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What is Niacinamide, and do you need it?

It's got something for everyone--for real.

January 6, 2023

Something about the word “niacinamide” makes it seem…intimidating. It’s got so many syllables! But this ingredient has taken the skincare world by storm recently–in fact it seems to be popping up all over the place. So we’re giving you our official niacinamide cheat sheet: what it is, what it does, who it’s good for, and more. Spoiler alert: we’re fans. 

What is Niacinamide?

In the simplest terms, niacinamide is just a topical form of vitamin B3. From the brilliant folks at Harvard, vitamin B3 does the following: “convert nutrients into energy, create cholesterol and fats, create and repair DNA, and exert antioxidant effects.” In other words: she’s busy. You can get vitamin B3 from supplements, or in your diet. Good sources of this vitamin include poultry, fish, red meat, brown rice, nuts & seeds, and bananas. 

But for the most potent skin improvement, topical application is much more effective. This is because you can only ingest so much vitamin B3 before it causes side effects (don’t double up on those supplements), whereas you can apply it topically to your face and it will have more of a direct impact on your skin. 

What are the benefits of niacinamide for skin?

Niacinamide is currently being studied for many benefits, including possibly preventing non-melanoma skin cancers (which would definitely be a big deal if science confirms it!). But here are the best-known benefits:

  • It’s good for conditions caused by inflammation, including mild to moderate acne and rosacea. It’s a smart choice for people who find other acne treatments like benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid too irritating. If your acne regimen isn’t working, ask your dermatologist about incorporating niacinamide into your routine. 
  • It’s also been shown to reduce sebum production–the oil that causes clogged pores when the skin produces it in excess. This makes it good for those with oily skin or again, those with acne. This benefit will also help large pores look smaller.   
  • Niacinamide also helps your skin produce ceramides (which we wrote a whole blog about, btw). This means it helps repair the skin’s ‘barrier’ function, so that your skin can retain moisture. This effect makes it even more anti-inflammatory. If your skin constantly feels dry, tight, and super-sensitive, you may find relief from niacinamide.
  • It helps with evening skin tone and reduces discoloration from sun damage. Similar to vitamin C, niacinamide is known to even out skin tone–though it should have a concentration of at least 5% to achieve this. It both reduces the look of uneven skin tone and prevents new dark pigments from forming. 

Can I use vitamin C with niacinamide?

You might have heard that niacinamide doesn’t play well with vitamin C. We’re here to tell you that this is outdated info! How outdated? The experiment that first created this myth was done back in the 1960s when people were still, like, tanning with baby oil. (Gross.) Subsequent research has shown that using them together is just fine. Because they each have different chemical mechanisms of action and some different benefits, using both is an efficient way to address many skin concerns without an elaborate, eleven-step routine. 

How long does it take before I see results from niacinamide?

Like with most skincare, consistency is key. You may start seeing improvements sooner, but it takes about 2-4 weeks before you’ll notice a difference. Niacinamide is safe to use for the long term. 

How do I incorporate niacinamide into my routine?

We recommend layering your Vitamin C and niacinamide products if you choose to use both, rather than trying to find one that has both ingredients. This is because vitamin C is finicky to formulate and works best at a certain pH, while niacinamide’s ideal pH is higher. But don’t worry, applying the ingredients one after the other has no effect on how well they work. Niacinamide is found in many product types, including serums, hydrating masks, and moisturizers. 

In conclusion, if you have a skincare concern, there’s a good chance niacinamide can do something about it. So if you’ve been on the fence about it or just generally curious, we hope that this blog encourages you to try it out!

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