Multi-tasking niacinamide is one to watch as a skincare star

When it comes to multi-tasking skincare ingredients, there is one that’s worth keeping on your radar – if it’s not already – and that’s niacinamide.

As a form of vitamin B3, it’s a nutrient found in foods including meat, dairy, fish, eggs and green vegetables, and is needed in our bodies to support cell health and to convert the food we eat into usable energy.

A niacinamide deficiency can lead to health problems including disorders of the brain, kidneys and our skin.

For this reason some people choose to take it in supplement form, but it has been found to have topical benefits too which is why it is increasingly used in skincare.

Anti-inflammatory benefits

Perhaps the most compelling and well-evidenced benefit for skin is the anti-inflammatory properties of niacinamide, also known as nicotinamide.  

Inflammatory skin conditions such as acne or rosacea have traditionally been treated using steroids or antibiotics, both of which have unwanted side effects, so to be able to take a less aggressive approach would mark a significant step forward.

Clinical studies have demonstrated a measurable benefit to these conditions when niacinamide is taken orally, and a controlled clinical trial carried out at Sina Hospital in Iran found a topical (nicotinamide 4%) gel was as effective as the topical antibiotic 1% clindamycin gel in the treatment of moderate acne in 76 patients.

The researchers speculated that this result was due to its anti-inflammatory properties.

It’s why my first port of call when my eldest son recently experienced an acne flare-up on his temples, was a gel containing 4% nicotinamide/niacinamide.

Its effect on taking the redness and swelling out of the area and reducing the intensity of the flare-up was obvious within a couple of days.

And its anti-inflammatory benefits are also why niacinamide is a common ingredient in more active skin topicals such as retinoids, where it is used to reduce irritation and increase the tolerability of the product.

Supporting the skin barrier

Researchers also believe that topical niacinamide can help protect and stabilise our skin barrier by reducing moisture loss.

This in itself would have an anti-aging effect because well-hydrated skin looks plumper and less lined.

Its hydrating and skin barrier-supporting effects have also been linked in theory with regulating oil production in your skin and reducing pore size.

We frequently read on packaging about niacinamide’s brightening effect on the skin with some suggesting it can lighten dark spots, but the evidence for these claims is less clear.

A small study by Proctor & Gamble involving 18 volunteers with hyperpigmentation reported that a moisturiser containing 5% niacinamide decreased the dark spots after 4 weeks of use.

And because its well tolerated by most skin types it means it’s an ideal ingredient to combine with other actives to boost the overall number of benefits to your skin.

To help balance oily skin and even skin tone, this Niacinamide and Biotin powder from True Botanicals contains nothing but those two ingredients and so can be easily added into your skincare routine as needed by mixing one to two shakes into a serum or essence.

And for skin clearing, at the other end of the price spectrum, Geek & Gorgeous – one of my favorite lower-cost skincare brands – have a 10% niacinamide B-Bomb serum with zinc and sarcosine included for an added boost.

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