?
Skin purging refers to your skin's temporary reaction (acne flare-up) to an active ingredient that triggers cell turnover.
Some people may experience irritation and breakouts when you start using a product with vitamin B3, but it is unlikely that niacinamide to cause purging.
If you experience a breakout after using a vitamin B3 product, take a look at the formula to see if something else might be triggering your skin. The most common ingredients that trigger skin purging are retinoids, vitamin C, AHAs and BHAs (glycolic, malic, lactic and salicylic acid).
When and how often should I use niacinamide?
For best results, you can apply a leave-on niacinamide product twice a day, morning and evening. Because in general, it is well tolerated by all skin types, including sensitive skin.
Niacinamide is one of the two forms of vitamin B3 — the other being nicotinic acid. Vitamin B3 is also known as niacin.
Niacin, also known as nicotinic acid, is a form of vitamin B3 – an essential nutrient that aids in growth and development of the human body.
What strength of niacinamide is best?
When shopping, look for a product with 2 to 10 percent niacinamide, as many studies have used a range of two to ten percent for topical use.
If you want to be on the safe side, stick to formulations with a concentration of 10 percent or less, which is enough to improve acne, enlarged pores.
However, if you want to treat more advanced and stubborn problems, such as enlarged pores or orange peel-like skin texture, you can try with a higher dosage, such as 15-20%.
Beware, however, this may cause stinging or redness in sensitive skin. It is best to start with a lower dosage and work your way up if you have never used this active ingredient.
5 Best niacinamide serum for clear, bright skin
The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%
This is one of the most famous serums, ridiculously affordable and absolutely lives up to the hype. This lightweight, non-sticky texture is ideal for oily, combination, congested and blemish-prone skin.
Formulated with 10% niacinamide and 1% zinc. Together, these ingredients help reduce acne, clogged pores and excess oil while increasing hydration to the outermost layer of the skin.
Cosrx AC Collection Blemish Spot Clearing Serum
If you're looking to fade acne spots without drying or irritating your skin, look no further than this innovative and gentle face care product.
The formula contains Centella Asiatica, 4% niacinamide and bee propolis, which work together to soothe, fade spots, prevent scarring, decongest pores and moisturize, making it a must-have for anyone battling breakouts.
💘 Shop Now Cosrx AC Collection Anti-Blemish Serum
Glow Recipe Watermelon Glow Niacinamide Dew Drops
In addition to niacinamide, this unique "highlighting serum" contains hyaluronic acid and watermelon extracts that brighten skin, reduce hyperpigmentation and give skin a beautiful radiance.
This tone booster can be used alone as a serum, mixed with foundation for a luminous glow, or over makeup for a subtle illuminating effect.
SkinCeuticals B3 Metacell Renewal
This anti-aging serum contains 5% vitamin B3, 2.5% peptides and 15% glycerin to diminish and prevent the appearance of discoloration, blotchiness and photoaging, such as deep wrinkles, fine lines and creases, and increase skin's hydration by strengthening its moisture barrier.
The formula also includes amino acids to help boost collagen levels, as well as glycerin to hydrate the skin. This lightweight serum is dermatologist-tested and suitable for all skin types, including sensitive and mature skin.
Paula's Choice Niacinamide 20% Treatment
If your skin has issues with uneven texture, stretched pores or stubborn oil-related bumps, this highly concentrated nicotinamide treatment is an excellent choice for you.
It is paired with vitamin C, green tea and acetyl glucosamine to effectively minimize the appearance of post-breakout marks, rough bumps caused by age or sun damage, revealing a smoother, brighter and more refined appearance.