Everything You Need to Know About Niacinamide and What It Can Do For Your Skin
The vitamin takes first place when it comes to multi-tasking, delivering a host of benefits for your complexion.
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. Ahead, top dermatologists weigh in on why this B vitamin deserves an A+ rating, and share their favorite niacinamide products.
What is niacinamide?
As mentioned, niacinamide 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.
So, what are the benefits of niacinamide for skin?
It's not so much a question of what niacinamide can do for your skin, but more of what it can't do. The answer: Not much. 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 Need To)
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. Trying to calm down irritation? It also has an anti-inflammatory effect, says Dr. Bloom. 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. (Related: The Best Dark Spot Treatments, According to Dermatologists)
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. (Related: Meet Bakuchiol, the New "It" Anti-Aging Skin-Care Ingredient)
What's 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.)
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 seven derm-approved product picks below:
Alastin Restorative Skin Complex (Buy It, $195, alastin.com): 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% (Buy It, $6, sephora.com): 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 (Buy It, $154, dermstore.com): "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 (Buy It, $112, dermstore.com): "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 (Buy It, $21, amazon.com): "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 (Buy It, $55, dermstore.com): 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.