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.
Jonathan Knowles via Getty Images
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.

Check out our expert’s favorite niacinamide products below.

HuffPost may receive a share from purchases made via links on this page. Every item is independently selected by the HuffPost Shopping team. Prices and availability are subject to change.

CeraVe AM Facial Moisturizing Lotion with SPF 30
“It’s oil-free and has non-comedogenic sources of moisture and skin barrier support from hyaluronic acid, ceramides and niacinamide,” said Dr. Deanne Mraz Robinson, a dermatologist and assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Yale New Haven Hospital.
PCA Skin Vitamin B3 brightening serum
“A great product for brightening, specifically,” said dermatologist Dr. Dhaval Bhanusali.
Alastin Restorative Skin Complex
“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.”
Alpyn Beauty wild nettle and niacinamide firming serum
This silky serum gets a boost from niacinamide to reduce the appearance of pores, hydrate skin and nourish deep down.
The Ordinary
The Ordinary niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%
Dermatologist Dr. Janiene Luke recommends this as an affordable option.
Vlad Skibunov
The Inkey List niacinamide oil control serum
Another of Luke’s affordable suggestions.
EltaMD Barrier Renewal Complex and EltaMD UV clear broad-spectrum SPF 46
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.
Paula's Choice
Paula’s Choice 10% niacinamide booster
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.”
Paula's Choice
Paula’s Choice niacinamide 20% treatment
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."

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