POSTED: 31 Jul 2023

What Does Niacinamide Actually Do?

Niacinamide is on of the most hyped skincare ingredients and a consistent darling of the skincare world. It is also known as nicotinamide and is a form of Vitamin B3. Its promoted benefits include tightening lax skin, brightening the complexion and the holy grail of shrinking pores. In this article we explore what is niacinamide, separate fact from fiction and why are dermatologists raving about it! From its proven benefits to how to use niacinamide in your skincare, here’s everything you wanted to know about niacinamide but were too afraid to ask.

What is Niacinamide?

Niacinamide, also commonly known as Vitamin B3, is a water-soluble vitamin that plays a vital role in skincare. It’s a powerhouse ingredient known for a wide array of benefits, including improving the appearance of enlarged pores, evening the skin tone, softening fine lines and reducing dullness. Niacinamide is often found in serums, moisturisers, and toners, and it works with the natural substances in your skin to enhance its appearance. Unlike skincare acids and retinoids which have similar effects, niacinamide doesn’t exfoliate the skin. Rather it strengthens the skin’s barrier and helps lock in moisture. It’s suitable for all skin types and can be used in combination with other skincare ingredients for a comprehensive to skincare routine.

Niacinamide, niacin, and nicotinamide are closely related terms that are often wrongly used interchangeably the context of skincare and health. Niacin, is also a form of Vitamin B3 and is actually the parent compound of niacinamide. When taken orally, your body can convert niacin into niacinamide. Their effects on the body can also be quite different. For instance, niacin might cause skin flushing which is not typically seen with niacinamide. On the other hand, nicotinamide is simply another name for niacinamide.

What Does Niacinamide Do?

The benefits of niacinamide are extensive. It is a multifaceted ingredient that works through several mechanisms to rejuvenate the skin.

Improves Skin Barrier Function & Hydration

Firstly, niacinamide aids in the production of ceramides. These are a type of lipid that helps form the skin’s barrier and retains moisture. This increased ceramide production leads to better hydration and protection against environmental irritants.

Regulates Oil Production

In addition to hydrating the skin, niacinamide has the ability to regulate sebum (oil) production. It does this by modulating the activity of sebaceous glands. This helps to minimise oiliness and reduce acne breakouts.

Shrinks Pores

Niacinamide’s effectiveness in reducing the appearance of pores and fine lines comes from its ability to boost collagen production. By increasing collagen production by your skin cells, it helps maintain skin’s elasticity. This combined with regulating oil production leads to a smoother complexion and reduction in the visibility of pores.

Reduces Redness

It also has anti-inflammatory properties, which help reduce redness and irritation. This makes niacinamide popular with people with sensitive skin and may be useful for some people with rosacea.

Fades Hyperpigmentation

Niacinamide inhibits the transfer of pigment from melanocytes to the surrounding skin cells. By doing so, it can help to reduce the appearance of dark spots and hyperpigmentation. This brightens the complexion and gives a more even skin tone.

Treats Skin Ageing

As mentioned earlier, one of the benefits of niacinamide is that it stimulates your cells to make more collagen. This plumps up the skin and helps to smooth fine lines and wrinkles. This anti-ageing effect is further enhanced by its ability to hydrate the skin and fade dark spots from sun damage. Lastly, in a broader context, Vitamin B3 plays a critical role in the body’s cellular metabolism. It is involved in over 400 enzymatic reactions, converting carbohydrates, fats and proteins into energy. This conversion helps maintain the health of the cells and allows them to function optimally. As such, niacinamide can help boost and maintain the health of your skin cells.

How to Use Niacinamide in Your Skincare Routine

Integrating niacinamide into your skincare routine is a straightforward process, thanks to its compatibility with various skin types and other skincare ingredients. Its also available in a wide array of skincare products. In general, here’s how to use niacinamide for optimal benefits:

  1. Identify Your Skin Concerns: determine what you’re hoping to achieve with niacinamide. For example are you looking to address hyperpigmentation, redness, pore size and/or skin ageing?
  2. Choose the Right Product: niacinamide is available in various forms. The most common products that contain it include serums, moisturisers and toners. Select a product that fits your skin type and concerns. For example if you have oily skin you might prefer it in a toner whereas if you have very dry skin then opt for it in a hydrating serum or rich moisturiser. Look for products containing 2% to 10% niacinamide, as this concentration range has been shown to be most effective. If you have sensitive skin or skin of colour, start with a lower concentration and gradually build up as your skin tolerates.
  3. Apply it Correctly: use niacinamide after cleansing and toning (unless you’re using it as a toner) but before heavier moisturisers and oils.
  4. Use Sunscreen: Although niacinamide can aid in protecting the skin barrier, it does not replace the need for sunscreen. Always apply sunscreen during the day to protect your skin from UV damage.

Which Products Pair Well With Niacinamide?

Niacinamide compliments and boosts the effects of skincare ingredients like hyaluronic acid, peptides, ceramides and antioxidants. You can use it with retinol or prescription retinoids as well, but use them at different times of the day to reduce irritation.

How Long Does it Take to See Results?

The time it takes to see results from using niacinamide can vary depending on you skin type, the specific concern you’re trying to address, the concentration of niacinamide in the product and your overall skincare routine. Here’s a general overview of what you can expect:

  1. Immediate Effects: you might notice immediate hydration and a slight improvement in your skin texture within the first few days of using niacinamide.
  2. Short-Term Results: within 2 to 4 weeks of consistent use, you might see start to see benefits such as reduced redness, improved skin barrier function and a reduction in the appearance of pores.
  3. Long-Term Results: for more significant changes, such as a reduction in hyperpigmentation, fine lines, and wrinkles, consistent use over 8 to 12 weeks is usually necessary. Some stubborn skin concerns take even more time to show noticeable improvement.

What Are The Side Effects of Niacinamide?

In general, niacinamide is considered a safe ingredient for most skin types, including sensitive skin. However, like with any skin product, there may be potential side effects.

  1. Irritation: some people might experience redness, itching or irritation. This is particularly likely if you use a product with a high concentration of niacinamide. It can also happen if you combine it with other active ingredients like exfoliating acids or retinoids.
  2. Allergic Reaction: though thankfully extremely rare, an allergic reaction is possible. Symptoms might include swelling, rash, hives or difficulty breathing. If any of these occur, stop using the product and seek medical attention.
  3. Niacin Flush: this is more likely to occur with niacin rather than niacinamide. This reaction can cause the skin to become warm, red and tingly. This flush is usually temporary and harmless. Seek medical help if you experience any of these symptoms as it is sometimes difficult to distinguish from an allergic reaction.

To reduce the risk of adverse side effects, always perform a patch test when trying a new product especially if you have sensitive skin or known allergies. If you are concerned about potential side effects, existing skin conditions or interactions with other products in your skincare routine, consult with a skincare professional.

The benefits of niacinamide in skincare are clear. Whether you’re dealing with aging skin, large pores, hyperpigmentation or just want to give your complexion a healthy glow, niacinamide can help. It isn’t a silver bullet though and you might need to use it alongside other actives such as Tretinoin or Hydroquinone to treat more serious cases of acne, scarring, hyperpigmentation or skin ageing. It’s also important to remember that skincare is highly personal and that results can vary from person to person. Factors like the overall health of your skin, adherence to the routine and the use of complementary products can all influence the benefits of niacinamide. If you have specific concerns or aren’t seeing the desired results after a consistent period of use, consult with a dermatologist or other skin specialist to who can help tailor your skincare routine to your skin’s unique needs and your goals.

We strongly believe that skincare is personal and should always be tailored to you. Our virtual skin clinic offers safe and effective treatments like Tretinoin and Hydroquinone for skin conditions like acnehyperpigmentationmelasma and skin ageing. Book a virtual consultation with one of our doctors today. The journey towards great skin starts here.


Authored by:

Dr Amel Ibrahim
Aesthetic Doctor & Medical Director
Founder City Skin Clinic
Member of the Royal College of Surgeons of England
Associate Member of British Association of Body Sculpting GMC Registered - 7049611

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