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Niacinamide is “in”amide. As a skin care ingredient, it’s gaining popularity super fast because of a long list of reported benefits. You may even already have some products in your skin care arsenal that contain it.
So here’s the scoop on exactly what it is, what it can do for your skin, and a few ways to add it to your daily routine, along with some of our top picks for niacinamide supplements and skin care products.
Niacinamide, sometimes called nicotinamide (no relation to the addictive substance found in tobacco), is the active form of niacin (vitamin B-3). It’s the form most commonly found in niacin supplements or skin care products.
Niacin is a vitamin every single tissue in your body needs a constant supply of to continue producing energy to power your cells. It helps your body harness the energy in food you eat and transform it into something you can use. (Read: It’s pretty darn important.)
Additionally, niacin has a number of positive effects on your skin. Even better, you can get many of these benefits by consuming niacin orally OR by using niacinamide-containing skin care products.
And hey, why not both?
If you need proof that niacinamide is pure skin food, here it is.
Many of these benefits are results of niacinamide’s potential anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects on your skin, which allow it to protect your cells from damage.
Protects against sun damage and certain skin cancers
A high quality 2015 study of more than 300 people found that high-dose niacinamide supplementation resulted in a 23 percent decrease in the development of new nonmelanoma skin cancers compared to a placebo.
While protecting skin cells from damage caused by UV rays, niacinamide also helps rebuild healthy skin cells.
Has antibacterial properties
One animal study in 2017 found that a leave-on niacinamide formulation boosted antimicrobial peptide (AMP) activity on the skin, providing more protection against potentially harmful bacteria.
One of the main benefits of topical niacinamide is that helps prevent hyperpigmentation, the development of discolored patches on your skin.
In a 2010 study of 101 women, those who used moisturizers containing niacinamide for 10 weeks had greater reductions in hyperpigmentation than those who used products without niacinamide.
According to a 2011 study, niacinamide seems to promote a more even skin tone by slightly decreasing melanin production without compromising the health of melanocytes, the cells that produce melanin.
Boosts skin integrity
Topical niacinamide may also increase the thickness of the stratum corneum, the top layer of your skin.
According to a 2018 study, topical niacinamide may be able to reduce the number of acne spots on your skin by 40 to 60 percent, so ummmm… sign us up!
Even for severe acne, research indicates that niacinamide may be helpful.
Reduces the appearance of wrinkles
Another win: A 2010 study found that over-the-counter creams containing niacinamide and retinyl propionate have comparable wrinkle-reducing effects to prescription tretinoin creams, with fewer side effects.
Improves skin texture
Looking to combat redness or blotchiness? Niacinamide to the rescue! It’s been shown to reduce inflammation, which in turn can help ease redness from acne, eczema, and other skin woes. Niacinamide may also help reduce pore size over time — bonus!
Surprisingly, oral niacinamide intake may also help protect against water losses through the skin, leaving your skin more hydrated.
As you can see, your skin may seriously benefit from oral or topical niacinamide. Here’s how to add it to your daily routine.
Niacin is mostly found in animal foods like beef, chicken, and fish, but you can also get it from nuts, seeds, and beans. Most grain products are enriched with some niacin too. (So no worries, plant-based eaters!)
The niacin found in food is usually just plain ol’ niacin, but it’s quickly converted into niacinamide once you digest it. Your body can actually convert tryptophan (an amino acid that’s used to build proteins) into niacinamide too.
Snackin’ on B-3
Eat up! You can get some of the benefits of niacinamide from noshing on these nutrient-rich foods that contain B-3:
- green veggies
Most adults need at least 14 milligrams of niacin or niacin equivalents (NE) like tryptophan daily, but men and folks who are pregnant or breastfeeding have slightly higher needs.
Niacin deficiency can lead to a disease called pellagra, which has pretty much been eradicated in most developed countries.
You may want to consider supplementing if you have liver damage or an eating disorder or if you currently have or previously had an alcohol use disorder. This is def a conversation to have with your healthcare provider, though.
Most of the benefits of oral niacin intake found in studies were based on niacinamide supplements rather than intake of niacin-containing foods. But taking sky-high doses like the ones used in some studies can result in less-than-pleasant side effects.
Taking too much niacin can cause something called niacin flush, which includes uncomfortable skin redness and irritation and some potentially more serious complications like elevated body temp or blood pressure changes.
Niacinamide is naturally “flush-free,” so you can safely take higher doses without these pesky side effects. Just another reason niacinamide is ab-fab (absolutely fabulous).
Your healthcare provider can help you navigate high-dose niacin supplementation. For instance, you may want to take a higher dose if you have an increased risk of skin cancer. Definitely consult a professional before you start taking a high dose all willy-nilly, though.
Finally, we’ve reached topical niacinamide. Most standalone niacinamide products are formulated as lightweight serums. Niacinamide is also added to other skin care products, such as creams, which may also contain other active ingredients.
Topical niacinamide products may cause some mild irritation when you start using them. No worries, though — this effect will go away over time.
Niacinamide Serums: What to look for
You may see niacinamide listed as “niacin” and “nicotinamide” on labels.
Most formulations are 5 percent or less. Reports suggest 5 percent is effective in treating sun damage and hyperpigmentation.
If you have sensitive skin, start with a lower concentration like 2 percent.
Here are our top picks for niacinamide supplements and topical products.
Skin care products
With nearly 4,000 glowing Amazon reviews, this niacinamide serum is definitely a favorite. It’s got some added zinc and is vegan and cruelty-free.
Paula’s Choice is a cult favorite for skin care enthusiasts everywhere, and this niacinamide serum does not disappoint. It’s got added antioxidants and licorice extract to boost its soothing, skin-nourishing activity.
This serum from InstaNatural is made with squeaky-clean ingredients like rosemary extract and avocado oil, but the star (of course) is the moisturizing, pore-minimizing niacinamide.
This supplement comes from a brand that healthcare professionals trust and is totally free of unnecessary ingredients. It provides 500 milligrams of extended-release, flush-free niacinamide per serving.
This high quality, natural niacinamide supplement is non-flushing and contains 500 milligrams per serving. It’s also vegan and gluten-free.
Jarrow Formulas is another favorite brand among healthcare providers. This niacinamide supplement is flush-free and provides 250 milligrams per serving.
- Niacinamide is the active form of niacin, a vitamin your body needs to produce energy.
- It has some antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects, which means it has TONS of skin benefits when taken orally OR applied directly to the skin.
- You can get niacin from food, take niacin supplements, or use topical products that contain niacinamide.
- Talk to your doc about taking high-dose niacin supplements, because they may cause flushing. (Niacinamide supplements are flush-free!)