Medically reviewed by Katelyn Hagerty, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 6/19/2021
Every couple of years, whoever’s in charge of spinning the skincare ingredient roulette wheel gives it a turn, and thus the ingredient for the season is announced.
However, one name you’ve no doubt found it difficult to escape in recent times is niacinamide.
These days you can find niacinamide front and center in many serums, lotions, creams, sheet masks and even capsules — but what does niacinamide really do for your skin?
Niacinamide is a form of vitamin B3, and if you remember your nutrition lessons, that means it can be found in foods like liver, chicken breast, salmon, etc.
Before we dive into the outer benefits of niacinamide, you should know that in its generic form — niacin — this vitamin is useful in converting the food you eat into energy.
It also gets a special shoutout for helping speed up cell development in the body.
Because niacin plays such key roles for your wellbeing, one of the last things you want to experience is a severe deficiency of it.
In cases where that happens, you may suffer from a condition called pellagra which produces a range of sometimes colorful effects like:
A bright red tongue
Rough and sunburn-like skin
Brown discoloration on the skin following sun exposure
A niacin deficiency can also lead to negative changes in the digestive system, as well as psychological challenges such as depression, apathy and loss of memory.
If you want to enjoy the benefits of this B vitamin, or would like to make up for its insufficient supply, stocking up on foods high in niacin or using supplements can set you on the right track.
Where you’re looking to cash in on its advantages to the skin, however, especially where targeted problem areas are concerned, topical applications generally get the job done.
There’s a reason niacinamide is making star appearances in just about every skincare product you can get your hands on.
This ingredient packs a punch when it comes to improving the appearance of your skin, thanks to its anti-aging, brightening and anti-acne properties.
Here’s how this vitamin enhances your skin:
If you spread both of your palms out in front of you, you’ll be looking at the protective barrier or epidermis (outer layer) of your skin.
This barrier provides protection from dangerous external objects, as well as plenty of other benefits, too.
To provide extra support, niacinamide is able to improve the skin’s resistance to outside intruders.
It also encourages the production of ceramides — lipids (fats) which help lock moisture into the skin while preventing dryness and irritation.
Not stopping there, this vitamin also helps to keep the skin looking nice and shiny, by increasing the rate at which you produce new skin cells.
We’ll save you a Google search. Antioxidants are substances that prevent damage to your body’s cells due to the activities of natural or man-made factors.
This cover is extended to skin cells, which is especially great because they’re prone to damage from external forces like cigarette smoke, dangerous UV rays from the sun, and air pollution.
As an antioxidant, niacinamide is able to counteract the effects of these forces to promote the health of the skin.
Because niacinamide is so good at its day job as an antioxidant and skin barrier protector, nasty intruders are kept away from the skin.
It achieves this by slamming the door on objects that would typically irritate the skin such as harsh soaps, thereby reducing the chances of developing blotchiness or redness on the skin.
However, it’s worth noting that much of the information surrounding this claim is anecdotal and hasn’t been proven.
Wrinkles and fine lines don’t just appear on the skin overnight.
These signs of aging are usually the result of the gradual reduction in key proteins and dermal collagen — another protein necessary for promoting skin elasticity and structure.
To help with managing the appearance of age on the skin niacinamide brings out the big guns to coax the production of both protein and collagen.
This effect can help to improve skin structure and elasticity, as well as an improvement in barrier function and hydration.
Aging is the gift that keeps on giving — especially where the skin is involved.
One of the many changes brought about by this process is your skin begins to take on a yellowish hue.
This color is usually the result of a reaction between certain proteins and sugars in the body that occurs with age.
Using its antioxidant properties, niacinamide is able to prevent this yellowing reaction from taking place, helping to preserve your natural skin tone.
While it isn’t crystal clear how niacinamide gets the job done, this B vitamin is able to reduce the appearance of hyperpigmentation and pigmented spots on the skin.
One suggestion is that this nutrient is able to prevent the storage and transfer of melanin (the pigment responsible for color) to the skin.
Whether you have adult acne, or are presently in the throes of a teenage acne invasion, niacinamide is a great option to help with managing your condition.
This is made possible through its anti-inflammatory properties which are especially useful for more serious forms of breakouts.
Topical niacinamide may also help with managing acne through features that control the production of sebum or oil in the skin.
Niacinamide is a relatively mild addition to the skin.
When applied, this ingredient sometimes produces side effects, but where they do occur, these effects are typically minimal.
Known side effects of niacinamide include:
These effects usually subside after the skin gets used to the vitamin.
However, in cases where the side effects of niacinamide persist, it will be smart to discontinue its use, and report to a healthcare provider.
Niacinamide is a quadruple threat when it comes to how well it is able to enhance the appearance of the skin.
This vitamin has a slew of protective properties, as seen in its anti-inflammatory anti-aging, and anti-acne effects. It is also able to brighten the skin for a more vibrant tone.