Niacinamide Should Be in Your Skincare Arsenal. Period.
Niacinamide is great for just about everyone. It's gentle. And it works!
Interested? Well read on, my friend, because there's more!
What is Niacinamide?
Niacinamide is a form of vitamin B3.
And vitamin B3 has a lot of names. Too many, in fact! When people use all of the names (vitamin B3, niacin, niacinamide, nicotinamide) interchangeably, it gets confusing.
Why Is Vitamin B3 Important?
Vitamin B3 in food is also called Niacin. Our bodies make niacinamide / nicotinamide from niacin in the food we eat. It's essential because it helps change carbohydrates into the fuel our bodies need.
What Are Some Foods with Vitamin B3 / Niacin?
Niacin is found in proteins like fish, turkey, chicken, organ meat, eggs, and milk. Beets, green vegetables, fortified cereals, and brewer's yeast also contain Vitamin B3.
BUT Vitamin B3 / Niacin is not well absorbed through skin.
So when you hear people talk about Niacin or Vitamin B3 in skincare products, they're really talking about Niacinamide OR Nicotinamide. They're 2 different names for the form of Vitamin B3 commonly used in skincare.
To Sum Up:
Food & Supplements = Vitamin B3 and Niacin (They're 2 different names for the same thing.)
Phew! Glad we got that straight! It's boring - I know - but you need to be able to find the form that WORKS!
Niacinamide / Nicotinamide Are GREAT in Skincare Products!
Niacinamide is one of the best studied ingredients for anti-aging. But we're unsure exactly how it works in skin - and we still have more to learn about the best concentrations.
Here's What We do Know:
- In the 1970s, researchers found that niacinamide penetrated the skin well. Since then, scientists have been learning about how niacinamide affects skin.
- Niacinamide keeps melanin (which gives skin its color) from reaching the skin surface and protects from UV damage - like age spots and freckles. For these reasons, it's great for melasma and melasma treatment.
- Studies have shown that it works as an antioxidant and improves the skin's barrier function (meaning it keeps the good stuff, like water, in and the bad stuff, like pollution, out).
- It reduces wrinkles, skin redness, and sallowness while improving elasticity.
- In multiple clinical studies, topical niacinamide improved skin appearance and was well tolerated.
7 Things Niacinamide Does Really Well:
But First You Need a Little Background on How Wrinkles Form:
As we age, skin gradually loses elasticity and develops wrinkles. The fibroblast cells, deep within the skin, slow their production of collagen and elastin. (Collagen gives skin its structure, and firmness.) Sun exposure breaks down collagen and fibroblasts produce less collagen. As a result, our skin wrinkles, sags and loses fullness.
(If You Have Sensitive Skin, Niacinamide Is a Great Alternative to Retin-A / Tretinoin for Wrinkles! But for really phenomenal results, use them both!)
Prescription tretinoin, also known as Retin-A, prevents the breakdown of collagen AND increases the amount of new collagen formed. It works extremely well on fine lines and wrinkles. BUT many patients don't like the redness and peeling that can come with retinoid use. Learn more about retinoids in our post, Want Younger-Looking Skin? 3 Ways Retinoids Make Skin Beautiful.
In one study, a niacinamide combination product was compared to prescription 0.02% tretinoin. The niacinamide product significantly improved wrinkle appearance after 8 weeks. It had comparable benefits to the tretinoin after 6 months. The combination was also significantly better tolerated with fewer side effects.
Niacinamide may increase collagen and protein production in skin. Reduced collagen and protein levels cause poor skin structure, lost elasticity and decreased epidermal barrier function. In turn, they cause wrinkles and dry skin. Oblong et al found that, in aging cells, niacinamide stimulated collagen and epidermal protein formation. Another study, published in 2002, in the Journal of the Society of Cosmetic Chemists, showed niacinamide's ability to increase dermal matrix collagen production.
Niacinamide may improve the texture of skin by speeding up epidermal turnover. Matts and Solenick were able to show that long term topical application of 2.5% niacinamide significantly smoothed the skin and corrected damage from aging. Another clinical trial by Shoechnick with 3.5% cream showed a 14.8% reduction in skin roughness.
2. Hyperpigmentation & Dark Spots
But First You Need a Little Background on How Dark Spots Form:
Sun damage is the biggest cause of skin discoloration and dark spots. Melanocytes, cells deep within your skin, create melanosomes. They contain the pigment that gives skin color. When melanosomes are released, they move into the keratinocytes, the cells in the top layer of your skin. When this happens it creates dark spots called hyperpigmentation.
By stopping the melanosomes from moving into the keratinocytes, pigmented spots are reduced, skin is lightened and skin becomes more evenly toned - and beautiful!
Niacinamide lightens dark spots and evens skin tone!
Researchers were able to show in a study by Hakozaki et al that niacinamide inhbits the transfer of the melanosomes to the surrounding keratinocytes by up to 68%.
Tanno et al showed that topical niacinamide significantly decreased hyperpigmentation and increased skin lightness after 4 weeks.
Oral and topical antibiotics work well because they kill the bacteria that causes acne. But there's a downside. Their widespread use is causing resistant strains of bacteria (bacteria that are harder and harder to kill). Niacinamide works as an anti-inflammatory without causing bacterial resistance.
In one 8 week study, the safety and effectiveness of 4% nicotinamide gel was compared to 1% clindamycin gel, a commonly used antibiotic. 82% of the patients treated with nicotinamide and 68% treated with clindamycin were improved. Both treatments produced similar reductions in acne lesions and severity. The anti-inflammatory activity of niacinamide may have contributed to its effect on acne.
Sebum is the oil that causes shiny skin, pimples, and inflammatory acne. Most over the counter acne products work by absorbing sebum from the skin. A study published in the Journal of Cosmetic and Laser Therapy found that topical 2% niacinamide actually decreases sebum levels in skin.
Learn more in our post, 17 of the Best Ways to Treat Adult Acne.
4. Skin Barrier Function & Rosacea
But First, You Need a Little Background on How Your Skin Protects Itself From the Environment:
NADH and NADPH are enzymes. They help your skin create a barrier to pollutants and bacteria that can harm you. As we age, the levels of these enzymes decrease.
Niacinamide Preserves Your Skin's Barrier!
Topical niacinamide reduces their rate of decline and preserves the skin barrier. It increases production of natural emollients (fatty acids and ceramides) that keep skin hydrated and are critical to skin structure and function. With improved function, many skin conditions, like acne and the redness of rosacea (a condition where skin is red, irritated, sensitive and inflamed), are easier to manage.
The British Journal of Dermatology published a study that showed that use of 2% niacinamide twice a day for 4 weeks increased ceramide and free fatty acid levels AND prevented water loss in the dermis.
In one study, this form of vitamin B3 improved the skin barrier in rosacea patients, making them less sensitive to irritants like laundry detergents. In another study, 34 subjects were treated with 1-methylnicotinamide (a product of the metabolism of niacinamide). 26 of the 34 showed improvement.
5. Keratinocyte Differentiation
What the heck is keratinocyte differentiation?
As we age, skin thins and there is reduced epidermal skin turnover. The basal layer is the innermost layer of the epidermis of the skin. In this layer, basal cells continually divide and push older basal cells up to the surface of the skin, where they become corneocytes. The process takes from 4 - 6 weeks. This continuous turnover protects the skin, while creating a network of fatty acids, lipids, triglycerides, and a protective pH. But by the age of 25, turnover slows, collagen and elastin production decline, and there is a loss in skin firmness and elasticity.
Niacinamide Speeds Your Skin Cell Turnover!
Studies by Tanno et al found that niacinamide may stimulate keratinocyte differentiation. Let me explain.
Niacinamide increases keratinocyte differentiation, so skin turns over more quickly. The result is a thicker stratum corneum (the outer layer of skin), improved skin barrier function, and improved water retention.
6. Skin Sallowness and Yellowing
The skin yellowing that comes with aging may be a result of glycation called the Maillard reaction. There is an oxidative reaction between protein and sugar which creates yellow proteins that are fluorescent. The proteins accumulate in the skin as we age.
7. The Whole Kit & Kaboodle - Fine Lines, Wrinkles, Hyperpigmentation, Elasticity, Skin Redness and Sallowness (Yellowing)
A double blind placebo study done by Bissett et al showed that 5% Niacinamide was well tolerated by all skin types. When applied to the face for 12 weeks, it reduced fine lines and wrinkles, hyperpigmented spots, redness, and sallowness (yellowing). Elasticity was also improved. These results were later confirmed in a study by Matts and Solenick with 5% and 2% niacinamide.
Metacell Renewal B3 by SkinCeuticals Includes 5% Niacinamide.
Metacell Renewal B3 uses 5% niacinamide, 2.5% tightening tri-peptide concentrate, and 15% glycerin to improve the look of sun damage. Signs of photoaging / sun damage are determined by skin biology, lifestyle, geography, skincare regimen, and use of sun protection. Together, they create a prematurely-aged appearance. With daily use, this corrective moisturizer clears skin, reduces wrinkles, tightens skin, and evens skin tone.
- Renews skin by increasing cell turnover
- Reduces the appearance of discoloration and redness
- Delivers intense hydration without a tacky feel
Remember to ALWAYS start new products one at a time, about a week apart, to make sure you don't get a reaction.
Niacinamide works as an antioxidant to protect the skin cell and its membrane from destruction by free radicals. This is just one more example of the MANY beneficial effects of topical niacinamide. It is an excellent ingredient for a daily skin care regimen - particularly in cases of dry and/or sensitive skin.
Thanks for reading!
Amy Takken is a registered nurse with 20+ years of experience helping people improve their health. Her in-depth skincare articles have been featured on Nazarian Plastic Surgery and The Palm Beach Center for Facial Plastic & Laser Surgery. Amy loves research and constantly watches for new products and treatments to help you improve your skin’s health – because healthy skin is beautiful! To reach Amy, visit our contact page.
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If you liked this post, you'll LOVE these:
Matts PJ, Oblong JE, Bissett DL. A review of the range of effects of niacinamide in human skin. Intl Fed Soc Cosmet Chem Mag. 2002;5:285–289.
The Information provided on our website is not medical advice and should not be viewed as such. By law, only a medical doctor can diagnose or give medical advice. As a registered nurse, my goal is to educate, so I provide information on skin care, skin care products, and skin care treatments. If you have any condition that concerns you, please see a medical doctor. While most skin conditions are benign, some - like melanoma - can be deadly. If there is any doubt, please, please consult your physician. Thank you!
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