Over the past year, Niacinamide has sprung up as the It skin-care ingredient. Not for nothing, it’s largely-considered a holy-grail solution for many of the most common skin issues—ones that have only been exacerbated by an influx of maskne and pandemic stress.
“Niacinamide is well-loved by those in the know for good reason,” says Blair Murphy-Rose, MD, FAAD, dermatologist and Clinical Assistant Professor at New York Presbyterian Hospital-Weill Cornell Medical Center. She notes that among its many benefits, it’s been shown to reverse and prevent signs of skin aging, brighten and smooth skin, calm inflammation and redness, reduce hyperpigmentation, decrease the appearance of pores, and hydrate and support the skin barrier.
The K-beauty approved, “antioxidant-rich powerhouse,” as Glow Recipe co-founders Sarah Lee and Christine Chang call it, is also beneficial for those who are breakout prone. “It helps balance sebum production and visibly refine pores, making it a great ingredient for oily or acneic skin types,” explains Lee. “There’s also research that it can help promote ceramide production within skin, which is crucial for a healthy lipid barrier and prevention of transepidermal water loss, making it a beneficial ingredient for those with sensitive skin.”
Here, a breakdown of what niacinamide is, the multitude of ways it benefits the skin, and the most effective ways to build it into your regimen.
What Is Niacinamide, and How Does it Benefit the Skin?
Niacinamide, also known as nicotinamide, is a form of Vitamin B3 that is water-soluble, which means that it is not stored in the body and is important to replenish. “We can get niacinamides orally through the foods we eat, but they are also ingredients found in skin-care products as they are known to have anti-inflammatory, anti-aging, antioxidant, and skin brightening benefits,” explains New York dermatologist Dendy Engelman. Because niacinamides nourish while calming redness and inflammation, Engelman likens its benefits to that of retinol. “It has similar effects by strengthening the skin barrier, however it fortifies from the get go without sensitivity or irritation,” she explains, adding that it also acts like an antioxidant by limiting free radical damage. What’s more, it boosts hydration. “It prevents transepidermal water loss and actually boosts the ability of other moisturizing ingredients to do so as well,” says Murphy-Rose.
What Is the Best Way to Deliver Niacinamide to the Skin?
To reap the most skincare benefits, apply niacinamide topically in the form of a cream, lotion, or serum—anything that will stay in contact with your skin for plenty of time, unlike a facial cleanser that goes on and off quickly, instructs Murphy-Rose. “Studies have demonstrated that niacinamide penetrates well into the skin and is readily absorbed, so you want your skin to have time to absorb the niacinamide and put it to work,” she explains. Generally speaking, niacinamide can be used at any time of day—one to two times daily depending on the formulation—and generally in combination with other products without issue. Typically, serums are the most potent and have the highest concentrations of actives. “Make sure to use low concentrations of niacinamide as high concentrations can actually cause skin irritation,” cautions Murphy-Rose. She often recommends Pause Well-Aging Detox Serum, which blends niacinamide with willow bark (a natural source of salicylic acid), bromelain from pineapples, and other antioxidants to “help clear pores and reverse signs of aging,” and dermatologist favorite SkinBetter Science’s AlphaRet Overnight Cream, which blends niacinamide with a proprietary mix of a retinoid and alpha hydroxyl acids, advising that you start with one pump every other night for 1-2 weeks and increase to nightly use as tolerated.
What Should Niacinamide Be Paired With for Maximal Results?
In treating dark spots and hyperpigmentation, Murphy-Rose recommends using niacinamide with other skin brightening ingredients, such as kojic acid, which is naturally derived from mushrooms and is a byproduct of the fermentation of rice, and transexamic acid, a synthetic derivative of the amino acid lysine. One of her go-tos is SkinCeuticals Discoloration Defense, a dark spot corrector that fights hyperpigmentation with an effective combination of niacinamide, kojic acid, and transexamic acid, while Engelman loves treating sunspots, hyperpigmentation, discoloration, and post-blemish marks with First Aid Beauty’s Facial Radiance Niacinamide Dark Spot Serum, which contains licorice root for added brightening benefits and golden kiwi fruit for a dose of vitamin C. “Always pair with a mineral sunscreen in the morning,” instructs Murphy-Rose. And on the sun protection front, she recommends pairing with a mineral sunblock containing zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide, such as beloved favorite EltaMD UV Clear.
To support skin’s overall health, peptides, ceramides, and hyaluronic acid all help to “build a barrier for the skin, so pairing niacinamides with these actives will only enhance effects,” says Engelman, breaking down each below: