You need this skincare ingredient in your routine
A doctor explains all of the benefits of vitamin B3, a.k.a. niacinamide.
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Over the years, dermatologists and skincare experts have drilled into us the benefits of vitamin C, hyaluronic acid, and retinol as the go-to ingredients to combat the signs of aging. And this is all true, but there’s another over-achieving skincare ingredient that people have started turning to: niacinamide.
Skincare enthusiasts praise niacinamide (a form of vitamin B3) for its wound-healing properties and ability to manage excess oil production, brighten skin tone, and improve uneven skin texture and tone. While this ingredient can do wonders for the skin, overuse at a high concentration can be irritating. To learn how to incorporate niacinamide into your daily skincare routine—and why you should—we spoke with Dr. Ben Johnson, a certified aesthetic medicine physician and founder of Osmosis Beauty.
What is niacinamide?
Niacinamide, a.k.a. nicotinamide, is one of two forms of vitamin B3 and can be taken as an oral supplement or applied to the skin with an over-the-counter topical. Proponents claim it helps build skin cells by repairing your damaged skin barrier, minimize enlarged pores, soften fine lines and wrinkles, treat scars, and improve uneven skin tone. When incorporated into a skincare routine, it helps build proteins in the skin and locks in moisture to protect your skin from environmental pollution.
What does niacinamide do for your skin?
Niacinamide benefits anyone looking to prevent signs of aging and brighten their skin, similar to vitamin C. The key skincare benefits of niacinamide:
Protects against sun damage: Niacinamide reduces the effects of sun damage by encouraging the regrowth of cells that protect your skin from environmental stressors, such as pollution and UV rays.
Combats oily skin: By regulating skin's excretion of sebum (an oily, waxy substance), niacinamide can prevent your skin from overproducing oil.
Fights acne: When consumed orally through niacinamide-rich food like chicken or leafy greens or in a supplement (under the recommendation of a doctor), it may help treat severe acne inflammations and minimize redness and blotchiness. This can improve the overall texture and tone of the skin.
Boosts blood circulation: Niacinamide can aid in blood circulation and quell inflammation, which can help in wound healing from acne to cuts and scrapes.
Fades dark spots: Niacinamide’s anti-inflammatory properties can prevent the transfer of pigment in the skin, which helps reduce dark spots.
What you should know before using niacinamide?
OTC topical niacinamide is gentle enough to pair well with other active ingredients, such as retinol or vitamin C, so you can incorporate it into an existing skincare routine. Still, you may want to introduce it slowly, with applications once or twice a week and at a low concentration to start. Keep topical formulations to 5% or less to limit skin irritation or inflammation in the form of dermatitis. If you are a first-timer or have sensitive skin, start with even lower levels of 1% of 2%, especially if you have skin conditions like eczema, rosacea, or acne. Once your skin gets used to it, niacinamide can be applied either morning or night (or both) after cleansing. You can also increase the concentration after regular use at a lower percentage.
The key to reaping the skin benefits of this vitamin comes down to choosing products wisely, as not all topical formulations are equal. There are a few expert tips and things to consider before applying them to your skin. Those include:
Read the label: Make sure to scan the list of ingredients when choosing your OTC topical product, as the common misconception with niacinamide is that its effects are the same as niacin. Niacin is the acid form of vitamin B3 and has the unpleasant side effect of causing skin redness. “Niacinamide is a specific type of ‘amide’ that works similarly to its cousin niacin in that it causes the arteries in the skin to dilate, but [niacinamide] aids in brightening and evening out the skin,” Johnson says.
Watch for signs of irritation: If you have preexisting allergies or experience irritation from using topical creams, perform a patch test on your forearm and wait 24 hours to see if the active ingredient causes swelling or redness, as niacinamide can cause your body to release histamine (an allergic reaction). “Using it in high concentrations will increase redness in rosacea and can cause acne skin to ‘purge’ toxins by creating more acne,” Johnson says. “However, when used on existing acne lesions, it speeds healing.”
Now that you know its benefits and precautions, consider these three niacinamide-containing products that fill the bill.
1. For a budget-friendly serum to control excess oil
This lightweight serum contains a 10% concentration of niacinamide and claims to help control excess oil, reduce blemishes, and tackle redness. It also contains hyaluronic acid to hydrate and plump skin. To use, apply a pea-sized amount to the face and neck day and night followed by moisturizer.
One Sephora user gushes: “This is amazing! I have oily, acne-prone skin and [another brand's niacinamide product] broke me out. However, this product is 1000 times better! This serum is less sticky, doesn’t pill, absorbs into the skin, is hydrating, and it didn’t break me out! It did an amazing job controlling my oiliness and it reduced my acne significantly! Furthermore, I have noticed a huge decrease in redness. I’ve been using this product for a month now and I have nothing but positive things to say!”
2. For an anti-aging moisturizer
The Algenist Algae Niacinamide Moisture Veil is a weightless, oil-free liquid that contains a blend of plant and fruit-based extracts, skin-firming alguronic acid, sebum-controlling algae concentrate, and niacinamide. This anti-aging moisturizer claims to hydrate and smooth fine lines and wrinkles, balance the skin’s oil, and improve the look of dullness, texture, and uneven skin tone within 10 days of use. It’s suitable for all skin types and can be used alone or under makeup. Dispense two to four drops twice daily into palms and press onto clean face, neck, and décolleté to achieve the best results.
One Sephora reviewer notes: “After using this niacinamide moisture veil, I have concluded that I absolutely love it! It works great on my combination skin and has helped my skin to not look so oily during the day by controlling the oily spots on my nose and forehead. The texture is a beautiful golden color that is lightweight on my skin and sinks in quickly leaving me with a beautiful, glowy complexion. My makeup lays on top of it nicely and the niacinamide has been so helpful at controlling any crazy breakouts.”
3. For a deep-cleaning mask that’s safe for acne-prone skin
Romer’s Hydrating + Soothing Whipped Treat Mask can be used both day and night and melts into the skin, claiming to deeply hydrate and simultaneously soothe dull, dehydrated, or irritation-prone skin. It contains a blend of carrot seed oil, prickly pear seed oil, squalane, glycerin, and hyaluronic acid to restore the skin’s moisture. Ingredients plant-derived antioxidant bakuchiol and niacinamide help brighten skin, promote cell turnover, and reduce the appearance of fine lines and hyperpigmentation. In a mixed-gender study conducted by Romer, 90% of participants noticed their skin’s appearance improved after four weeks of use. It’s suitable for all skin types, particularly acne- and irritation-prone skin.
One Amazon reviewer raves: “Since using Romer, my skin is breakout-free and in the best shape of its life. I love the smell of this cream and the way it feels on my face.”
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