The Amazing Things Niacinamide Can Do for Your Skin
You've heard of retinol and hyaluronic acid and vitamin C, but niacinamide is another major player that deserves its own time in the skin-care spotlight. Niacinamide is a form of vitamin B3 (aka niacin), and it offers a laundry list of different benefits that make it a great pick for anyone and everyone, no matter your complexion concern.
Seriously, this powerful active ingredient can moisturize, support the skin barrier, soothe, *and* help treat pigmentation, acne, and wrinkles "without causing irritation," says Caroline Robinson, M.D., a dermatologist in Chicago. In other words, it can do the same heavy lifting that other actives do without the redness or dryness they might cause. In fact, it makes skin calmer as it gets firmer and smoother.
Ahead, top dermatologists weigh in on all the niacinamide skin benefits and share their favorite niacinamide products.
What Is Niacinamide?
As mentioned, niacinamide is a form of vitamin B3 and, like other B vitamins, it plays an important role in ensuring the cells throughout your body function properly. "Vitamin B3 is essential to the process of converting the food you consume into usable energy," says Sheel Desai Solomon, M.D., a dermatologist in the Raleigh/Durham, North Carolina area. "It also aids your cells in carrying out important chemical reactions." (Related: Here's Why B Vitamins Are So Important for Energy.)
Your body doesn't store niacinamide, so it's important you get it through your diet; it's found in many animal products, such as meat and milk, as well in green vegetables and grains. Fun fact: Niacinamide has been shown to be beneficial to the skin both when taken orally and used topically, says Marnie Nussbaum, M.D., NYC-based dermatologist.
The Skin Benefits of Niacinamide
It's not so much a question of what niacinamide can do for your skin, but more of what it can't do. First and foremost, "niacinamide is a precursor to molecules that allow all cells, including skin cells, to repair damage and neutralize free radicals that can cause skin cancer and the breakdown of collagen and elastin," says Dr. Nussbaum. Translation: It's an essential vitamin for keeping your skin strong, healthy, and youthful.
Aside from that preventative benefit, there are many other niacinamide benefits that make it a great ingredient for all kinds of complexion concerns. Dealing with dryness? Niacinamide increases the production of ceramides, which protect your skin barrier and seal in moisture, says Dr. Nussbaum. (Related: How to Boost Your Skin Barrier and Why You Should)
Have unwanted spots? "Niacinamide inhibits the transfer of pigment to cells, improving discoloration," explains dermatologist Bradley Bloom, M.D., at Laser & Skin Surgery in New York City. (Here's more on why hyperpigmentation happens and how to get rid of it.)
Trying to calm down irritation? Niacinamide is both an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, says, Lauren Boudreaux, D.O., a dermatologist in Oregon. "So it neutralizes and calms the skin's inflammatory responses to things like UV radiation and cell turnover." And it's a gentler and more stable antioxidant than vitamin C, another hardworking ingredient, making it ideal for sensitive skin.
What about if you're acne-prone? Yep, niacinamide is good for that, too; along with the anti-inflammatory effects, it's also been shown to decrease oil production and normalizes the lining of the pores, keeping them from getting clogged and enlarged, says Dr. Solomon.
The bottom line: Niacinamide's long list of benefits make it a good pick for plenty of different skin types or issues, and it's also one of the best-studied ingredients in the cosmeceutical world, says Dr. Bloom. Plus, unlike many other potent skin-care ingredients, it's also fairly well-tolerated by most, as long as you use it correctly. (P.S. here's how long it'll take for you to see this niacinamide's skin benefits.)
The Best Way to Use Niacinamide
What you mix and match this ingredient with is crucial, as niacinamide can turn too acidic from interacting with other ingredients, breaking down into nicotinic acid and causing irritation, cautions Dr. Bloom. If you're using any alpha- or beta-hydroxy acids in your skin-care regimen, use them at a different time of day or wait at least 30 minutes in between application, advises Dr. Nussbaum. (Related: The Skin Benefits of Lactic, Malic, Phytic, Tartaric, and Citric Acids)
If you use a vitamin C serum in the morning, apply it first and let it absorb, then follow with a serum or a moisturizer that contains niacinamide. Interestingly, "when you combine niacinamide with something irritating like retinol or vitamin C, it seems to enhance the tolerability," says Dr. Boudreaux. Apply it again at night after you cleanse, tone, exfoliate, or use a retinol. Make sure you use a formula that contains at least 2 percent niacinamide. (This guide will help you remember the best order to apply all your skin-care products.)
The Best Niacinamide Products
Niacinamide pairs well with hydrating ingredients, so it's a good ingredient to look for in a moisturizer, points out Dr. Solomon. To get the most bang for your buck, look for a niacinamide serum; the lightweight formulas will contain higher concentrations of the active ingredient. Check out nine derm-approved product picks below:
CervaVe PM Facial Moisturizing Lotion
This lotion is especially effective at keeping the skin barrier protected overnight, says Dr. Boudreaux, who recommends this product along with Dr. Nussbaum and Dr. Solomon. You can thank the three ceramides, hyaluronic acid, and of course, niacinamide for its skin-care perks.
Alastin Restorative Skin Complex
Pricey but worth it, Dr. Bloom calls this product "brilliantly-designed" for its combination of multiple ingredients, including niacinamide, that all work synergistically to combat aging.
The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%
Got breakouts? Reach for this formula, which, "reduces the appearance of enlarged pores, congestion, and balances the overproduction of oil," says Dr. Solomon. Dr. Nussbaum also recommends this treatment, which has the added benefit of a very affordable price tag.
SkinMedica Lytera 2.0 Pigment Correcting Serum
"This is one of my favorite skin-brightening products," says Dr. Bloom. "It combines some of the most effective brightening ingredients out there, including niacinamide, in a non-irritating formula."
Skinceuticals Metacell Renewal Vitamin B3
"This light lotion contains niacinamide to decrease the effects of aging," says Dr. Nussbaum. Use it twice daily, on your face, neck, and chest.
Paula's Choice Skin Balancing Pore-Reducing Toner
"I strongly recommend this toner because it gives high-quality hydration, balances the skin, and smooths while still feeling weightless," says Dr. Solomon.
EltaMD Barrier Renewal Complex
For those who need or prefer a heavy hit of hydration, Dr. Bloom recommends this rich moisturizer, which has the added benefit of niacinamide to reduce any redness or irritation.
Olay Ultimate Eye Cream
Dr. Robin's pick for the eye area, this three-in-one drugstore buy reduces the appearance of under-eye circles, wrinkles, and puffiness, thanks to the niacinamide and amino peptides. Plus, it's formulated with color-correcting technology, so it'll look like you just applied a touch of concealer, no matter your skin tone.
ISDIN Pigment Expert Ampoules
This serum, which has the backing of Dr. Robinson, is formulated with 5 percent niacinamide and glycolic acid, so you can expect it to gently brighten and even skin tone.