One of my favourite skincare ingredients is niacimanide (also called nicotinamide), a stable form of Vitamin B3. Safe and effective even at high concentrations, niacinamide does it all: it moisturizes skin, improves its texture, treats acne, rosacea and hyperpigmentation and even has anti-inflammatory properties! Pretty impressive, huh?
Don’t get too excited, though. Niacinamde is not a miracle worker. It won’t make you look 10 years younger or fix all your skin’s woes overnight. But, with regular use, it will help treat the skin conditions that are plaguing you and keep your skin looking its best. Here’s how:
Niacinamide hydrates skin
Niacinamide is a great moisturizer, especially for people with dry and damaged skin. A 2000 study published in the British Journal of Dermatology has found that niacinamide “increased ceramide and free fatty acid [natural emollients] levels in the stratum corneum, and decreased transepidermal water loss in dry skin”. As a result, skin is moisturized, smoother and less prone to irritations.
Another study, published in the International Journal of Dermatology, has shown niacinamide to be even more effective than white petrolatum (vaseline) at reducing water loss and increasing moisture levels in the skin. This is very impressive because white petrolatum is one of the most effective moisturizers available, and, according to Dr Leslie Baumann, “it is often the gold standard to which other occlusive ingredients are compared”.
Niacinamide is an effective treatment for acne
Acne is often treated with antibiotics, but after a while it can become resistant to them, forcing you to search for a new treatment. Niacinamide, which doesn’t induce bacterial resistance, may be the answer. A 1999 study has compared a 4% niacinamide gel to a 1% clindamycin gel (a topical antibiotic). Eight weeks later, 82% of patients treated with niacinamide saw an improvement, while clindamycin worked well for only 68% of those who used it. The researchers concluded that “4% nicotinamide gel is of comparable efficacy to 1% clindamycin gel in the treatment of acne vulgaris”, and suggested niacinamide’s efficacy was due to its anti-inflammatory properties.
Niacinamide can soothe rosacea
Rosacea is a condition characterized by skin redness, dryness, sensitivity and inflammation. To keep it under control, it’s essential not to impair the skin’s barrier function. When this is damaged, in fact, skin is more prone to irritations and dryness. Niacinamide can help. A 2005 study has shown that applying a facial moisturizer with niacinamide twice a day for a month can improves skin barrier function, relieving the symptoms of rosacea.
Niacinamide has skin-lightening properties
But that’s not all. Niacinamide is also effective at treating hyperpigmentation. In 2002, a group of researchers found that moisturizers and sunscreens with 2% and 5% niacinamide “significantly decreased hyperpigmentation and increased skin lightness compared with vehicle alone after 4 weeks of use”.
These findings were confirmed by a 2011 study, which found that 4% niacinamide was an effective treatment for melasma, although not as effective as hydroquinone. Yet, it provides a valid alternative for people with sensitive skin who can’t tolerate the latter. How niacinamide works? By inhibiting the transfer of melanosomes (small bubbles within a cell that carry melanin) from melanocytes (the cells that produce melanin) to the keratinocytes (the predominant cell type in the outer most layer of the skin) of the epidermis.
Products with niacinamide
Niacinamide can be found in Olay Definity, Total Effects (which also contains antioxidants vitamin c, vitamin e and green tea) and Regenerist (which contains antioxidants and Palmitoyl Pentapeptide 3 too) lines. Other products that contain niacimanide are Elta MD Clear SPF 46 and Paula’s Choice Resist Pure Radiance Skin Brightening Treatment (which also contains other skin-lightening ingredients such as acetyl glucosamine and licorice extract).
The Bottom Line
Niacinamide is a powerful ingredient that should be added to any skincare routine. It improves skin barrier function and reduces transepidermal water loss, reduces hyperpigmentation, treats acne, soothes rosacea symptoms and even has anti-inflammatory properties. Plus, it is safe and well-tolerated even by those with sensitive skin.