Niacinamide is the skincare ingredient on every influencer’s lips — and with good reason. The antioxidant version of a Swiss army knife, its benefits range from brightening to helping banish bumpy skin. But what exactly is niacinamide, how does it work, and will it work for your skin type? Board certified dermatologist Dr. Muneeb Shah weighs in as we explore the science behind this buzzy skincare ingredient.
What is Niacinamide?
Niacinamide is a specific, water-soluble form of vitamin B3. You’ll most often find this form of vitamin B listed in skincare ingredients as niacinamide or nicotinic acid.
“The important difference between nicotinic acid and niacinimide is that nicotinic acid causes flushing in some people,” says Dr. Shah.
Your body can’t produce niacinamide on its own. Thus, if you want to reap its skincare benefits, you’ll need to apply it topically. At the cellular level, niacinamide acts as an antioxidant, fighting inflammation and free radical damage. It also inhibits changes in pigment and improves the skin’s natural protective layer, thus reducing the impact of environmental stressors and preventing transepidermal water loss.
“Transepidermal water loss is exactly what we want to prevent with our moisturizers,” says Dr. Shah. “When your skin loses water through evaporation, it becomes dehydrated, loses volume and can start to crack. Niacinamide helps to lock in moisture and prevent transepidermal water loss, so it has a moisturizing function in addition to all its other benefits.”
What Does Niacinamide Do for Skin?
When niacinamide is applied to skin, it’s broken down into the form of vitamin B that our skin cells can use, the coenzyme nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide. It’s this coenzyme that’s responsible for niacinamide’s many benefits, which include:
Strengthening the skin’s natural protective barrier
- Locking in moisture
- Increasing dermal collagen to tighten lax skin
- Fighting environmental stressors to ward off premature aging
- Minimizing enlarged pores
- Improving uneven skin tone
- Brightening dull skin
- Decreasing oil production, clearing skin and visibly improving under-skin bumps
- Reducing inflammation to visibly calm red, irritated skin
- Supercharging efficacy of other active ingredients such as vitamin C
Who Should Use Niacinamide?
Niacinamide is safe for all skin types, including sensitive skin. Choose products containing niacinamide if your skin concerns include:
- Red, irritated skin
- Dark spots and uneven skin tone
- Oiliness and blemishes
- Enlarged pores and uneven texture
- Visible signs of aging
How to Use Niacinamide
Niacinamide works best when used in leave-on skincare formulas such as serums and moisturizers.
“Use it after cleansing during the treatment or moisturizer phase of your skincare routine,” says Dr. Shah.
“It’s also an ingredient that works really when you layer it with other ingredients,” says Dr. Shah. “It mixes well with things like retinol to offset irritation and also has anti-acne properties, so it layers well with oily skin products as well.”
Which Biossance Formulas Contain Niacinamide?