A Guide to Niacinamide Side Effects

Kristin Hall

Medically reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP

Written by Our Editorial Team

Last updated 6/12/2021

Niacinamide, a form of vitamin B3 that’s also referred to as niacinamide, is a popular ingredient in skincare products, particularly products designed to treat acne. 

If you’re prone to acne breakouts, you might have looked into products that contain niacinamide to control your symptoms and clear your skin.

Niacinamide offers real, science-based benefits for your skin, including the ability to improve its function and make many common imperfections less visible.

However, like many other skincare ingredients, niacinamide can potentially cause side effects if it’s overused or used improperly.

Below, we’ve explained what niacinamide is and the potential benefits it can offer as a treatment for acne and other skin issues.

We’ve also listed the potential side effects you may experience after using niacinamide, as well as steps that you can take to limit your risk of developing side effects from this ingredient.

What Is Niacinamide?

Niacinamide is a form of vitamin B3. It’s a common ingredient in topical skincare products such as creams, masks and serums.

A related form of vitamin B3, called niacin, can be found in a range of common foods, including beef, chicken, turkey, salmon and other types of meat and seafood. 

It’s also found in numerous non-animal foods, such as rice, nuts, cereals and pumpkin and sunflower seeds.

As a skincare ingredient, niacinamide offers several key benefits. 

Research shows that it has a powerful antioxidant effect, that it can improve the barrier function of your skin and that it lowers issues such as skin discoloration.

Studies have also found that niacinamide can increase dermal collagen production and reduce the visibility of fine lines and wrinkles. 

Other research has found that it can make common skin issues such as hyperpigmentation and blotchiness less severe.

Finally, niacinamide is well known as an acne treatment

Several studies have found that it can reduce the severity of acne, although research is unclear on how it compares to other common acne treatments in terms of efficacy.

Our guide to niacinamide goes into more detail about what niacinamide is and its benefits as a skincare ingredient. 

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Niacinamide Side Effects

In general, it’s uncommon to experience any significant side effects from topical products that contain niacinamide, such as skincare creams, masks, lotions and other treatments.

Despite this, products that contain niacinamide may potentially cause a range of different side effects. 

These can vary depending on whether you’re using a topical niacinamide product or a dietary supplement that contains niacinamide. 

Side Effects of Topical Niacinamide

Topical products that contain niacinamide may cause burning, itching or redness when applied to your skin. 

These side effects can vary in severity and may disappear over time as your skin becomes accustomed to the effects of niacinamide.

If you develop significant pain or discomfort after using any topical skincare product containing niacinamide, it’s important to contact your healthcare provider for assistance.

Side Effects of Oral Niacinamide

Niacinamide is available as a dietary supplement, typically in tablet or capsule form. 

According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, niacinamide supplements are classified as likely safe for adults when they’re taken as recommended.

Potential side effects of niacinamide supplements include dizziness, rash, itching, gas, an upset stomach and other issues. 

Unlike niacin, a related form of vitamin B3, niacinamide usually does not cause flushing.

You can reduce your risk of developing side effects from niacinamide supplements by taking no more than 35mg of niacinamide per day.

Oral niacinamide can cause more serious side effects, such as high blood sugar or liver issues, when it’s taken in doses of three grams or more per day. 

Research also shows that high levels of niacinamide can cause an increase in the amount of serotonin and histamine in your blood.

If you use a niacinamide supplement, make sure to carefully follow the dosage instructions and contact your healthcare provider if you experience any side effects.

How to Reduce Your Risk of Side Effects From Niacinamide

Like other skincare medications, taking a few simple steps can help you to reduce your risk of developing side effects from niacinamide. Try to:

  • Start with a low-strength niacinamide product. Topical skincare products that contain niacinamide come in a range of strengths, from 2% to 10% or more. To lower your risk of experiencing side effects, make sure that you start with a mild niacinamide product. Over time, you might be able to gradually work your way up to a more concentrated form of niacinamide. Like with all skincare products, it’s best to take it slow and adjust as you learn more about your skin’s niacinamide tolerance.

  • Use products that contain niacinamide every other day. If you experience burning or other side effects from daily use of a niacinamide skincare product, try to scale your use back to once every other day, or even once every third day.

  • If you have persistent side effects, talk to a dermatologist. You may need to change to a lower-strength niacinamide product or make other changes to the way you care for your skin. 

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Using Niacinamide

Niacinamide is a popular skincare ingredient that can offer real benefits, particularly if you have acne or want to reduce signs of skin aging such as fine lines, wrinkles or discoloration.

While products containing niacinamide are generally safe, side effects aren’t unheard of. 

If you develop side effects after using niacinamide, it’s important to talk to your healthcare provider or make changes to the way you use your skincare treatments.

Although niacinamide is effective, it’s by no means the only skincare ingredient that can help to treat acne and improve the appearance of your skin.

Other popular skincare ingredients include tretinoin, which is available in our Prescription Acne Cream, clindamycin, hyaluronic acid, caffeine and others.

You can find out more about these ingredients and other methods for caring for your skin in our detailed guide to dermatologist-recommended skincare tips.

5 Sources

Hims & Hers has strict sourcing guidelines to ensure our content is accurate and current. We rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We strive to use primary sources and refrain from using tertiary references.

  1. Niacin. (2021, March 26). Retrieved from https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Niacin-HealthProfessional/
  2. Levin, J. & Momin, S.B. (2010, February). How Much Do We Really Know About Our Favorite Cosmeceutical Ingredients? The Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology. 3 (2), 22–41. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2921764/
  3. Walocko, F.M., Eber, A.E., Keri, J.E., Al-Harbi, M.A. & Nouri, K. (2017, September). The role of nicotinamide in acne treatment. Dermatologic Therapy. 30 (5). Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28220628/
  4. Niacinamide. (2020, October 5). Retrieved from https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/natural/1534.html
  5. Tian, Y.-J., et al. (2013, February). Excess nicotinamide increases plasma serotonin and histamine levels. Sheng Li Xue Bao. 65 (1), 33-8. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23426511/

This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.

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