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Niacinamide has become the hottest skin-care ingredient since last year. It’s not for nothing that it’s regarded as a holy grail treatment for a slew of common skin problems.

“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.

It has been demonstrated to reverse and prevent indications of skin aging, brighten and smooth skin, calm inflammation and redness, reduce hyperpigmentation, reduce the appearance of pores, and hydrate and strengthen the skin barrier, among its numerous advantages, she says. The “antioxidant-rich powerhouse” that Glow Recipe co-founders Sarah Lee and Christine Chang refer to as “K-beauty approved” is also useful for those who are prone to breakouts. Lee notes, “It helps control sebum production and noticeably refine pores, making it a fantastic component for oily or acneic skin types.”

“There’s also evidence that it can aid in the formation of ceramide in the skin, which is essential for a healthy lipid barrier and the prevention of transepidermal water loss, making it a good ingredient for those with sensitive skin.”


Here’s a rundown of what niacinamide is, the many ways it can help your skin, and the best ways to incorporate it into your routine :

Table of Contents

What Is Niacinamide and How Can It Help Your Skin?

Niacinamide, commonly known as nicotinamide, is a water-soluble form of Vitamin B3 that is vital to replenish because it is not stored in the body.  “We can receive niacinamides orally through our diets, but they’re also ingredients in skin-care products since they’re known to offer anti-inflammatory, anti-aging, antioxidant, and skin brightening properties,” says Dendy Engelman, a dermatologist in New York.

Engelman compares the effects of niacinamides to those of retinol since they nourish while reducing redness and irritation.  “It has similar effects by building the skin barrier,” she continues, “but it fortifies from the start without causing sensitivity or irritation.” It also functions as an antioxidant by minimizing free radical damage.

Furthermore, it improves hydration.  

“It inhibits transepidermal water loss and actually enhances the ability of other moisturizing substances to do so,” Murphy-Rose explains.

What Is the Most Effective Way to Get Niacinamide Into Your Skin?

Apply niacinamide topically in the form of a cream, lotion, or serum—anything that will stay in contact with your skin for a long time, rather than a facial cleanser that goes on and off quickly, says Murphy-Rose—to get the maximum skincare advantages.  “Studies have shown that niacinamide penetrates well into the skin and is easily absorbed,” she continues, “so you want to give your skin time to absorb the niacinamide and put it to work.”

In general, niacinamide can be taken at any time of day—one to two times per day, depending on the formulation—and in conjunction with other products without causing any problems.  Serums are often the most potent and feature the highest concentrations of active ingredients.

“Use moderate amounts of niacinamide since large doses can cause skin irritation,” Murphy-Rose advises.  She frequently recommends Pause Well-Aging Detox Serum, which combines 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,” as well as dermatologist favorite SkinBetter Science’s AlphaRet Overnight Cream, which combines niacinamide with a proprietary mix of a retinoid and alpha hydroxyl acids, and advises

What Should Niacinamide Be Taken With to Get the Best Out of It?

Murphy-Rose recommends using niacinamide with other skin brightening compounds including kojic acid, which is naturally obtained from mushrooms and is a result of rice fermentation, and transexamic acid, a synthetic derivative of the amino acid lysine, to treat dark spots and hyperpigmentation.

SkinCeuticals Discoloration Defense, a dark spot corrector with an effective combination of niacinamide, kojic acid, and transexamic acid, is one of her favorites, while Engelman prefers 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, for treating sunspots, hyperpigmentation and discoloration.  

“Always use a mineral sunscreen in the morning,” Murphy-Rose advises.
In terms of sun protection, she suggests using a mineral sunscreen with zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide, such as EltaMD UV Clear, a long-time favorite.

Peptides, ceramides, and hyaluronic acid all assist to “create a barrier for the skin,” thus combining niacinamides with these actives will further boost results, according to Engelman, who breaks down each ingredient below:

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Peptides are a type of protein: “Peptides are short chains of amino acids that make up the proteins in the skin.  When peptides are administered topically to the skin, they send biological signals that direct cells to perform certain functions, one of which is the production of more collagen.”

Ceramides are a type of ceramide that is found in: “Ceramides are waxy lipid molecules present in the interstices of skin cells.  The lipid layer of the skin, which locks in moisture and acts as a barrier against pollution, bacteria, and attackers, can be disrupted by environmental conditions.”

Hyaluronic Acid (HA) is a type of hyaluronic: “Hyaluronic acid can store 1,000 times its weight in water, which means it hydrates the skin effectively.  It forms a barrier for the skin, trapping in moisture and improving texture when applied.  As we age, our skin loses water and moisture; this component will help to retain hydration and can be used on a daily basis.”

How Long Will Niacinamide’s Effects Take to Show?

While some niacinamide-containing products show results in as little as two weeks, most outcomes take four weeks or longer.  “You have to remember that spots don’t form in two days, therefore you can’t expect them to be eradicated in two days,” Engelman advises.
She also says that if you experience fast improvements, it’s most likely due to a complementing ingredient that’s designed to provide a transient, beneficial impact.  “For most customers, the small difference is enough to keep them using the product, which is exactly what we want.”

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