Niacinamide in Skincare: Everything You Ever Wanted To Know

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What comes first to your mind when you think of a superstar skincare ingredient? Probably vitamin Chyaluronic acid, and retinol. But have you ever heard about niacinamide? Literally, niacinamide is a hero for everything! It’s heralded to lighten small wrinkles, fade hyperpigmentation, fight acne, regulate oily skin, as well as reduce sun damage and dehydration — and studies confirmed it countless times.

Since niacinamide helps build cells in the skin, it’s one of the best actives in skincare. It’s an ingredient that also assists in growing a healthy lipid barrier, which in turn helps the complexion retain moisture, making it great for all skin types. Wait, one ingredient that does so much? Is it all fiction or reality? Let’s start with the basics.

What is niacinamide? 

Niacinamide or nicotinamide is the active form of niacin aka vitamin B3. Naturally, it’s a food compound found in fish, meat, milk, eggs, green vegetables, and cereals, having an almost neutral pH value. As a result, it’s one of the most stable ingredients used in skincare. Unlike AHA/BHA acids and vitamin C, niacinamide has no acidic base. Thus, it’s unlikely to cause irritation or redness. Plus, niacinamide isn’t soluble in oil, so you’ll find it in water-based serums and creams.[1] This makes it perfect for people with oily skin types. And if you like light textures — you’ll adore it.

How does niacinamide work?

In the body, niacinamide is formed when you eat foods rich in niacin or take supplements, the body converting the ingested niacin into niacinamide. Another way to reap the benefits of niacinamide is to apply topical products containing it on your skin.

Now, as far as skincare is concerned, niacinamide is one of the most versatile ingredients, its main role being to build proteins in the skin.[1] On top of that, niacinamide is also praised for its ability to increase the skin’s antioxidant capacity, working to scavenge free radicals and protect cells from oxidative damage.[2]

But actually, there’s much more niacinamide can help you with. Here are other research-backed benefits of niacinamide for the skin:

Niacinamide for skin barrier

One of the most notable perks of niacinamide is that it increases the skin’s resistance to external aggressors. Niacinamide does that by upregulating the synthesis of ceramides and other lipids (think fatty acids and cholesterol) known to play a major role in the skin’s protective barrier.[1][3] By doing so, niacinamide helps reduce irritations caused by powerful actives such as retinol and glycolic acid and makes the skin less susceptible to anything that comes in touch with it. This makes niacinamide great for everyone as all skin types need a healthy and fortified protective barrier.

Niacinamide for skin hydration

Dehydration can lead to countless skin concerns. From excess sebum to more visible wrinkles to a weakened barrier, dehydration is one of our biggest skin enemies. But niacinamide helps keep skin hydrated by hindering transepidermal water loss, making it a great candidate for those with dry, dehydrated skin. This boon is related to the niacinamide’s ability to restore the protective barrier, as the barrier is the one that prevents water evaporation. For reference, in one study, a cream containing 2% niacinamide had significant moisturizing effects, more effective than petrolatum jelly — one of the very best occlusive agents.[4]

Niacinamide for hyperpigmentation

Niacinamide can be all you need to reduce hyperpigmentation and achieve a perfectly even skin tone too. Although it does not directly inhibit melanin production (skin pigment), niacinamide lightens skin by blocking the transfer of melanin into cells, delivering brightening and depigmenting benefits.[1] This is how dark spots and hyperpigmentation become a thing of the past with the consistent use of niacinamide.

Niacinamide for wrinkles and fine lines

Besides acting as an antioxidant, niacinamide can plump wrinkles and fine lines by increasing collagen and elastin production. Because wrinkles and loss of firmness may result from a reduction in elastin and collagen levels, increasing these proteins can reduce wrinkles’ appearance and improve skin elasticity and firmness. As a matter of fact, research found that 5% niacinamide can improve aging skin in as little as 12 weeks.[5]

Niacinamide for acne

Niacinamide is also known to help relieve inflammatory acne (thanks to its anti-inflammatory properties) and regulate sebum secretion, making it great for oily and breakout-prone skins. In a study, 82% of people treated with topical niacinamide have presented less pimpless and a more balanced complexion after eight weeks of twice-daily use.[6]

Niacinamide for large pores

If you have large pores, niacinamide should be on your radar too. It turns out niacinamide can shrink pores look by decreasing sebum levels and improving skin’s texture. In turn, this tightens up the skin around pores to make them look smaller and clear the pores out of oil so they won’t be clogged and appear larger than they are.

Who should use niacinamide?

Niacinamide is one of the most potent actives in skincare, yet one of the gentlest that all skin types can take advantage of. If you have sensitive skin, niacinamide helps soothe inflammation and redness, and if your skin is dehydrated, it strengthens its defense barrier and reduces moisture loss. For oily skin, niacinamide is excellent for reducing sebum, while for aging skin is great to boost collagen levels. In a nutshell, everyone can benefit from using skincare products with niacinamide.

Is niacinamide safe?

Generally, niacinamide is considered a safe-for-all ingredient. However, some people may experience redness and irritations with niacinamide use. So, while niacinamide is a safe, gentle ingredient, there might be cases where sensitivity occurs.

Can I use niacinamide around the eye area?

Yes, niacinamide products can be used for the eye area, too. Applying a serum or eye cream with niacinamide can help reduce dark circles, lighten the skin, and buffer crow’s feet.

How to apply niacinamide?

The beauty of niacinamide stays in its ability to fit into any skincare routine. You can find it in toners, serums, creams, masks, and even sunscreens. Ideally, use a serum with niacinamide on cleansed skin twice daily. Then lock everything in with a moisturizer and sunscreen.

Most studies used topical products with 2% to 10% niacinamide, so starters should look for something within that range. Stronger formulas (15-20%) are also available, but they might cause irritation in sensitive skin. Even with niacinamide, it’s best to go slow and raise the concentrations gradually.

What can you pair niacinamide with?

Niacinamide can be used with most actives in skincare, making a winning duo when paired with ingredients like retinol, vitamin C, and glycolic acid. It’s actually perfect for soothing the skin and easing irritations associated with these powerful actives use. For instance, niacinamide with lactic acid does wonders for resurfacing dull skin while salicylic acid with niacinamide is great for battling acne. Finally, niacinamide with retinol is the best-in-class combo that can fight all skin concerns out there, from hyperpigmentation to acne, to wrinkles.

Our skincare dictionary and ingredients cheat list are great places to keep an eye on all skincare ingredients and learn how you can mix them for dramatic results.

Niacinamide products

The Ordinary Niacinamide Serum

The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%

The Ordinary is known for its minimalistic formulas that provide transformative results. Take this one as for best example: a serum made with 10% niacinamide and 1% zinc, oil-free, perfect for oily and acne-prone skin types.

EltaMD Moisturizer with Niacinamide

EltaMD Moisturizer

EltaMD Moisturizer was made with niacinamide and hyaluronic acid to hydrate and brighten the skin, while caffeine and vitamin C offer antioxidant protection. The addition of salicylic acid works to unclog congested pores, minimizing breakouts apparition.

Paula's Choice Skin Balancing Tone

Paula’s Choice Skin Balancing Toner

This one is the perfect addition to prepping your skin for other products. Paula’s Choice Skin Balancing Toner works with niacinamide, ceramides, antioxidants, and hyaluronic acid to nourish and protect the skin.


  1. Levin J, Momin SB. How much do we really know about our favorite cosmeceutical ingredients?J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. 2010;3(2):22-41.
  2. Zhen AX, Piao MJ, Kang KA, et al. Niacinamide Protects Skin Cells from Oxidative Stress Induced by Particulate Matter [published online ahead of print, 2019 Jul 5]. Biomol Ther (Seoul). 2019;27(6):562-569. doi:10.4062/biomolther.2019.061
  3. Tanno O, Ota Y, Kitamura N, Katsube T, Inoue S. Nicotinamide increases biosynthesis of ceramides as well as other stratum corneum lipids to improve the epidermal permeability barrier. Br J Dermatol. 2000 Sep;143(3):524-31. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2133.2000.03705.x. PMID: 10971324.
  4. Soma Y, Kashima M, Imaizumi A, Takahama H, Kawakami T, Mizoguchi M. Moisturizing effects of topical nicotinamide on atopic dry skin. Int J Dermatol. 2005 Mar;44(3):197-202. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-4632.2004.02375.x. PMID: 15807725.
  5. Bissett DL, Oblong JE, Berge CA. Niacinamide: A B vitamin that improves aging facial skin appearance. Dermatol Surg. 2005 Jul;31(7 Pt 2):860-5; discussion 865. doi: 10.1111/j.1524-4725.2005.31732. PMID: 16029679.
  6. Shalita AR, Smith JG, Parish LC, Sofman MS, Chalker DK. Topical nicotinamide compared with clindamycin gel in the treatment of inflammatory acne vulgaris. Int J Dermatol. 1995 Jun;34(6):434-7.
Who wrote this?
Ana Vasilescu
Ana Vasilescu
Ana is a sociologist and feminist with a shared passion for literature, psychology, and skincare, the combo that made her determined to start Women's Concepts. With over five years of experience in dermatological research, she has now become a certified skincare consultant keen to convince others of the importance of a diligent routine. Her close relationships with dermatologists around the globe, along with years of researching, analyzing studies, and hand-testing products on a daily basis, made Ana one of the best persons you can get advice from.
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