So-called miracle skincare ingredients often come with drawbacks—retinoids are notorious for flaking and redness, while glycolic acid can sting. But niacinamide benefits skin without downsides: there’s no learning curve and overdoing it shouldn’t be a concern. Read on to see what this powerful product can do for your skin.
What is niacinamide?
“Niacinamide is a powerful antioxidant B vitamin, B3, that helps improve redness, soothes inflamed skin, and reduces hyperpigmentation,” says Shari Marchbein, M.D., a dermatologist in New York City. That means it can target fine lines and wrinkles, acne, post-acne dark spots, melasma, and redness all in one go — and without a huge caveat. Surprising? Not really, when you look at the evidence.
For instance, one review of common skincare ingredients found that of all those assessed, only niacinamide came close to upholding the three Kligman standards of cosmeceuticals, named for renowned skin researcher Albert Kligman: It penetrates skin, offers mechanisms of actions (which lead to benefits), and is backed up by a ton of clinical studies.
Not only that, but it’s also safe for sensitive or even rosacea-prone skin, says Marchbein. She recommends using it once or twice a day. Keep in mind when layering ingredients, though, that “niacinamide can decrease the efficacy of topical Vitamin C, so they should either be used at different times of day or separated by about 10 minutes,” she says.
What does niacinamide do for your skin?
Sounds like a powerhouse ingredient, right? It is. Here, we take a closer look at all the ways niacinamide benefits your skin.
It’s a powerful antiaging ingredient.
Being an antioxidant, which counteracts the free radicals that damage cellular DNA, collagen, and beyond, niacinamide can offer a lot of benefits when paired with a sunscreen — and that’s not even counting the fact that certain forms of vitamin B3 can actually defend skin against UV rays. That being said, “while nicotinamide can help reduce the risk of UV-induced skin aging and skin cancer, it should not serve as your sole sun protective skincare product,” says Terrence Keaney, M.D., a dermatologist in Arlington, VA. “Make sure to combine with a broad-spectrum mineral sunscreen.” Marchbein recommends the below formulas, as they work double-duty to protect skin.
It can help brighten dark circles.
Niacinamide is making an appearance in eye creams these days, and for good reason. “Niacinamide is helpful for the eyes for a combination of safety and efficacy,” says Keaney. “It helps with dark circles and wrinkles, two of the major complaints of the skin around the eyes.” Because there’s a low risk of irritation or inflammation from using it, you can apply it to the delicate, thin skin around the eyes without worry.
It can help treat acne.
Acne? Aging? You can target both in one go with the magic of niacinamide. “There’s ample evidence to support its efficacy in treating inflammatory skin conditions, such as acne and rosacea. “It can help even out skin tone, decrease redness, and decrease oil production,” says Marchbein, who adds that even as a 4% niacinamide gel, it’s shown to be just as effective as topical antibiotics commonly used to treat acne. Plus, everyone can use it whatever their skin type. “I especially love using it for those who have sensitive or rosacea-prone skin,” she says.
It tackles hyperpigmentation by lightening dark spots.
Similar to how it lightens dark undereye circles, niacinamide can lighten forms of hyperpigmentation by interfering with the process through which freshly-made pigment travels to the surface of the skin; basically, it stops from the pigment from getting there. “It is often combined with other brightening ingredients like licorice root and traneximic acid to treat melasma and other conditions of hyperpigmentation,” says Marchbein. It’s also frequently paired with retinol in order to brighten skin. Not only does niacinamide’s redness-reducing abilities help offset the downside of retinol, but “niacinamide can help with pigmentation more than retinol on its own,” says Keaney.
Deanna Pai is a beauty writer in New York City. Follow her on Instagram @deannapai.