What Niacinamide Does For Your Skin, And Who It's Best For

Meet the latest workhorse ingredient that works for oily skin, dry skin and everything in between.
Want to glow like this? Look into skin care products that contain niacinamide.
Want to glow like this? Look into skin care products that contain niacinamide.

If niacinamide were a person, it would already have earned a Nobel Peace Prize. As a skin care ingredient, it can go pretty much everywhere, calm things down right away and get everything working well together. But until they start awarding global honors for skin creams (and really, why not?), mighty niacinamide continues to prove there’s little it can’t do for beleaguered, stressed and irritated skin.

What It Is And How It Helps Skin

Niacinamide is a form of vitamin B3, a water-soluble vitamin that’s a powerful antioxidant everyone needs to support a number of cellular processes. “It’s not produced naturally by the body, so you must use skin care products specifically formulated with niacinamide to experience the ingredient’s benefits,” Tom Allison, senior vice president and global head of professional marketing at CeraVe, told HuffPost.

It appears in products intended to alleviate fine lines and wrinkles, acne, eczema, discoloration, rosacea, large pores, oily skin and sun damage, among other things. If that seems like a tall order for one ingredient to address all those issues, niacinamide is up to the job, experts say.

Erin Greer, executive director of education and training at Alastin Skincare, explained that one of the ingredient’s superpowers is restoring the moisture barrier function of the skin. “As we get older, we can lose the lipid barrier that makes skin radiant and luminous. Niacinamide produces ceramides that help to restore that barrier, reduce dehydration and help skin look better.”

In a sign of our overstressed times, dermatologist Dhaval Bhanusali said, “In general, there’s a trend toward ‘calming’ ingredients. Niacinamide is a popular option since it’s so well-tolerated. It’s truly a star ingredient and one I recommend often.”

Good For Dry Skin, Oily Skin — Pretty Much Good For Skin In General

You knew we couldn’t get this far into a skin care article without talking about free radicals, those pesky molecules with unpaired electrons that can build up and cause oxidative stress, which harms other cells and speeds up aging symptoms like wrinkles. “As a true multitasker, niacinamide neutralizes free radicals and helps to address the slowing of skin aging through repair and rejuvenation,” dermatologist Melissa Kanchanapoomi Levin said. But wait, she said, there’s more: “Because it’s also been shown to regulate oil secretion and cell skin turnover, it’s recommended for both dry, sensitive skin and oily, acne-prone skin types, too.”

It might be hard to find a skin care ingredient that plays so well with others. “Niacinamide tends to complement and work well when layered with several other active ingredients that compose a typical skin care regimen,” said dermatologist Janiene Luke, co-chair of the Skin of Color Society technology and media committee and associate professor and director of the dermatology residency program at Loma Linda University. “It typically can be used in people who also use retinoids, salicylic acid and other chemical exfoliants, as well as hydrating ingredients such as hyaluronic acid.”

How To Get Started And When You’ll See Results

“Most people can tolerate niacinamide, but I’d suggest looking for concentrations that range from 2% to 10%, since higher concentrations sometimes can cause irritation,” Luke said.

“With my patients, I’ve seen them do well with up to 6% niacinamide,” Bhanusali said. “If it’s higher than that, you should spot treat first and make sure you tolerate well before applying all over.”

If you like the results you’re seeing on your face, try using it all over your body, Deanne Mraz Robinson, dermatologist and assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Yale New Haven Hospital, told HuffPost. “Look for it as an ingredient in body lotion, as well. It’s a helpful ingredient for dry, itchy skin.” She did note some caveats: “It shouldn’t be used simultaneously with skin care products that contain vitamin C. When combined with vitamin C, it turns into niacin, which can cause redness and irritation in sensitive skin.”

Once you begin regular applications, you’ll need to be patient. “Niacinamide typically takes eight to 12 weeks to work if you’re using it regularly,” dermatologist Ellen Marmur said. “But in some cases, you will see almost immediate improvement.”

And, as always, use common sense: avoid it if you’re allergic to it, of course. And go slowly. “Some people do get irritated by higher concentrations of niacinamide, so you can get too much of a good thing,” said Michelle Wong, the chemistry Ph.D. behind the Lab Muffin Beauty Science blog.

Experts’ Favorite Niacinamide Products

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1
CeraVe AM Facial Moisturizing Lotion with SPF 30
CeraVe
“It’s oil-free and has non-comedogenic sources of moisture and skin barrier support from hyaluronic acid, ceramides and niacinamide,” Robinson said. Allison added: “In this formula, niacinamide works to help calm and soothe skin. It also has three essential ceramides and hyaluronic acid, making it a hydrating moisturizer.”

Get CeraVe AM Facial Moisturizing Lotion with SPF 30 for $10.99.
2
PCA SKIN Vitamin B3 Brightening Serum (6% Niacinamide)
PCA Skin
“A great product for brightening, specifically,” Bhanusali said.

Get PCA SKIN Vitamin B3 Brightening Serum (6% Niacinamide) for $117.
3
Alastin Restorative Skin Complex
Alastin
“It contains a mix of potent antioxidants, which includes niacinamide,” Robinson said. “This product is fantastic for encouraging collagen synthesis in the skin, while supporting the skin's barrier and softening pigmentary concerns.”

Get Alastin Restorative Skin Complex for $195.
4
Alpyn Beauty Wild Nettle & Niacinamide Firming Serum
Alpyn Beauty
This silky serum gets a boost from niacinamide to reduce the appearance of pores, hydrate skin and nourish deep down.

Get Alpyn Beauty Wild Nettle & Niacinamide Firming Serum for $58.
5
The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%
The Ordinary
Luke recommends this as an affordable option.

Get The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1% for $7.90.
6
The Inkey List Niacinamide Oil Control Serum
Vlad Skibunov
Another of Luke’s affordable suggestions.

Get The Inkey List Niacinamide Oil Control Serum for $6.99.
7
EltaMD Barrier Renewal Complex and EltaMD UV Clear Broad-Spectrum SPF 46
Elta MD
Luke recommended two EltaMD products specifically — the sunscreen and the Barrier Renewal Complex. It's important that you apply the layer of moisture before applying the sunscreen, especially if you have dry skin.

Get EltaMD Barrier Renewal Complex for $53.
Get EltaMD UV Clear Broad-Spectrum SPF 46 for $37.
8
Paula’s Choice 10% Niacinamide Booster
Paula's Choice
The gentler of the brand's two options, this 10% concentration is lauded for its ability to repair enlarged pores, shrinking them back down to their normal shape and size, explained Desiree Stordahl, senior research and education manager at Paula’s Choice. She added, “I’d also recommend it for anyone who feels like their complexion has become dull — it makes a stunning impact in reviving skin’s healthy glow.”

Get Paula’s Choice 10% Niacinamide Booster for $44.
9
Paula’s Choice Niacinamide 20% Treatment
Paula's Choice
Looking for a higher concentration than 10%? This product is recommended “for anyone with stretched, enlarged pores, sometimes described as ‘orange peel texture,'" Bhanusali suggested. “This high concentration of niacinamide can help with post-acne lesions, but check tolerability first."

Get Paula’s Choice Niacinamide 20% Treatment for $48.
10
MMSkincare Balance Serum and Face Mask
MMSkincare
In addition to being a board-certified dermatologist, Marmur is also the founder of MMSkincare, and she points to these MMBalance products as examples of niacinamide’s effectiveness. “My all-in-one serum nourishes skin, soothes redness, heals, prevents existing breakouts and calms the skin,” she said. “My teenage son recently developed pretty bad acne, with red pimples on his forehead and blackheads on the T-zone. He used the Balance face masks for two days for 20 minutes at a time, and his face totally cleared.”
Get MMBalance Serum for $85.
Get MMBalance face masks for $22.
11
EyeMax AlphaRet Overnight Cream
SkinBetter Science
“I’m a big fan of Skinbetter Science, and a number of their products contain niacinamide,” Levin said. “This product is formulated with niacinamide and additional hydrating, firming ingredients to deeply hydrate, revitalize and smooth the appearance of the skin around the eye area.” Robinson noted, “The overnight cream is one of my favorite retinols because it is well tolerated by the skin, and therefore my patients are more likely to stick to it. This formulation includes niacinamide, squalene and ceramides alongside its exfoliating retinol properties.”

Get EyeMax AlphaRet Overnight Cream for $110.
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