Updated November 20, 2020Niacinamide is a recent standout in the beauty industry and one of the most versatile ingredients in the skincare market. It can do everything from treating acne to fighting aging to brightening dull, tired skin. No matter your age, this ingredient is a beneficial addition to your beauty routine. But what exactly is this super ingredient and what is its intended purpose for your skin?In our post, we take a look at what niacinamide is and how it can help you get and keep great skin.What Is Niacinamide?Niacinamide is a form of vitamin B3, an important component for many bodily functions. There are three forms of this complex: niacinamide, niacin, and nicotinamide riboside. Your body converts all the B3 you absorb into a compound called nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD). This coenzyme is required for dozens of processes throughout your entire body, and it’s one of the most essential vitamins for day to day functions.Considering how vital B3 is to your body’s systems, it’s no surprise deficiencies of this vitamin cause major disruptions. Lack of B3 can also lead to pellagra—a deficiency disease that causes many symptoms in a host of different bodily systems. Besides skin issues, symptoms include loss of appetite, abdominal pain, weakness, and confusion.Your body cannot manufacture B3 like it can some other vitamins, so you have to get it from food sources. Animal products are a common source of vitamin B3. If you follow a completely plant-based diet, you might be at a higher risk of B3 deficiency.Other foods rich in niacinamide include yeast, fish, meat, eggs, dairy, and whole grains. Your body also makes the NAD compound when you eat niacin—foods with high levels of niacin include tuna, salmon, avocado, red meat, chicken breast, organ meat, peanuts, and brown rice.How Can a Lack of Niacinamide Affect My Skin?Pellagra, the disease caused by a lack of B3, can have major effects on the skin. Pellagra’s name is derived from the Italian words “Pella” and “Agra,” and this phrase translates loosely to “rough skin.” The moniker comes from the observations of eighteenth-century Italians, who were first to document the disease.As Italians noted, insufficient B3 can cause many skin issues. Since your skin has a high rate of cell turnover, a lack of B3 is more noticeable in this area. Pellagra symptoms include:Severe dermatitis: A rash on the face, lips, feet, or hands.Mucous membrane inflammation: Swelling or sores on tongue, lips, or gums.Skin lesions: Patches of skin that are crusty, scaly, cracked, itchy, or burning.Discoloration: Blotches of red or brown all over the skin.Even if you get enough B3 in your diet to avoid such severe symptoms, lower levels of niacinamide still give your skin a tired or dull look.Niacinamide Skin Care BenefitsWe’ve talked a lot about what a lack of B3 will do to your skin. Now let’s talk about what more B3 can do for your skin. No matter your skin type, age, or lifestyle, niacinamide is so versatile it’s almost guaranteed to give your skincare routine a boost.In the next sections, we discuss some of the biggest ways topical niacinamide can improve your complexion.Offer Sun ProtectionNiacinamide protects against certain skin cancers. According to Harvard Medical School, niacinamide reduced the risk of both basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas by 23 percent! That’s a huge decrease. B3’s power as a free radical neutralizing antioxidant may have something to do with these protective effects.Lighten HyperpigmentationIn clinical studies, niacinamide lightened hyperpigmentation when used over four weeks. It does this by inhibiting melanosome transfer from melanocytes to keratinocytes, meaning the pigment produced by the melanin factories (melanocytes) cannot be transferred to the primary skin cells (keratinocytes). This prevents skin darkening by allowing melanin to be flushed from the system instead of absorbed into the skin.Reduce Lines and WrinklesSince niacinamide protects against and reduces damage from ultraviolet radiation, it minimizes fine lines and wrinkles by increasing cell turnover. Higher cell turnover improves skin elasticity and prevents or reverses the visible signs of photoaging (aging due to chronic sun exposure).Niacinamide also increases collagen production. Collagen is a key ingredient in keeping skin firm, plump, and bouncy. So helping your body maintain higher production levels as you age can keep your skin looking youthful.Increase Moisture RetentionNiacinamide rejuvenates the epidermal lipid barrier layer by increasing ceramide production. Ceramides are essential lipids that form part of the skin barrier, protecting you from external threats and irritants. This layer is the primary boundary responsible for holding in the skin’s moisture, so ensuring it is healthy keeps the skin hydrated.Fix Uneven Skin ToneBecause niacinamide reduces inflammation, it can even your skin tone. It does so by calming skin irritation and easing the symptoms of skin conditions like eczema and rosacea.Decrease Pore SizeNiacinamide helps your skin maintain its moisture barrier, so it reduces the appearance and size of pores in the skin.Treat Oily SkinNiacinamide is one of the few compounds out there that’s been clinically shown to reduce the production of skin oils. It may do this by repairing the skin’s lipid layer – a key component of the epidermis. This, in turn, impedes skin water loss, preventing the sebaceous glands from going into overdrive.Calm Inflammatory AcneIts anti-inflammatory properties make niacinamide a powerful weapon against one of the most common skin conditions younger people face: inflammatory acne. Specifically, this compound can reduce inflammation associated with papules, pustules, and cysts. Niacinamide also reins in the overproduction of sebaceous oils, meaning it decreases the frequency and severity of noninflammatory breakouts.Niacinamide Skincare ProductsBecause of its powerful skin-healing properties, there’s an endless assortment of niacinamide products on the market. Here are some of the most common forms you’ll find it in:SupplementsResearch shows niacinamide supplements can improve skin appearance. But since the US Food and Dietary Guidelines recommend getting most of your nutrients from foods rather than pills, it’s better to start by increasing B3 in your diet. Your body absorbs nutrients through food much more efficiently than through supplements, so it’s actually more efficient to get niacinamide to your skin this way.Another thing to note is it’s possible to get too much B3 through supplements. If that happens, you could experience gastrointestinal symptoms, flushing of the skin, tingling, itching, dryness, dizziness, and headache. Never start or stop a supplement before speaking with your doctor.CreamsCreams containing niacinamide are a great option if you want to retain moisture, fill in fine lines, and even out skin tone overnight. Creams are usually a thicker version of a lotion or moisturizer with a splash of active ingredients thrown in. They’re meant to cover your whole face to treat issues holistically. So if you want to fight acne or reduce wrinkles all over your face, a cream might just be for you. But if you want to treat dark spots or deal with other local issues, serums might be more up your alley.SerumsNiacinamide serums are great for spot treatment, smoothing texture, and reducing blotchiness. Serums have higher concentrations of active ingredients. They’re considered a “booster,” a more powerful concoction to add to your existing skincare routine if you need to target a specific area or issue.If you’ve got a few melasma spots or some hyperpigmentation from old cystic acne, niacinamide serum is probably your best bet to get rid of them. It’s also great for targeting local areas of wrinkles, like crow’s feet around the eyes.MasksMasks containing vitamin B3 are another great option to give your skin a big gulp of this compound. Masks are one of the best options for deep cleaning the skin because you remove them. Most masks draw out impurities, absorb dirt and oil, and exfoliate the epidermis. You receive all the benefits of niacinamide, plus the deep-cleaning benefits of the mask itself when you add this powerful compound to your mask.What to Know About Topical ProductsFor the most part, niacinamide beauty products are considered safe. However, you might want to watch out for a skin reaction. People allergic to this ingredient can develop serious symptoms like rashes, hives, and swelling. Niacinamide may also cause burning, itching, or redness if you have sensitive skin.Other Benefits of NiacinamideBesides its many wonderful skin benefits, niacinamide could have other positive health effects. Supplements containing this B3 complex can improve joint function and immunity. They also seem to offer some benefits to patients suffering from chronic illnesses like diabetes and kidney disease. Just a reminder: speak with your doctor first if you’re considering using a supplement.Slow Early Diabetes ProgressionSome early testing indicates niacinamide could aid children with type 1 diabetes. It helps them maintain their ability to produce their own insulin early in their diagnosis. B3 also seems to improve insulin production and regulate blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes.Further, initial studies are delivering promising results in the field of type 1 diabetes prevention. Researchers inhibited the development of type 1 diabetes in mice by using niacinamide, and evidence indicates this could translate into a protective effect against diabetes in humans.Researchers aren’t yet sure how niacinamide improves diabetes prevention and treatment. They believe it may preserve cells that play a role in insulin production. More study is necessary to confirm this theory, but the early research is encouraging.Improving OsteoarthritisNiacinamide may help patients with osteoarthritis reduce pain and improve flexibility, according to some preliminary studies. Niacinamide’s powerful anti-inflammatory properties lessen swelling in joints, allowing patients who used supplements to reduce their intake of prescription anti-inflammatory medications by 13 percent.Increasing ImmunityNiacinamide has shown some promise in immunity research. It doesn’t improve your resistance to disease by making your internal immune system stronger, but by strengthening your skin barrier.Your skin is possibly the most important component of your immune system. Without its protective barrier, any pathogen could just waltz into your bloodstream and tissues at will — including viruses, bacteria, parasites, protozoa, and every other microbe you can think of.Research has shown niacinamide improves the skin’s defenses by boosting antimicrobial peptides (AMPS). Niacinamide provides protection against bacterial infections of the skin by activating the body’s AMP response.Treating Chronic Kidney DiseaseWhen your kidneys begin to fail due to chronic kidney disease, dangerous toxins start to build up in your blood. One of these harmful chemicals is phosphate. Research suggests that niacinamide may reduce phosphate levels in people suffering from decreased kidney function. In tandem with proper diet, dialysis, and prescription medications, niacinamide might be able to help patients with dysfunctional kidneys live longer and better-quality lives.What Niacinamide Can’t DoBecause of its many benefits, you might be tempted to treat this compound like a miracle cure. It certainly offers powerful skincare and health benefits, but niacinamide is no replacement for a comprehensive skincare routine and a healthy lifestyle.It Can’t Replace Complete Sun ProtectionNiacinamide might reduce your risk of some skin cancers, but using it won’t save you from having to protect yourself from the sun. The 2015 study showed significant decreases in the instance of some nonmelanoma skin cancers. However, that doesn’t translate into a decreased risk of all types of skin cancer, nor does it mean niacinamide is a magic bullet for photoaging.The best thing you can do to avoid skin cancers and signs of photoaging is to avoid sunburn in the first place. Besides using niacinamide, always use a strong SPF, and make sure you’re refreshing frequently. Most sunscreens are only effective for about 80 minutes. Wear a wide-brimmed hat if you’re in the sun. Cover as much of your skin as possible during the heat of the day. Never tan outdoors or use the tanning bed.It Can’t Get You Out of Eating a Well-Balanced DietPellagra is only one deficiency disease. There are many others you have to worry about if you’re not getting enough vitamins and minerals, including scurvy, anemia, rickets, and goiter.Though pellagra isn’t as common as some other issues caused by lack of nutrients, instances of many vitamin and mineral deficits are increasing. This is because many people in the US and around the world consume a diet high in low-nutrient, ultra-processed foods.You need to eat a diet high in vitamin B3 along with other essential nutrients. These nutrients include vitamins C and D, iron, magnesium, and other vitamins and minerals. Eat a diverse and balanced diet high in whole foods and low in refined carbs and saturated fats.It Can’t Substitute Your Entire Skincare RoutineNiacinamide is a great addition to almost anyone’s skincare routine. But like the rest of your body, your skin needs a lot of different ingredients to stay feeling and looking its best. Retinol, collagen, vitamin C, vitamin E, and SPF are all important weapons in the fight against aging.Niacinamide also provides wonderful inflammation-fighting and oil-reducing benefits, but it can’t exfoliate your skin, meaning it won’t replace a mildly acidic cleanser. You need these cleansers to remove contaminants that clog pores and cause acne. A good cleanser can help you ensure you’re always using your niacinamide products on clean skin.What to Watch Out for When Using NiacinamideThere are a few conditions you might want to speak with your doctor about before increasing niacinamide in your diet or using it topically. Never forget, your skin does absorb what you put on it. If you’re slathering stuff on your body, some of that stuff is going to wind up in your body.GoutGout is a form of arthritis caused by a buildup of uric acid. Normally, this acid is supposed to be flushed out of the body, but sometimes it gets stuck in your system. When that happens, the acid forms urate crystals. These can settle in your joints and cause pain and inflammation.Taking too much niacinamide can cause excess uric acid in your blood, leading to gout. This is especially true if you’re already genetically predisposed to this condition. If you have gout in your family, speak to your doctor about how much vitamin B3 should be in your diet.DiabetesNiacinamide impacts insulin production and blood sugar, meaning it can affect your ability to maintain control over your glucose levels if you’re diabetic. Even though the research discussed above has shown niacinamide may actually improve your body’s ability to make insulin, it’s still important to make sure whatever medications you’re on won’t interact with it.Before using niacinamide supplements or products, talk to your doctor about how this ingredient could impact your overall health and your diabetes treatment plan.Liver DiseaseUsing B3 supplements is also not advised if you have liver disease. Overdoing it with vitamin B3 can be bad even for a healthy liver, but taking too much niacinamide risks serious damage in an already diseased liver. If you have any liver disorder, speak with your doctor before increasing your niacinamide intake.Gallbladder DiseaseIf you’ve had gallstones and gallbladder inflammation in the past, or if you’ve been diagnosed with chronic gallbladder disease, compounds containing niacinamide may not be for you. Speak with your doctor about how much niacinamide you should be getting in your diet. Also, ask whether you should use topical niacinamide solutions.FAQsHow long should I wait to see results?Most skincare products require several weeks before you start to notice a difference in your skin, and niacinamide is no different. In most of the clinical trials discussed above, subjects began to see positive effects after 4 to 12 weeks of use. For best results, use this product consistently and on a long-term basis.What concentration is best in my products?Concentrations of around 2 to 5 percent niacinamide seem to be the most effective, depending on what skin issue they’re intended to treat. In studies related to the regulation of oil production, 2 percent of solutions worked best. The research on sun protection and aging showed that patients needed the 5 percent concentrations to see results.How do I know if I’m allergic to niacinamide?Niacinamide is generally considered safe for topical use, so you might not be worried about applying it. However, people can be allergic or sensitive to almost anything. If you’re worried about having a reaction, it’s easy to test for sensitivities. Just apply a small amount of product to your forearm and wait 24 hours to make sure nothing happens.What are some good ingredients to combine niacinamide with?Hyaluronic acid seems to be the optimal ingredient to combine with topical niacinamide because it increases the absorption of the vitamin. Retinol is another great anti-aging ingredient to use with niacinamide. Because of retinol’s tendency to dry out and irritate the skin, using it in tandem with niacinamide is a great way to tame retinol’s side effects.Is there a good age to start using niacinamide?You’re never too young for a great anti-aging routine. If you start this routine before you see the signs of aging, you might be able to preemptively minimize things like age spots and wrinkles. Niacinamide also fights acne, regulates oil production, and shrinks pores, making it a good ingredient to start in your 20s.Bottom LineNiacinamide is a great addition to anyone’s skincare routine. It has an amazing ability to fight the skin ailments of both the young and not-so-young. This powerful B3 compound also improves other issues like joint pain and inflammation.Maybe the best thing about it is it’s easy to get more of it without resorting to supplements. You can eat more fish and B3-rich plants. And of course, you can use it topically! Whether you use creams, masks, or serums, this product is sure to give you some amazing results!This article is for informational purposes and should not replace advice from your doctor or other medical professional. Comments Cancel replyLeave a CommentYour email address will not be published. Required fields are marked * Comment Name Email I agree to the Terms and Conditions of this website.