Read The Label: All Of Your Niacinamide Questions Answered
Feel like you need a dictionary every time you look at the ingredient list of a beauty product? Still unsure of the difference between retinol and retinoids? What about the unique benefits of vitamins B, C, and E? Are alpha and beta hydroxy acids the same thing? The skincare aisle can be overwhelming, but you don’t need a PhD in cosmetic chemistry to navigate it. With expert help, The AEDITION is demystifying and simplifying the beauty industry — one label at a time.
Vitamin B3, also known as niacinamide and nicotinamide, is a skincare stalwart thanks to its plethora of skin-boosting benefits. Not only does it play well with other active ingredients, but it is often recommended to address everything from acne to wrinkles for just about any skin type. So, how does niacinamide work, and what’s the best way to incorporate it into your skincare routine? The AEDITION asks the experts.
What Is Niacinamide?
Niacinamide is derived from vitamin B3 and is a water-soluble vitamin that is not naturally produced by the body. Instead, it has to be consumed orally or applied topically. While vitamin B3 is often found in foods like fish, grains, avocado, mushrooms, and green peas, a diet rich in the vitamin may not provide the same benefits as a topical product.
Because the body does not produce niacin itself, the multitasker is best supplemented through both a proper diet and skincare. “[It is] used in skincare for its soothing, brightening, and skin-strengthening benefits,” says Joshua Zeichner, MD, a board certified dermatologist in New York City. “It is the ultimate chameleon of skincare, as it can be a benefit for all skin types and almost all skin needs.”
The Topical Benefits of Niacinamide
While many skincare ingredients are known for multitasking, niacinamide might take the cake. It is known to:
- Control oil production
- Improve barrier function
- Boost collagen production
- Thwart abnormal pigmentation
“It's known to help with oil control, increase ceramide synthesis for skin barrier reinforcement, have anti-inflammatory properties, aid with acne, fade hyperpigmentation, and boost collagen production to fill in wrinkles,” explains Tyler Gaul, founder of Protocol. Because it is often delivered in low concentrations, it is gentle enough for sensitive skin (more on that later!) but potent enough to address a host of skincare woes.
The Best Candidates for Niacinamide
Often ranking high on ‘must-try’ lists alongside mainstays like topical vitamin A (read: retinol and retinoids) and vitamin C, niacinamide has an it-factor the others don’t: a slim chance of irritation. So, whether you’re currently dealing with breakouts in your teenage years or grew up using a Walkman and are starting to notice a few lines here and there, incorporating a product with niacinamide into your regimen can go a long way toward healthier skin.
How to Add Niacinamide to Your Routine
As we further dive into the pros and cons of an array of skincare ingredients, it’s easy to feel spoilt for choice — especially when many overlap in benefits. This is why understanding what the combinations can work wonders (or, on the contrary, cause irritation) is so important. “Niacinamide plays well with most actives,” explain Susan Yara and Ben Bennett, the founders of Naturium. “It’s great paired with acids, retinol, and vitamin C.”
The Naturium line is full of potent pairings, like the dynamic duo of niacinamide and zinc in the Niacinamide Serum 12% Plus Zinc 2%. “We paired our niacinamide with Zinc PCA, a derivative of the natural moisturizing factor in the skin, to further reduce skin shine while increasing skin’s moisture content,” Yara and Bennett share. “Zinc PCA also helps stabilize your skin’s natural acid mantle thus balancing your skin’s pH.”
Whether in a serum (we’re fans of the StriVectin Super-C Retinol Brighten & Correct Vitamin C Serum), a cream (the Protocol Hyaluronic Acid & Niacinamide Hydration Cream is a lifesaver in the colder months), or a cleanser (try the Naturium Niacinamide Cleansing Gelée 3%), the ingredients comes in a variety of forms making it easy to incorporate in the morning, evening, or both. Consider your skin type and factor in your skin's needs when choosing the niacin-powered product for you.
Finding the Right Niacinamide Product
The most significant factor to consider when looking for a niacinamide-powered product is the concentration. “If a company doesn't disclose the concentration of their active ingredients, it's usually because there isn't a significant amount included,” Gaul explains. “That said, over five or six percent does not show increased therapeutic benefit and can lead to increased occurrence of adverse effects (though those are very few).”
If you’re concerned about large pores and more advanced signs of aging, a higher concentration may be beneficial — but users should be aware of the so-called ‘niacin flush.’ “Not all niacinamide is created equal and can often result in skin flushing,” Yara and Bennett explain. The redness, often appearing as flushing or blushing, is harmless, and tolerance can be developed over time. If it persists, reach for a lower dosage or check the brand's credentials for further information. “At Naturium, we formulate with high quality, non-flushing niacinamide,” they note.
While no one skincare ingredient can do it all, niacinamide comes close for those who wish to improve skin tone and texture. If you’re looking to add something to your arsenal that complements what you’re already using while also battling acne, pigmentation, and wrinkles (to name a few), a niacin-infused product might fit the bill.
All products featured are independently selected by our editors, however, AEDIT may receive a commission on items purchased through our links.