Niacinamide is probably one of the most hyped skincare ingredients these days, while contrary to many other ingredients, Niacinamide deserves the hype and attention it is receiving and it is a must-have in everyone’s skincare routine. In this guide to Niacinamide, I will help you understand what is Niacinamide, What are the benefits of using Niacinamide in skincare and What ingredients does Niacinamide gel with and what ingredients it should not be used with and what concentrations are effective and where you can start.
What is Niacinamide?
When referring to Vitamin B3, you keep hearing 4 different terms, Niacin, Nicotinic acid, Niacinamide and Nicotinamide. Here, when you are referring to the form of Vitamin B3 that you can consume, it is Niacin which is also known as Nicotinic acid and when you are referring to the form of Vitamin B3 that you find in skincare, it is basically Niacinamide, which is also known as Nicotinamide.
What are the benefits of Niacinamide?
If you want a one-line gist of what is the role of Niacinamide in skincare, I can tell you that Niacinamide is the real MVP of the skin care ingredients and is also considered the holy grail of skincare products. Niacinamide is water-soluble and has a pH level of around 7, which is similar to that of our skin. Niacinamide is non-acidic and non-irritating and works well for all skin types.It is also easily absorbed into the skin and helps protect our skin’s acid mantle. hence protecting and improving our skin.
The list of individual benefits of using Niacinamide in your skincare routine include:
- Niacinamide improves skin barrier function
- Regulates sebum production
- It decreases hyperpigmentation
- Protects against damage caused by sun exposure
- Minimizes fine lines & wrinkles
- Decreases redness & blotchiness
- Stimulates collagen and Improves skin elasticity
- Reduces skin pores
- Treats acne
Niacinamide for Hyperpigmentation :
In several studies, it is reported that niacinamide significantly decreases hyperpigmentation and increased skin lightness, when niacinamide is used topically on the skin, it helps reduce melanin production by disrupting one of the key enzymes that produce it.
The top layer of the skin is called the epidermis and the epidermal-melanin unit, which gives our skin its colour, is composed of one melanocyte and approximately 36 neighbouring keratinocytes. All these work in synchrony to produce and distribute melanin. Melanin is synthesized in melanosomes, transferred to the dendrite tips, and translocated into keratinocytes. Niacinamide works in alleviating hyperpigmentation by inhibiting melanosome transfer from melanocytes to keratinocytes.
You may already know that Hydroquinone is the golden standard for the treatment of hyperpigmentation and a recent double-blind study with a randomized clinical trial of Niacinamide 4% versus Hydroquinone 4%, has shown that niacinamide is equally effective in treating hyperpigmentation with lesser side effects and irritation.
Niacinamide for alleviating TEWL (Trans Epidermal Water Loss) :
Trans Epidermal Water Loss or TEWL is the phenomenon, where water is lost from the layers of skin into the environment and is an indicator of our skin barrier function. When our skin is damaged, it directly damages our skin barrier function which causes increased transepidermal water loss, with the layers of the skin losing their hydration, in turn causing our skin to become dry, flaky, sensitive, red and blotchy and also the same happens when we age.
With the regular application of Niacinamide, the moisture content of the stratum corneum ( The topmost layer of the Epidermis) increases and also strengthens our skin barrier function, while greatly reducing transepidermal water loss keeping your skin, healthy, hydrated and well-nourished. Thus reducing signs of ageing such as fine lines and wrinkles.
Niacinamide for acne :
Niacinamide is not only great for hyperpigmentation caused by acne, it is actually a very gentle ingredient to treat acne too. Niacinamide is anti-inflammatory and helps alleviate the damage due to bacterial infection on skin , it also helps acne by controlling and reducing the amount of sebum that is secreted from your pores.
Niacinamide for Large pores :
Niacinamide helps shrink skin pores, unclogging them from sebum and dead skin. The less the pores are clogged, the smaller the pores will be, making it a great ingredient to treat large pores. Niacinamide works wonders in shrinking pores and reducing the bumpy texture of our skin, especially when used with salicylic acid.
Niacinamide can also be paired with panthenol ( pro-vitamin B5) making it a very effective solution for reducing large pores and hyperpigmentation.
What percentage of Niacinamide is effective?
Niacinamide is available in the market, in different forms and products, in concentrations ranging from 2% to as high as 20%. Similar to introducing any new active to your skincare regimen, you should start Niacinamide with lower concentrations, here the good news is that studies have pointed out that even lower concentrations of Niacinamide are also very effective in providing results.
How to use Niacinamide?
Niacinamide is available in different forms of products in the market, you can find niacinamide as one of the major ingredients in products like sunscreens, moisturisers, toners, hyperpigmentation and dark spot creams & masks and also as in high concentrations as serums. How to add Niacinamide to your skincare regimen depends on what are your skincare needs and goals.
If you are very young and want to add the goodness of this amazing ingredient to your skincare, you can use a niacinamide sunscreen or moisturiser, which will help you avoid acne, strengthen your skin barrier and also avoid hyperpigmentation caused by sun exposure.
If your skin is damaged due to sun exposure and you are suffering from hyperpigmentation or rosacea, it will be helpful to include niacinamide as masks or serums.
If your skin is damaged due to ageing, have large skin pores, then you may start using niacinamide in higher concentrations in serum form, with niacinamide concentration above 10%.
What ingredients can I layer it with?
Niacinamide is one skincare ingredient, which is very safe and is also layering friendly. It can be layered along with a lot of skincare ingredients, including a lot of actives. It is a very stable ingredient, which can be used at high concentrations and is still well tolerated by the skin.
With Retinol :
Retinol is another skincare super ingredient, we all know about, the only problem with retinol is some of the potential side effects like skin irritation, redness, dryness and peeling. Niacinamide not only works very well with retinol and when used alongside retinol, but it can also offset some of the skin irritation and side effects caused by retinol.
With Vitamin C :
It has been a long-standing myth that you cannot use Vitamin C and Niacinamide together, which actually was true way back when the study was indeed done, i.e., in 1960s, but nowadays both of these ingredients work well alongside each other. With the modern formulations, both Vitamin C and Niacinamide are stable and doesn’t affect the efficacy of either of the ingredients and they indeed are a great combination if you are yearning for some amazing glow on your face.
With Hyaluronic Acid:
Both Niacinamide and hyaluronic acid are great humectants, i.e., they absorb water from the environment and keep your skin hydrated. And both make an amazing combination for keeping your skin well hydrated and moisturised. You can first apply hyaluronic acid on your face after cleansing, to give you that hydration and then you can layer with Niacinamide to provide your skin moisturisation and protection against environmental damage.
With AHA’s and BHA’s :
Indeed, you can use Niacinamide with AHA’s and BHA’s, but it is generally advised that you apply them at different times on your skin to avoid any possible skin irritation caused by using potent actives together on your skin. You may either time these 30 minutes apart in your skincare routine or use Niacinamide in the morning and use the exfoliants such as AHA’s and BHA’s in the evening.
With Alpha Arbutin:
Another amazing ingredient to treat hyperpigmentation, Arbutin is a naturally occurring chemical and is an extract derived from bearberry plants, blueberry plants and cranberry plants. You can definitely use Niacinamide with Arbutin or the More stable form Alpha Arbutin and it is a great combination to alleviate your hyperpigmentation and also lighten and brighten your skin.
Niacinamide, in general, is a very safe ingredient and you don’t get any side effects with niacinamide products, but when you do get any skin irritation, it is definitely due to some other ingredient used in that formulation and not niacinamide.
Niacinamide is an amazing anti-oxidant and it has been shown to benefit the skin in so many ways, including helping to alleviate UV damage from sun exposure, fighting free radicals, help to reduce the secretion of sebum in pores, making your skin less oily, help to unclog pores, shrinking your large pores, helps improve your skin barrier, keeps your skin hydrated and healthy, it helps reduce hyperpigmentation, redness and rosacea. Topping all this niacinamide is a stable and safe ingredient that you can layer with so many other actives.
So in conclusion, even if it is not the most important skincare ingredient, it is definitely one of the most important ingredients in skincare and you should definitely add it to your skincare routine, the way it suits your skincare needs.
This article is medically reviewed by our expert dermatologist, Dr Nagakeerthana Sunder, M.D. DVL