Young woman applying skincare in bathroom mirror

What is Niacinamide?

With so many different must-have skin care ingredients out there, it can be difficult to know what’s what.

When it comes to niacinamide…

This is an ingredient that may not have made the headlines quite as much as others, such as hyaluronic acid and retinol, but it is still one well worth incorporating into your skin care routine.

What is niacinamide and what does it do?

Here is all you need to know about this powerful multi-functional ingredient…

What is Niacinamide?

Niacinamide is also known as:

  • Vitamin B3
  • Niacin
  • Nicotinic acid

It is a water-soluble vitamin, meaning that your body cannot store it, so your niacinamide levels need to be kept consistently topped up.

Why?

Because vitamin B3 is an essential nutrient when it comes to a healthy functioning body, with everything from your brain to your digestive system to your nervous system being dependent on this important vitamin.

Of course, your skin needs niacinamide too…

What for?

A number of different things…

What Does Niacinamide Do for the Skin?

Niacinamide plays several important roles when it comes to skin care…

Let’s begin with the way in which niacinamide increases your skin’s natural production of ceramides.

Heard of ceramides before?

This is becoming an increasingly popular ingredient.

What is it?

Ceramides are lipids, otherwise known as fats, that make up a large chunk of your skin’s protective barrier. This barrier is vital when it comes to keeping your skin healthy, because not only does it prevent toxins, pollutants, allergens and more from entering into your skin from the environment, but it also prevents moisture from evaporating out of your skin. 

Your body naturally produces ceramides, but the rate at which it does so declines with age. This is why skin becomes thinner and drier as it grows older.

By increasing the production of ceramides, niacinamide is able to help boost your skin’s natural barrier, keeping it working as best as it can. This makes the ingredient especially beneficial for those who suffer from a weakened skin barrier, such as those with eczema or sensitive skin.

However, ceramides aren’t the only important skin component that niacinamide encourages the production of…

Collagen and elastin are crucial when it comes to a smooth and firm complexion, as these proteins consist of a large part of your skin’s structural matrix. However, just like with ceramides, your body’s production of collagen and elastin slows down with age.

Again, just like with ceramides, niacinamide helps to increase collagen and elastin production.

What does this mean for your skin?

A few different things, including:

  • A reduction in the visibility of fine lines and wrinkles
  • Delayed onset of future fine lines and wrinkles
  • Smoother skin
  • Firmer and tighter skin

There are a couple of other anti-aging benefits to niacinamide too…

Your skin is constantly being exposed to environmental factors that cause free radicals, which are basically molecules that are missing an electron. In order to heal itself, the molecule will attack nearby cells to steal their electrons, causing so much damage to that cell. After having its electron stolen, that next cell will then turn into a free radical itself, and will go around attacking other cells, leading to a vicious cycle.

One of the most effective ways to halt this cycle is with the use of antioxidants.

How do these help?

They contain a number of extra electrons, meaning that when they come into contact with a free radical, they provide it with its missing electron, therefore healing and neutralizing it. 

However, niacinamide does all of that and more…

In addition to neutralizing free radicals and preventing them from causing more damage, niacinamide also helps to reverse the damage that has already been caused.

What does this look like?

Well, if you have been dealing with a dull and sallow complexion, you will soon notice your natural glow and radiance returning after regular use of niacinamide.

Do you have oily skin?

If so, niacinamide could help you too.

How?

Because this ingredient helps to regulate the amount of sebum that your skin produces. If your skin has been over-producing oil, niacinamide will help to slow this down, and will then keep your oil production under control.

Another big skin benefit of niacinamide is its anti-inflammatory properties.

Inflammation is not only one of the key causes of skin aging, but also triggers a number of other skin conditions, from acne and eczema to psoriasis and rosacea.

If you suffer from any inflammatory skin condition, you may find some relief after using niacinamide.

All of that might seem like a lot, but niacinamide does even more…

For those who suffer from hyperpigmentation, niacinamide could help.

How?

Well, hyperpigmentation is caused by your skin over-producing melanin, which is the pigment that gives your skin its color. Niacinamide helps to reduce this excess production, while also slowing down the rate at which melanin is transferred into your skin’s epidermis – a double whammy against hyperpigmentation!

Does Niacinamide Have Any Side Effects?

When it comes to potent skin care ingredients, the majority of these come with a few side effects.

However, niacinamide is an exception…

This gentle ingredient has no side effects, meaning that it can even be used by those with sensitive skin.

What about during pregnancy or breastfeeding?

Again, niacinamide is completely safe, meaning that it can always be a part of your skincare routine.

Choosing A Niacinamide Skin Care Product

Now that you’re convinced that you need to be using niacinamide on your skin, how do you go about choosing the best skin care product?

Woman trying out skincare product at the store

Unfortunately, there is no easy answer to this, because everybody’s skin will react in its own way to different formulas.

However, when it comes to choosing a niacinamide skin care product, the one thing to really pay attention to is the concentration of niacinamide within it. Ideally, you want something that contains at least 5% niacinamide. If it doesn’t state a percentage on the ingredients label, take a look at where about it appears on the list. The higher up an ingredient is, the more of it a product contains.  

When it comes to the stability of niacinamide…

Unlike many other potent skin care ingredients, niacinamide does not degrade when it comes into contact with light, so you do not need to worry too much about packaging.

However, depending on the other active ingredients you are searching for, it could still be worthwhile ensuring that the packaging of the product you are using is dark and opaque, to prevent light from seeping through.

A pump dispenser is also always going to be better than a screw-top lid, as this prevents oxygen, bacteria and other contaminants from the environment from entering into the product.

When it comes to the actual product you choose, do you go for a cream, a serum or anything else?

Well, each one will have its benefits…

Ideally, you want a product that is designed to remain on your skin for an extended period of time, so don’t bother with cleansers that contain niacinamide. You need a product that will give the niacinamide time to be absorbed by your skin, and it should be a product that you would be happy to use at least once a day.

Try looking for a serum or a cream that contains niacinamide. A face mask can also be helpful, especially since these are likely to be packed with a wide range of other antioxidants.

Using a sunscreen that contains niacinamide can also be beneficial, thanks to the way in which niacinamide is able to help protect against, and reverse, UV damage.

Wondering if it’s better to use niacinamide in the morning or at night?

This is an ingredient that can be used at any time of the day, so feel free to use it morning or night, or both if you please!

Ingredients to Use With Niacinamide

Just like with every other skin care ingredient out there, niacinamide will work even better when it is used along with other ingredients that support its functions.

The perfect example of this is vitamin C…

There are a few myths out there regarding niacinamide and vitamin C, with many believing that these two ingredients should never be used together.

However, this thinking is based on research that was carried out in the 1960’s, using forms of both vitamins that were not stable.

When it comes to the advanced skin care formulas in the modern day world, it is perfectly safe to use niacinamide and vitamin C together.

In fact, not only that, but the two vitamins complement each other beautifully

How?

Mostly when it comes to treating hyperpigmentation. Just like niacinamide, vitamin C is extremely effective when it comes to slowing down the excess production of melanin in the skin, meaning that you are likely to notice dark spots fading much faster when using the two ingredients together. 

Another beneficial ingredient to use along with niacinamide is vitamin A.

Whether you opt for retinol, retinoids, or something milder, one of the side effects that is commonly experienced with this powerful anti-aging ingredient is dryness and redness, due to the way in which vitamin A can have a thinning effect on the skin’s barrier.

Since niacinamide works by strengthening the skin’s barrier and helping it to better retain moisture, this is the perfect ingredient to counter the side effects that vitamin A can bring.

With niacinamide also having antioxidant effects, it only makes sense to combine the vitamin with other antioxidants.

Wondering which other antioxidants you should be using?

That depends on what you are trying to treat, but here are a few of the most all-round beneficial antioxidants for your skin:

  • Green teadoes everything from minimizing fine lines and wrinkles to reversing cell damage to neutralizing free radicals 
  • Lycopenethe carotenoid that gives red fruits and vegetables their color, lycopene promotes collagen production while reversing DNA damage in your skin cells
  • Resveratrolfound in grapes, red wine and nuts, resveratrol helps to prevent and reverse damage caused by UVB rays 
  • Grape seedextremely effective at neutralizing free radicals
  • Vitamin E – boosts collagen production and reduces the visibility of the signs of aging 

Natural Sources of Vitamin B3

With many other skin care ingredients, consuming them in a whole, natural form can be just as, if not more, beneficial than applying them topically.

However, niacinamide is an exception…

When you consume this vitamin, it first needs to be digested, after which it is then broken down and bioconverted, before being circulated around your body. It is then used by your vital organs first, before any extras are sent over to your skin.

Infographic on food sources of vitamin B3

On the other hand, when you apply niacinamide topically, it skips all of this. Instead, highly concentrated amounts of the vitamin are absorbed directly into the skin and put to good use immediately.

Nevertheless, it is always beneficial to boost the effects of a skin care ingredient by consuming it orally too.

When it comes to the best food sources of vitamin B3, these include:

  • Fresh vegetablesmushrooms, pumpkins and potatoes
  • Grainsoatmeal, pasta and bread
  • Dairycheese and milk
  • Meatliver, chicken, pork, beef, lamb and turkey
  • Seafoodtuna, anchovies, salmon, rainbow trout and mackerel
  • Nuts and seedspeanuts, almonds, sunflower seeds, squash seeds 

There are also many processed foods available that have been fortified with vitamin B3, so chances are that you are already consuming enough through your diet. However, since this is not able to directly benefit your skin, topical niacinamide is so important.

Being such a multi-functional ingredient, niacinamide is one that just about everybody would benefit from using, no matter your age or skin type. Whether you suffer from a dry and rough complexion, or oily skin and acne, or even frequent sensitivities and irritations, niacinamide can help with all of this and more.

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