How to Use Niacinamide in Skin Care
Niacinamide, also known as Vitamin B3, is a powerful and popular ingredient in skin care that can work wonders. It’s a versatile ingredient that’s relatively easy to work with while providing unique benefits in terms of helping create a stable, healthy-looking, youthful glow.
In this article we’ll cover what Niacinamide is (and why it’s referred to as Vitamin B3), its benefits, and how to use (and not use) it in your skin care formulations and routines.
What is Niacinamide?
Niacinamide is derived from niacin, which is also known as vitamin B3. Niacin is also nicotinic acid, and is found throughout our body and in many foods derived from animals. Niacin is the amide of nicotinic acid, thus amide is added at the end to form niacinamide. The terms “nicotinic acid” and “niacinamide” are often used interchangeably although they offer different benefits. In skin care, niacinamide is the version of choice.
Niacinamide is an antioxidant and antiaging vitamin that promotes healthy-looking skin and is suitable for all skin types, including sensitive skin.
It is water soluble and relatively easy to work with, with the only caveat that it performs best at around a neutral pH of 6-7.5 and therefore should not be combined with acids like alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs).
Side Bar: Naming of Vitamins
Vitamins, originally vitamines, were discovered as vital “vita-“ molecules composed of amino acids. Once it was determined that not all vitamins need amines, the ‘e’ was removed from the original name.
Vitamins were named and grouped by letter alphabetically based on the order of their discovery. For example, the A vitamins were discovered before the B’s. There are a few outliers, like vitamin K, but for the most part vitamin B1 was discovered before B2.
All 8 B vitamins together are referred to as a vitamin B complex, and they consist of:
- Thiamin (B1)
- Riboflavin (B2)
- Niacin (B3)
- Pantothenic acid (B5)
- Pyridoxine (B6)
- Biotin (B7)
- Folate (B9)
- Cyanocobalamin (B12)
The B complex are all found in the human body with key functions, some of which overlap.
There are “missing” numbers (B4, B9, B10, and B11), and after their discovery, those compounds were determined to not fit the definition of a vitamin as essential for human development and derived from diet.
Fun fact: salicylic acid was originally known as vitamin B11!
The Benefits of Niacinamide in Skin Care
Niacinamide has diverse benefits for the skin, ranging from hydrating, minimizing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, helping to reduce oiliness, and clarifying and balancing skin.
As always, the FDA’s tight regulation on claim language means we encourage you to do your own research, and we’ve provided some sources to check out in the links at the bottom of this article. That being said, here is a summary of the benefits:
- Strong antioxidant
- Contributes to a healthy overall look of the skin – great in urban or polluted environments to help skin remain happy
- Reduces the appearance of pores
- Increases hydration – If you have dry skin consider combining niacinamide with glycerin and carrier oils
- Balancing and brightening – helps skin stay balanced in appearance
- Soothing unhappy skin – suitable for oily and teenage skin
How to Use Niacinamide in Skin Care Formulations
Niacinamide is relatively easy to formulate with, and its water solubility means it can be added to the water phase of an emulsion or to a water-based finished good like a toner or water-based serum.
Solubility: Water soluble
Usage Rates: up to 10%. Typically found at 1-6%.
Add into: The water phase of products, or to finished products that are water-based. When adding to a water solution, add your desired amount and stir until dissolved.
Appearance: white powder
Do’s and Don’ts: Interactions with Other Ingredients
As mentioned above, niacinamide needs to be added to formulas with a pH in the range of ~6-7.5 to remain effective. At a higher or lower pH niacinamide converts into nicotinic acid (aka niacin), which causes a red flushing of the skin and while not harmful, isn’t particularly desirable. This is the main reason niacin itself isn’t used in skin care.
There is a lot of information on the internet suggesting that niacinamide and vitamin C are not compatible ingredients. Current science suggests the possibility of some negative interactions between the two vitamins, and although research is developing, consider using niacinamide in the morning and vitamin C in the evening—after all, if you wear vitamin C during the day you need to be extra careful to wear sunscreen, so vitamin C is often recommended for use at night. To learn more about the various types of vitamin C, check out this blog.
If you are incorporating retinol and retinoids into your routine it’s recommended to apply niacinamide first and then follow with retinol.
Also, given that niacinamide is a water-based vitamin be sure to use it first, before other oil-based moisturizers, so it has a better chance of penetrating the skin.
Conclusion: Niacinamide as a Versatile and Effective Ingredient
We’ve seen the origin of niacinamide, its benefits, and learned how to use it while formulating. It’s one of our favorite ingredients with a growing following among consumers, so now’s the perfect time to include niacinamide in your own routine and brand.
Explore these products rich in niacinamide:
We’d love to know what you think about niacinamide, and how you incorporate it into your own routine and brand. Do you plan on expanding your line? Let us know in the comments below!
Bissett, D.L., Miyamoto, K., Sun, P., Li, J. and Berge, C.A. (2004), Topical niacinamide reduces yellowing, wrinkling, red blotchiness, and hyperpigmented spots in aging facial skin1. International Journal of Cosmetic Science, 26: 231-238. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-2494.2004.00228.x
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.
Draelos ZD, Matsubara A, Smiles K. The effect of 2% niacinamide on facial sebum production. J Cosmet Laser Ther. 2006 Jun;8(2):96-101. doi: 10.1080/14764170600717704. PMID: 16766489.
Gehring W. Nicotinic acid/niacinamide and the skin. J Cosmet Dermatol. 2004 Apr;3(2):88-93. doi: 10.1111/j.1473-2130.2004.00115.x. PMID: 17147561.
Rolfe HM. A review of nicotinamide: treatment of skin diseases and potential side effects. J Cosmet Dermatol. 2014 Dec;13(4):324-8. doi: 10.1111/jocd.12119. PMID: 25399625.
Wohlrab J, Kreft D. Niacinamide – mechanisms of action and its topical use in dermatology. Skin Pharmacol Physiol. 2014;27(6):311-5. doi: 10.1159/000359974. Epub 2014 Jun 27. PMID: 24993939.