5 skincare benefits of niacinamide

“And the award for Most Multitasking Skincare Ingredient goes to…”



*clap clap*

Niacinamide deserves it. There’s literally nothing it can’t do.

Need to hydrate skin? Check.

Fight acne? Check.

Fade dark spots? Check.

Soothe redness? Check.

Reduce wrinkles? Check.

It doesn’t matter what you throw at it, niacinamide can handle it. If it’s not in your skincare routine yet, add it immediately.

Here are 5 skincare benefits that make niacinamide a must have for every skin type:

1. Niacinamide Hydrates Skin

Let’s start with the basics. Niacinamide, a form of Vitamin B3, is a great moisturizer. A 2000 study published in the British Journal of Dermatology found that niacinamide “increased ceramide and free fatty acid [natural emollients] levels in the stratum corneum, and decreased transepidermal water loss in dry skin”.

Translation: niacinamide creates a barrier on the skin that slows down water loss. The result? Skin is softer, smoother and less prone to irritations.

Another study discovered that niacinamide is even more moisturising than vaseline. This is very impressive because, despite its bad rep, vaseline is one of the most moisturising substances on this planet. Dr Leslie Baumann says it better:  vaseline “is often the gold standard to which other occlusive ingredients are compared”.

Related: 7 Skincare Ingredients With An Undeserved Bad Reputation

Struggling to figure out what to pair Niacinamide with? Download your FREE “How To Layer Actives Like A Pro” cheatsheet to find out what ingredients you can safely match with Niacinamide and how to use them:

2. Niacinamide Reduces The Appearance Of Wrinkles

A 2004 study shows that niacinamide improves skin in many ways, including reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. How? It stimulates collagen production, the protein that keeps skin firm. The more collagen your skin has, the more slowly it’ll sag and wrinkle.

Some of the best collagen boosters, like vitamin C and retinol, can be too harsh for sensitive skin and seriously irritate it. Niacinamide is much gentler. Anyone can use it without problems.

Related: 5 Antiaging Superstars You Should Include In Your Skincare Routine

paula's choice 10% niacinamide booster 01

3. Niacinamide Is An Effective Treatment For Acne

You know what’s the worst thing about acne? After a while, it becomes resistant to the antibiotics you use to treat it. That’s your cue to start the search for a fix all over again.

Niacinamide may just be it. A 1999 study 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“. They say it works thanks to its anti-inflammatory properties.

The best part? P.Acnes, the bacteria that gives you acne, doesn’t grow resistant to niacinamide.

Related: Adult Acne: What It Is And How To Treat It

4. Niacinamide Can Soothe Rosacea

Rosacea is an annoying condition with many symptoms: skin redness, dryness, sensitivity, and inflammation. The key to keeping it under control is to make sure your skin’s protective barrier remains intact. When it’s a little damaged, skin becomes prone to irritations and dryness.

A 2005 study shows that applying a facial moisturizer with niacinamide twice a day for a month improves skin barrier function, relieving the symptoms of rosacea.

Related: How To Treat Rosacea

cerave moisturizing cream tube and jar

5. Niacinamide Has Skin-Lightening Properties

Wait, there’s more.

Have you noticed that niacinamide is in almost every Korean product? There’s a reason for that. Koreans are obsessed with fading dark spots and every trace of hyperpigmentation. It’s a job niacinamide does well. 

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”.

Another 2011 study found that 4% niacinamide is an effective treatment for melasma. But it doesn’t work as well as hydroquinone. Still, niacinamide may be the better choice. Hydroquinone tends to be very harsh on the skin (and cause a permanent bluish discolouration in darker skin tones).

Personally, I recommend anyone who’s dealing with dark spots to try niacinamide first. Only if you find it’s not strong enough for you (and your skin isn’t sensitive), switch to hydroquinone (preferably under medical supervision).

By the way, if you’re wondering how niacinamide fades dark spots, here’s the deal: niacinamide inhibits 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.

Or, put simply, it prevents melanin (the pigment that gives skin its colour) from reaching the outer layer of your skin. If it can’t get there, it can’t make it darker.

Related: Should You Use Hydroquinone To Fade Dark Spots?

the inkey list niacinamide

Does Niacinamide Have Any Side Effects?

Niacinamide is so gentle, everyone can use it safely – under most conditions. Here are the two exceptions:

  • Flushing: When paired with Vitamin C, niacinamide can trigger flushing and tingling. This is rare, but if it happens to you, don’t use these two ingredients together (everyone else, you can totally use Niacinamide + Vitamin C together – they DON’T deactivate each other).
  • High concentrations: 5-10% Niacinamide is more than enough to do the job. I’ve seen products now boasting 20% concentrations and there’s NO need for that. In skincare, higher % often equals irritation. Be careful!

Related: Can You Use Niacinamide With Vitamin C?

What Are The Best Products With Niacinamide?

The Bottom Line

Niacinamide is a skincare superhero. It can literally solve any skincare woe, from wrinkles to acne and dark spots. The best part? Even sensitive skin can use it without problems.