If Niacinamide had to be described in one word, it’d be this: “do-it-all”. Among its many benefits, Niacinamide’s been shown to strengthen the skin barrier, soothe and fight inflammation, fade fine lines and dark spots, normalize sebum production, and even decrease the appearance of pores. Suffice to say, adding this prime example of a skincare workhorse to your routine will not disappoint. Still, the cryptic name may leave you feeling hesitant about hopping on the wagon – because, after all, what is Niacinamide, really?
We got you. Continue reading for a breakdown of what Niacinamide is, how it benefits the skin and the most effective ways to incorporate this "it" ingredient into your regimen.
What is Niacinamide?
Despite its complex-sounding name, Niacinamide (also known as Nicotinamide) is simply one of the two primary forms of Vitamin B3; the other form being "nicotinic acid" (1). An important fact worth noting about Niacinamide is that it's an essential, water-soluble vitamin.
For context: essential nutrients are compounds that your body can’t naturally synthesize in sufficient quantities. Meaning? If you wish to reap the nutrient's health – and, perhaps more relevantly, skin – benefits, you'd have to either eat it (e.g., diet) or apply it topically to the skin on a regular basis.
Benefits of Niacinamide for Skin
As mentioned earlier, the benefits of Niacinamide for the skin are manifold. So, here, let’s venture a little deeper – and explore the physiological mechanisms underlying Niacinamide’s action on the skin.
#1: Protects skin from oxidative damage
First things first. Niacinamide is incredibly restorative. It helps your skin fight off stressors, including UV rays and pollution, that can ultimately lead to premature signs of aging like fine lines, wrinkles, and discoloration, no thanks to oxidative damage. But wait. How does Niacinamide counter oxidative damage?
Well, as it turns out, Niacinamide is a precursor (i.e., a chemical compound preceding another in a metabolic pathway) to a biochemical cofactor called NAD+ (2). And that’s important because NAD+ is known to be capable of contributing an extra electron to free radicals present in your body – effectively preventing them from damaging healthy cells.
In short: the more Niacinamide you have, the more NAD+ your body can produce, and the more free radicals it can neutralize.
All that checks out theoretically. But what does the research say? Can Niacinamide lead to visible improvements in the skin? Yes. Take this 2004 study published in the International Journal of Cosmetic Science, for instance (3). Researchers had 50 women apply a moisturizer formulated with 5% Niacinamide to one half of their face and a placebo moisturizer to the other half for 12 weeks.
The results? The halves of the participants' faces receiving Niacinamide showed significant improvements in hyperpigmentation spots, fine lines, and wrinkles compared to the control side.
#2: Regulates skin’s sebum production and soothes inflammation
Anyone dealing with oily and blemish-prone skin will rejoice in Niacinamide’s ability to regulate sebum production, minimize congestion in the skin, and tame inflammation (4). In fact, research consistently shows Niacinamide to be an effective treatment for various inflammatory skin conditions – including acne and rosacea.
For example, a 2013 study published in the International Journal of Dermatology found that, when applied twice daily for 8 weeks, a topical preparation of 4% Niacinamide treated moderate acne just as well as 1% clindamycin (a topical antibiotic commonly prescribed to acne patients) (5).
This finding is consistent with another study performed back in 1995 (6). Finally, Niacinamide's sebum-reducing properties may also indirectly help minimize pores' appearance, leading to tighter-looking pores with regular usage.
#3: Strengthens the skin’s natural barrier
"Radiant skin starts from a healthy skin barrier." You've likely heard this statement more times than you can count by now … but honestly? What does it even mean – and what exactly is a skin barrier?
To understand that, you first need to know that your skin is made up of layers that each performs crucial functions in protecting your body. And naturally, the outermost layer (i.e., "stratum corneum") serves as your first layer of defense against all sorts of harmful external stressors. Well, this is your skin barrier (7).
Skincare experts and dermatologists often describe the skin barrier as a "brick wall" for a good reason; it consists of tough skin cells called corneocytes bound together by mortar-like lipids. And this mortar, in turn, contains essential nutrients like cholesterol, ceramides, and fatty acids.
Together, these compounds help keep the deeper layers of skin hydrated and nourished. So how does Niacinamide come into play? There's evidence that topical Niacinamide could encourage the production of nourishing ceramides (in addition to other stratum corneum lipids) in the skin, thus helping repair the function of the skin barrier (8).
All in all: promoting more hydrated, healthy skin more capable of defending itself against moisture loss and external irritants.
Side Effects of Niacinamide
Niacinamide is generally considered to be such a soothing skincare ingredient that it doesn't typically cause side effects. Therefore, most people shouldn't have any problems with topical Niacinamide.
That said, as with any new skincare product, if you develop any signs of irritation (e.g., redness, burning, or stinging), you should remove the product from the skin right away.
How to Use Niacinamide for Skin
Niacinamide can be used at any time of day (morning or night) 1 to 2 times daily, depending on the formulation. However, to reap the most skincare benefits, you should opt for topical Niacinamide in the form of a toner, serum, or cream. Anything that'll stay in contact with your skin for plenty of time since you want your skin to absorb the Niacinamide – then put it to work in stimulating ceramides production.
But what about your existing skincare products? Are there certain ingredients you should avoid combining with Niacinamide? Good news. Niacinamide can be used with a whole host of skincare actives and to great effect. This includes Retinol, Hyaluronic Acid, Peptides, and (stabilized) Vitamin C. If you're looking to get started with Niacinamide, the following skincare routine could prove helpful to you:
- Cleanser: Remove your makeup and wash your face with a non-stripping cleanser, like our Snowflower + Niacinamide Gel Cleanser.
- Toner: Spritz on your toner of choice after cleansing. For a refreshing, hydrating boost, give our Rebalancing Snowflower + Niacinamide Toning Mist a go.
- Serum: Massage a few drops of serum (e.g., our Niacinamide-containing Balance Snowflower + Turmeric Serum) into your face.
- Eye cream: Apply your eye cream before you slather on your choice of creams and oils. Psst: if you’re still looking for an eye cream that’ll rejuvenate your eyes, our Age Defying Lemon Aspen Botanical Eye Cream won’t disappoint.
- Moisturizer: Use Daily Balancing Act Snowflower + Witch Hazel Moisturizer (formulated with Niacinamide) during the daytime, then pamper your skin with our Lipid-Balance Snowflower + Niacinamide Night Cream as you catch your beauty sleep.
- Sunscreen: Sunscreen acts as a shield against the outside world (so you don’t end up applying all those products on your face for nothing).
Niacinamide for Skin FAQ’s
What does Niacinamide do for the skin?
Niacinamide protects the skin from oxidative damage, reducing hyperpigmentation, fine lines, and wrinkles. It also regulates sebum production in the skin – combating inflammation and potentially "tightening" pores over the long term. Finally, Niacinamide strengthens the skin's natural barrier.
Does Niacinamide lighten skin?
No, Niacinamide does not lighten skin (i.e., help you achieve a paler skin tone). What Niacinamide can do for your skin, however, is fade hyperpigmentation caused by age, blemishes, or UV exposure – resulting in a more luminous, even skin tone.
Is Niacinamide in skin care products vegan?
In the context of skincare, beauty brands typically derive nicotinic acid from cereals and brewer’s yeast (9). The isolated nicotinic acid then undergoes a chemical reaction to become Niacinamide. So, is Niacinamide vegan? Yes. And in case you were wondering, all of Terrakai’s products are vegan. We only use vegan ingredients in our formulations – across all ranges.
What skin type is Niacinamide good for?
Niacinamide is beneficial for every skin type: after all, it’s an impressive all-rounder that does everything from taking inflammation down to helping control excess oil. But if you have sensitive skin and are concerned about potential irritation, do start with a lower concentration – and gradually increase it.
How long does Niacinamide take to work?
While certain Niacinamide-containing products show initial benefits in as little as 2 weeks, most results will become visible in 4 weeks (or more).
Terrakai Skin Products that Include Niacinamide