What Does Niacinamide Do for the Skin?
This necessary vitamin is a top-derm recommended ingredient for good reason.
This necessary vitamin is a top-derm recommended ingredient for good reason.
If you said that you haven’t heard about the wonders of niacinamide we’d likely ask if you’re new to skin care since the ingredient has become so popular in the cosmetics industry in the past five years. Niacinamide has been touted as a must-have anti-aging element because of its antioxidant and soothing properties.
Niacinamide, also referred to as nicotinamide, is a form of vitamin B3; your body actually makes niacinamide when you have too much niacin (sound familiar?), according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI). When used topically, it has so many benefits for the skin. Your skin care specialist or derm may recommend that you incorporate niacinamide into your skin care routine because it is known to do the following:
According to the NCBI, this is the most well-studied anti-aging effect of niacinamide. The vitamin can help increase the antioxidant capacity of the skin after just one topical application, depending on the concentration of the ingredient and type of product.
Niacinamide has been known to increase two elements that make the skin barrier thicker and aid in its water retention.
Clinical studies have shown that niacinamide helps decrease the appearance of dark spots on the surface of the skin. Some studies have shown that even just a five percent formulation of topical niacinamide can help fade dark spots, resulting in a brightening and evening of skin tone.
Niacinamide has also been shown to improve the look of fine lines and wrinkles — two signs of aging associated with the decline in skin’s collagen as we get older.
If you’re looking to improve visible redness due to dryness and blotchiness or decrease skin yellowness, reach for topical niacinamide.
“Niacinamide is super well tolerated, and it can give you good benefits because it's soothing,” says Michelle Henry, MD FAAD, board-certified dermatologist in NYC and L’Oréal Paris consultant.
Playing cosmetic chemist in your kitchen can be a dangerous game and we urge against it, but you may be staring at your array of skin care products and wondering how they all work together — and you’re not alone. Fortunately, since niacinamide is one of those soothing ingredients that’s well tolerated, it can easily be added into your skin care routine (post-derm consultation of course) via one of your current steps.
“Niacinamide is one of those ingredients like ceramides,” Dr. Henry explains. “It plays really well with other ingredients, which is part of why I like it so much.”
When it comes to deciding which active ingredients are better for your skin, it’s always going to depend on your skin care concerns, what other ingredients you’re already using, your lifestyle and the formulations of the products you're considering adding to your routine. So if you ask whether retinol is better than niacinamide, the answer will always be it depends.
Niacinamide is one of our derms’ top choices for brightening and retexturizing skin as studies have shown that the ingredient is effective for these functions, but if this isn’t what you need from your skin care products then it’s a moot point. Retinol is recommended by derms on L’Oréal Paris’s Advisory Board for effectively improving the look of wrinkles and uneven skin tone.
There are several key differences between these ingredients but one of the most notable may be that niacinamide is unlikely to cause irritation whereas retinol may be less well-tolerated (and not just for those with sensitive skin) as well as increasing skin’s sensitivity to the sun. So while neither is better or worse than the other, this should be considered when making a decision to use either in the quest for an even skin tone.
Similarly, vitamin C is a known antioxidant for skin brightening but it’s not necessarily better or worse than niacinamide. One important factor to consider when picking a vitamin C product is the fact that the ingredient can be unstable and may oxidize over time.
Niacinamide has antioxidant properties too but doesn’t have this oxidation issue. So if that’s a concern for you, you may consider using niacinamide where you would have chosen vitamin C. Keep in mind, vitamin C has other benefits that vary from niacinamide, so it isn’t an apples to apples comparison. Similarly, the overall formulation and levels of the ingredients will impact the benefits it delivers. Once you consult with your dermatologist about what you want to achieve with the active, it’ll become clearer which ingredient is best for you.
As we mentioned above, studies suggest that niacinamide is an effective dark spot corrector. One study, as reported by Pigment International, found that a four-percent concentration of niacinamide to be almost as effective in improving pigmentation as a four-percent concentration of hydroquinone.
Incorporating niacinamide into your skin care routine is as easy as adding one of these products below to your morning or evening regimen. Remember, it’s always best to talk to your derm or esthetician before you add a new product to your routine, even if it’s an over-the-counter one. You want to ensure that the ingredients you’re layering work well together and also make sense for the skin care concerns you’re trying to target.
This niacinamide serum visibly fades a variety of dark spots and post-acne marks. Formulated with gentle exfoliants, it helps skin look clearer after just a couple of weeks of continued use. The non-greasy, lightweight formula absorbs quickly and doesn’t leave skin with a sticky feel. Apply it after you cleanse and before putting on moisturizer.
In the daytime, finish with a face sunscreen like the L’Oréal Paris Bright Reveal Broad Spectrum SPF 50 Daily UV Lotion. The lightweight texture makes layering easy and it doesn’t leave behind an ashy white cast.
This lightweight night cream is formulated with retinol and niacinamide, packing a dose of two anti-aging goodies in one jar. Instantly skin feels hydrated, while over time wrinkles are visibly reduced, skin tone and texture are improved, skin looks brighter and the visage appears more contoured and firm.
When it comes to niacinamide side effects, Dr. Henry says it’s typically an issue of formulation, not the ingredient itself.
“I could say it plays well with everything, but then you mix it with acids, and maybe it's optimized at a different pH, and now it diminishes the strength of your acids,” she explains. “And then, some people can get a little bit of flushing with it, too. So, it's just such a hard question [to answer] because it's not really a question of ingredients, it's a question of formulation.”
“We know that acidic ingredients live better in an acidic formulation, but there's so many different formulations of niacinamide. But if we're going to rank products as those that can be mixed, this one is an easier one mixed with other products.”
A study published in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology also found that possible side effects of excessive niacinamide exposure suggested that it might have a role in the development of diabetes, Parkinson's disease, and liver damage. That’s why it’s always important to talk to your doctor before you add new active ingredients to your skin care routine.
Photo Courtesy of L'Oréal Paris
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