This week, I’m telling you everything you need to know about the humble, often under-rated skincare ingredient that is niacinamide. Suitable for all skin types and addresses many skin concerns.
Read on to find out more about this all-round crowd pleaser! 🤹
What Is Niacinamide?
Niacinamide is a water-soluble vitamin which is stable in light and heat. It can otherwise be known as vitamin B3 or nicotinamide. However, it’s actually only one form of vitamin B3. Other forms are niacin and nicotinamide riboside.
The form of vitamin B3 that we will be looking at today is Niacinamide. It can be found in foods like meat, grains, beans and fish and has great benefits when eaten or taken in supplements. It also has remarkable benefits when used topically in your skincare routine.
What Are The Benefits Of Topical Niacinamide?
Niacinamide is a very impressive ingredient. Very much underrated, in my opinion, compared to the likes of vitamin C, AHAs/BHA and retinol. Just take a look at some of the varied benefits topical use can offer;
- Improves the appearance of enlarged pores (more on this later)
- Softens fine lines by helping the skin to retain water which plumps the skin
- Increases ceramide levels in the stratum corneum (outermost layer of skin)
- Decreases TEWL (transepidermal water loss) in dry skin
- Improves the appearance of uneven skin tone/hyperpigmentation
- Brightens dull skin
- Strengthens a weakened skin barrier
- Reduces the damage from UV light and environmental attackers (e.g. from airborne pollutants)
- Repairs past damage done from the above ⬆️
- Protects the skin from bacterial attack (good for acne sufferers!)
Who Can Use Niacinamide?
So as well as its many benefits as seen above, niacinamide can also be used by any skin type. Even those with rosacea and eczema can benefit from using it due to it’s soothing and healing properties. Niacinamide can improve how well the skin’s barrier functions which means less irritation and less redness (woohoo!). Great for if you’ve overdone it on the exfoliation (who hasn’t at some point…).
Niacinamide is also, non-sensitising to the skin (has a pH, slightly acidic to neutral) and can boost the hydrating ability of moisturisers. This is because niacinamide gets on well with common moisturiser ingredients like glycerin and sodium hyaluronate. They work together to really hydrate the skin. Some people even find it better at hydrating their skin than hyaluronic acid.
For those with acne-prone skin, niacinamide has been shown to reduce inflammation in those with moderate acne just as well as stronger, prescription-only treatments (but it is much gentler!). Niacinamide also has anti-microbial & bacterial properties and has been shown to yield similar results to using the acne-treating 1% clindamycin (when using at least 4% niacinamide).
For those with oily skin, research has shown it can limit the overproduction of sebum which in turn helps improve the appearance of enlarged pores. This is because when pores are full and clogged with sebum and dead skin cells, they are stretched out showing visibly enlarged pores. However, remember that nothing you use can actually change the size of your pores, but you can make them appear smaller with the products you use.
Do I Need Niacinamide In My Skincare Routine?
I honestly don’t feel like there is much to write here?! Niacinamide has so many great benefits for such a wide variety of skincare complaints, I think it’s a great product to have a go with. Especially if you have acne and if you want to tackle the signs of ageing! It really is a great anti-ageing ingredient!
How Can I Include Niacinamide In My Skincare Routine?
When it comes to adding niacinamide to your skincare routine, your browsing will show that it can be found in different forms such as; water-based serums, toners and leave-on treatments (usually highly concentrated). And so it does really come down to what you would prefer to use.
However, one thing to take note of is that the formula of niacinamide that you go with should really be suitable for your skin type. So those with dry skin should opt for a hydrating toner or a rich moisturiser containing a lower percentage of niacinamide and those with oily skin should go for a light serum with a higher percentage. Again though, it comes down to trial and error to see what suits your skin and what you like.
And yes as highlighted above, there are different percentages of niacinamide out there! It’s been shown that products with at least 5% niacinamide have been proven to visibly make a difference without causing any irritation. But, there are products with a higher percentage of niacinamide so again, it comes down to seeing what your skin can tolerate.
What Age Should I Start Using Niacinamide?
Start in your 20s, but there are some caveats to that. If you have acne, use it regardless of whether you are 20 and over (in my opinion!). It also depends on your lifestyle and skin type. If you smoke, start straight away!
Can I Use Niacinamide With Acidic Products Like AHAs/BHA & Vitamin C?
So, there are A LOT of conflicting opinions out there on the issue of using vitamin C with niacinamide (can render vitamin C ineffective?) and AHAs/BHA with niacinamide (facial flushing and lower acid absorption?).
In regards to vitamin C and niacinamide, evidence suggests that it is in fact safe to use these products together without any concern and regardless of type of vitamin C product used. The old opinion for this concern was based on a study from 1960 using unstabilised forms of both products and unrealistic conditions for development, manufacturing, storage and usage, that you would not find today!
Also, the studies conducted about the interaction between niacinamide and vitamin C have only been done on pure vitamin C.
However, if you are still concerned about using pure vitamin C and niacinamide at the same time, try using a derivative of vitamin C. Derivatives (like tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate, THD) have been found to be niacinamide-friendly. Or you could try alternating their usage (more about this further down).
In relation to niacinamide and acidic products like AHAs and BHA, the issue lies within the pH of each product. Niacinamide tends to have a pH between 5.0 and 7.0 (slightly acidic to neutral), whereas acids are in the range 3.0 to 4.0. So, if you use these products together the niacinamide will raise the pH of the skin.
This is a problem because we know that the skin absorbs acids best at a low pH (3.0). If niacinamide has raised the pH above 3.0, the skin is not absorbing as much as acid as it could. This means you’re not getting much of the great benefits that acids provide you with!
Another issue with using niacinamide and acids together is that in the presence of acids, niacinamide can be converted into niacin which causes the skin to flush and appear red – often known as a ‘niacin flush’.
So What Can You Do To Solve These Concerns?
Well, I’ve come up with 3 options for you:
- Apply them on alternating days; apply your vitamin C in the mornings (not forgetting your SPF!). Then one evening use your acid and the next evening use your niacinamide. This might work really well for you if your skin can’t tolerate daily acid use or don’t like using acids daily!
- Apply them at alternating times; try your acid and vitamin C product in the AM (they go nicely together). Then your niacinamide product in the evening (goes well with retinol) or vice versa, depending on your preference. This way you’re using all products every day rather than above where you have one day on and one day off with your acid and niacinamide.
- Just go for it?! 100%, there are plenty of people out there who use niacinamide with their acid or vitamin C products and have no problems at all with facial flushing or vitamin C inactivation! If you’re going for the ‘wing it’ option, I would at least do it at night in case you get some facial flushing (with the acid and niacinamide combination).
And so, that’s it from me (do I sound like a TV host?! haha). Hopefully you feel like you actually do know everything there is to know about niacinamide now! As always, next week I will be reviewing a niacinamide serum that I have been using. Look out for it and in the meantime leave me some comments below and I’ll get back to you!
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Love & Knowledge,
S A M A N T H A
P.S. You may also want to take a look at my own personal skincare journey & why I began Skin Acid Trip, here ❤. Or perhaps you want to read up on my latest ingredient post – ceramides & their benefits, you can catch it here.