With so many skincare ingredients being touted as the next big thing in beauty, it’s hard to know which ones really deserve the hype. While niacinamide isn’t exactly new and has been used in skincare for years, it has been getting a lot of buzz lately for its numerous skin benefits, and it’s the star ingredient in a slew of new products hitting shelves this spring.
We tapped two dermatologists to find out everything you need to know about this increasingly popular ingredient, including its benefits, who should be using it and how to incorporate it into your existing skincare routine. Read on for a deep dive into niacinamide, followed by a few of our top product picks.
What is niacinamide?
“Niacinamide, which may also be referred to as nicotinamide, is a water-soluble form of vitamin B3, which we get from our diet,” says Dr. Katie Beleznay, a Vancouver-based dermatologist at Seymour Dermatology and Humphrey Cosmetic Dermatology. Vitamin B3 has long been proven to have health benefits—such as helping to maintain healthy cells in the body and improving metabolic health—when ingested via food and supplements, and early studies also show promising results for topical use.
What are the skincare benefits of using niacinamide?
As a skincare ingredient, niacinamide boasts many benefits, including anti-inflammatory and brightening properties that soothe skin and even out hyperpigmentation. Because it’s gentle, it’s a great choice for people with sensitive skin, and it can also benefit those with acne-prone skin as it has been shown to reduce oil production.
As is common with active ingredients, the benefits vary depending on the concentration of niacinamide found in the product you’re using. Studies show that a 2 percent concentration of the ingredient helps prevent transepidermal water loss, which results in more hydrated skin, says Dr. Renée Beach, dermatologist and founder of DermAtelier on Avenue in Toronto. The data also shows that a 4 percent concentration can be beneficial to soothe inflammation and control oil production, while a 5 percent concentration can reduce hyperpigmentation when used twice daily. Beleznay adds that, overall, niacinamide also helps strengthen the skin barrier by promoting the turnover of dead skin cells and boosts collagen production, which helps minimize the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
Can niacinamide be used on all skin types?
All skin types can benefit from using niacinamide, from dry and sensitive to oily. Beleznay often recommends it to patients who are unable to tolerate more abrasive skincare ingredients, like retinol, as it’s gentle, effective and easy to incorporate into any existing skincare routine.
Does niacinamide have potential side effects?
“Anything we put on our skin has the potential to trigger a reaction, but niacinamide is generally very well tolerated,” says Beleznay. Both she and Beach note that the ingredient’s tolerability also depends on the concentration used. If you experience irritation or redness, stop using the product until the reaction clears up and try a lower concentration.
According to Beleznay and Beach, the vitamin B3 derivative is safe to use for all skin tones. While niacinamide is often used to target dark spots and brighten skin, it’s not a bleaching agent and won’t cause discolouration on darker skin tones, says Beleznay.
Niacinamide is also safe to use during pregnancy and breastfeeding. “It’s an essential nutrient,” says Beleznay. “And only a small amount of it is absorbed into the body when it’s applied topically to the skin.”
How do I incorporate niacinamide into my skincare routine?
The best way to try a new ingredient depends on your current skincare routine and the type of products you’re using. Because it’s a mild active, swapping your go-to serum or moisturizer for one formulated with niacinamide is a great place to start.
To avoid irritation, do a patch test and start slow, using it once a week to begin with and increasing usage over time. Beach says niacinamide can be used either in your daytime or nighttime routine and in any of your skincare steps (cleanser, toner, serum or moisturizer), but that it’s crucial to layer on SPF during the day for proper sun protection.
Can niacinamide be used with other active skincare ingredients?
Retinol, bakuchiol, vitamin C, hyaluronic acid—there’s no shortage of science-backed skincare ingredients promising great results on the market, but finding the right combination for your skin can be a challenge. Beach recommends choosing three to four active ingredients and rotating them throughout the week. “For example, niacinamide can be used day or night, but retinol should be used at the opposite time of the day or on a different day altogether, and the same goes for vitamin C,” she explains. One ingredient that does pair well with niacinamide (and pretty much anything else) is hydration-boosting hyaluronic acid, which can be use every day, multiple times a day.
If you develop irritation from any combination of ingredients or skincare products, Beleznay advises backing off one or more active ingredients to allow your skin to heal.
Ready to try niacinamide? Shop some of our favourite formulas.
First Aid Beauty Facial Radiance Niacinamide Dark Spot Serum
This gentle serum contains a trio of niacinamide, licorice root and golden kiwi extract to even out skin texture, leaving it looking healthy and bouncy.