The benefits of niacinamide

niacinamide product in hand

Niacinamide benefits almost any skin concern and skin type and it's a truly standout ingredient due to this versatility.

The conclusions we form on any ingredient are always based on published research. The studies about using niacinamide for the skin demonstrates just how effective it is, so find out exactly why you need to add this ingredient to your skincare shelf.

What we'll discuss:

  • What is niacinamide?
  • What does niacinamide do for your skin?
  • How to use niacinamide
  • What age can you start using niacinamide?
  • Adding niacinamide to your skincare routine
  • How long does niacinamide take to work?
  • Potential niacinamide side effects
  • Niacinamide skincare products
  • References

What is niacinamide?

Also known as vitamin B3 and nicotinamide, niacinamide is a water-soluble vitamin that works with the natural substances in your skin. So what does niacinamide do? It helps to visibly minimise enlarged pores, tighten lax pores, improve uneven skin tone, soften fine lines & wrinkles, diminish dullness and strengthen a weakened surface.

Niacinamide not only reduces the impact of environmental damage by improving the first line of defence (skin barrier), it also plays a role in helping the skin repair signs of past damage. Left unchecked, this type of daily assault makes your skin appear older, duller and less radiant overall.

niacinamide drops

What does niacinamide do for your skin?

Niacinamide skincare does a lot for you as it's a multi-tasking bio-active ingredient. However, this type of vitamin B undergoes a lot before our skin's supporting surface cells reap the benefits.

Once niacinamide is applied, it’s broken down into the form of vitamin that our cells can use: the coenzyme nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide. It is this coenzyme that’s believed to be responsible for niacinamide’s benefits.

Niacinamide can address specific concerns but everyone's skin will gain something from niacinamide application, no matter the skin type. Let's break down the results even further...

Minimise enlarged pores

Niacinamide is most famous for its ability to reduce the appearance of enlarged pores. As we touched on above, research hasn’t determined exactly how this vitamin B delivers such reduced pore size, but it seems that niacinamide has a normalising ability on the pore lining. This plays a role in helping to keep oil and debris from getting backed up, which would otherwise lead to clogs and rough, bumpy skin.

As clogs form and worsen in this scenario, the pores stretch to compensate, resulting in enlargement. Routine usage of niacinamide helps pores return to their natural size. Sun damage can cause pores to become stretched too, leading to what some describe as "orange peel skin". Higher concentrations of niacinamide can help visibly tighten pores by shoring up skin’s supportive elements, often dramatically improving orange peel texture.

Add moisture

Other benefits of niacinamide are that it helps to renew and restore the skin's surface against moisture loss and dehydration. When key fatty acids in the skin barrier (known as ceramides) gradually deplete, skin is left vulnerable to all sorts of problems from persistent patches of dry, flaky skin to becoming increasingly extra-sensitive.

If you struggle with dry skin, topical application of niacinamide has been shown to boost the hydrating ability of moisturisers so that the skin’s surface can better resist the moisture loss leading to recurrent dryness and flaky texture. Niacinamide works brilliantly with common moisturiser ingredients like glycerine, non-fragrant plant oils, cholesterol, sodium PCA and sodium hyaluronate.

Brighten the skin

How does niacinamide help discolourations and uneven skin tone? Both concerns stem from excess melanin (skin pigment) showing on the skin surface. In concentrations of 5% and higher, niacinamide works via several pathways to keep new discolourations from appearing. At the same time, it also helps reduce the appearance of existing discolourations, so your skin tone looks more even. Research has shown niacinamide and tranexamic acid work particularly well together, and as mentioned above, it can be used with other discolouration-reducing ingredients such as all forms of vitamin C, liquorice, retinol and bakuchiol.

How to use niacinamide

Niacinamide is compatible with other powerful ingredients like peptides, hyaluronic acid, AHAs, BHA and all types of antioxidants, including retinol and vitamin C.

In fact, using niacinamide with other bioactive ingredients helps provide advanced results. For example, niacinamide boosts the skin barrier which then makes it more receptive to retinol. Niacinamide and retinol also work together to help balance oil production, reduce the look of pores, brighten the skin and fight off pro-ageing environmental aggressors.

Retinol isn’t the only potent ingredient to make an effective pairing. Niacinamide and vitamin C supercharge one another's antioxidant benefits, resulting in boosted radiance and a smoother, more even appearance.

A multi-ingredient approach to skincare is important because as great as niacinamide is, it’s not the only ingredient that your skin needs to look and feel its best. Think of it like your diet – as healthy as kale is, if it was all you ate then you’d soon become malnourished because your body needs more than one healthy food to maintain itself. The same is true for skin, the body’s largest (and most exposed) organ.

What age can you start using niacinamide?

Niacinamide is a safe skincare ingredient that you can begin incorporating into a routine during your teens. During adolescence, it can be particularly useful to help balance oil production and reduce the occurrence of clogs.

How to add niacinamide to your skincare routine

Using niacinamide is as easy as finding great skincare formulas that contain it and applying it in the order of your routine:

  • Cleanser
  • Toner
  • Exfoliant
  • Layer the rest of your serums, treatments and moisturisers (including those with niacinamide) in order of thinnest to thickest texture
  • During the day, finish with a broad-spectrum SPF 30 or higher

How long does niacinamide take to work?

Generally, you should start to see results after 2-4 weeks of twice daily usage (depending on the severity of your skin concerns and the concentration of your niacinamide formula). Ongoing use is required for continued improvement and maintained results.

Results will continue to improve over time but do not expect your skin to be completely “poreless” – that isn’t possible for any skincare product. Your skin needs its pores for many vital functions! What you can expect is for pores to look smaller, your skin tone to look more even, fine lines and wrinkles to be visibly reduced and, overall, a much healthier glow.

Potential niacinamide side effects

Widely tolerated, niacinamide typically assists in soothing and contributing to skin health. However, for some, niacinamide can cause a flushing effect on the skin, both when applied topically and when ingested via a supplement. Research on niacin-based facial flushing has shown tolerance to it “develops rapidly” (11). This flushing event occurs due to the niacinamide containing too much free niacin. Special purified grades of this ingredient (what we use) have vanishingly low levels of niacin, meaning they’re highly unlikely to cause this issue.

Niacinamide skincare products

For best results, use leave-on niacinamide formulas (such as serums or moisturisers) instead of rinse-off products (like cleansers) where contact time is limited.

  • A niacinamide toner can be especially beneficial when applied after cleansing to rehydrate and replenish the skin.
  • A concentrated 10% Niacinamide Booster can be used on its own (much like a serum) or mixed into your favorite non-SPF moisturiser, based on personal preference.
  • Those with stubborn concerns around advanced signs of sun damage, orange peel texture, lax pores and oil-related bumps should consider trying an advanced strength 20% niacinamide serum.
  • You can use niacinamide-containing products around your eyes, too. Some may find applying a moisturiser or niacinamide eye cream helps soften the appearance of crow’s feet and dark circles, as well as helping this delicate area retain skin-smoothing moisture and resist loss of firmness. Facial products with niacinamide can also be applied to the neck and chest.
  • For skin concerns beyond the face and neck, a niacinamide body serum can be advantageous. Niacinamide’s benefits on the body include tackling uneven tone, discolourations (including dotted marks around the hair follicles), not to mention restoring and strengthening the skin’s moisture barrier. Our 5% Niacinamide Body Serum targets uneven tone and signs of ageing on the body, making it an effective addition to any post-shower bodycare routine.

References for this information:

1. Antioxidants, August 2021, ePublication
2. Journal of Drugs in Dermatology, May 2019, pages 454–459
3. Experimental Dermatology, February 2019, Supplement 1, pages 15-22
4. Journal of Investigative Dermatology, May 2017, page S116
5. American Chemical Society, May 2020, pages 25625–25632
6. Dermatologic Surgery, March 2016, pages 277-285
7. Dermatologic Surgery, Volume 31, Part 2, 2005, Discussion 865
8. International Journal of Cosmetic Science, October 2004, pages 231-238
9. International Journal of Pharmaceutics, January 2013, Pages 192-201
10. Skin Pharmacology and Physiology, June 2014, pages 311-315
11. International Journal of Clinical Practice, September 2009, pages 1369-1377

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