It may sound like chemistry soup, but, according to Dr. Diana Howard, vice president of research and development and global education for Dermalogica, niacinamide is the next BIG skin-care ingredient offering up a whole bunch of benefits for a whole bunch of different skin goals. “It is a vitamin that has excellent clinicals to substantiate its benefit in almost every skin condition,” she says.
Omaha, NE dermatologist Joel Schlessinger, MD is also on board with categorizing this ingredient as a "must" and shares this laundry list of reasons to love it: “Niacinamide is a form of niacin [vitamin B3] that improves wrinkles, promotes an even complexion and provides anti-inflammatory benefits, which make it a popular ingredient in both rosacea and acne skin-care regimens." So, next time you see the long word lurking on a label, here’s what to consider to get the most out of it.
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Vitamin B, vitamin B3, niacin and niacinamide are often used interchangeably, and, while they are related, they still perform differently. “Vitamin B is a class of eight vitamins, niacin is vitamin B3 and niacinamide is the biologically active form of niacin,” New York dermatologist Dennis Gross, MD says. “Vitamin B is a coenzyme of vitamin A and helps in cell metabolism, so there is a strong synergy between retinol and niacinamide.”
Stand + Protect
When it comes to all the benefits niacinamide provides, the best place to start is with the category of barrier protection. “Ceramides are important lipids found in the stratum corneum (outermost layer of skin). They are crucial to skin health because they are the ‘glue’ that hold skin cells together,” explains Dr. Gross. “The skin’s barrier serves to keep water in the skin and keep harmful environmental elements out of it. As we age, we lose moisture and the skin barrier can become compromised. Niacinamide improves ceramide synthesis, which strengthens the barrier function and prevents transepidermal water loss."
Lilli Gordon, founder and CEO of First Aid Beauty, which uses it in its Ultra Repair Hydra-Firm Sleeping Cream, also loves it. "Niacinamide is essential in repairing damage to skin cells through topical application. Because it's thought to increase production of ceramides, it assists in diminishing spots and wrinkles and strengthening the skin barrier, which, in turn, protects against UV rays and pollution."
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Studies have also shown niacinamide to be soothing and an anti-inflammatory, proving beneficial in the treatment of rosacea. “It also has anti-acne benefits and studies have shown it actually outperforms some prescription acne treatments,” Dr. Gross says, adding that it also has the ability to reduce hyperpigmentation, because it inhibits melanosome transfer from melanocytes to keratinocytes. “In regards to acne, it actually can control the sebum production in skin,” Dr. Howard says. “It’s been studied quite extensively for its impact on treating wrinkles and skin aging.”
Barbara Green, head of R&D at Neostrata (the brand uses a 4-percent clinically tested level of the ingredient in its Enlighten Illuminating Serum) likes niacinamide because it works well with others—including one very specific, rather complex ingredient. “Niacinamide has proven brightening effects and works in a way that is complementary to commonly used tyrosinase inhibitors [the enzyme that controls the production of melanin] to deliver on a multi-mechanistic, pigment-evening benefit."
When it comes to niacinamide, Dr. Schlessinger recommends NIA24 products because, as he says, "they utilize their own patented molecule, Pro-Niacin, which penetrates skin better than other forms of niacin. Specifically, I find the NIA24 Intensive Recovery Complex and the Intensive Retinol Repairto be great examples of how niacinamide can contribute to healthier, younger-looking skin. The Intensive Recovery complex highlights the soothing and strengthening effects of niacinamide. This enhances its other effective ingredients, like hyaluronic acid, by improving the moisture barrier and ensuring the skin makes the most of any hydration it receives." Similarly, Dr. Schlessinger says, niacinamide and retinol—or vitamin A—complement each other well. "The Intensive Retinol Repair uses niacinamide to promote the production of healthier cells while retinol increases cell turnover to help those new cells reach the skin’s surface more quickly.”
Not convinced by all of the above? According to Dr. Gross, niacinamide can hang its hat on the fact that it's one of the best-studied anti-aging ingredients with a strong safety profile. An added bonus: Because it has anti-inflammatory properties, as well as its barrier-strengthening properties, it is fairly tolerable for use in all skin types. So what’s next? “We’re going to see more and more of it popping up in skin care,” Dr. Howard says.