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Spotlight On: Vitamin B3 (Niacinamide and Nicotinic Acid)

Niacinamide embodies both simplicity (in structure) and diversity (in function).
Let’s begin by clarifying the numerous terms that are seen when discussing vitamin B3, which is a water-soluble essential nutrient.
  1. Vitamin B3 is known as niacin or nicotinic acid (NTA).
  2. Niacinamide (NCA) or nicotinamide is the “amide” form of vitamin B3. What that means is that outside of the pyridine ring, the carboxyl group (COOH) of nicotinic acid has been replaced by a (carbox)amide group (CONH2). It is debatable whether or not the two forms interconvert between one another in vivo. It is known that when taken orally, NTA does convert to NCA in order to exhibit the known vitamin effects. However, it is unknown whether or not NCA converts to NTA.  It seems likely that a small amount of NCA is metabolized to NTA. The amount appears to be negligible however, as NCA does not exhibit many of the same pharmacological effects (skin flushing, lowering of cholesterol) as does NTA.
Therefore, for the purposes of this skin care post, the two terms (niacinamide and nicotinic acid) will not be used interchangeably and will be discussed separately. ***Note that both NTA and NCA can however, prevent development of pellagra, or vitamin B3-deficiency when taken orally. SO THE OBVIOUS QUESTION IS, "WHEN IT COMES TO THE SKIN, IS NTA BETTER THAN NCA?" Unfortunately, the answer is unclear.

Background Information on NTA and NCA

NCT-NCA US President Ronald Reagan and Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev represent the leaders of the Cold War superpowers. Is that what's going on here?!
Both NTA and NCA are important precursors of the cofactors niacinamide adenosine dinucleotide (NAD) and its phosphate derivative, niacinamide adenosine dinucleotide phosphate (NADP). These cofactors and their reduced forms (NADH and NADPH) function as redox (reduction-oxidation) coenzymes in a myriad of cellular biochemical reactions. I’m not sure if you remember high school biology, but perhaps you’ll recall using these abbreviations while studying the basic processes of cellular respiration and photosynthesis. Anyways because of they are precursors, both NTA and NCA have the potential to exhibit multiple effects on the skin, because they affect so many non-enzymatic and enzymatic biochemical reactions. In this aspect, they are on potentially equal footing.The main advantage of NTA is that, while it exerts vitamin effects on the skin (increasing levels of NAD and NADH), it may also have drug-like effects by interacting with NTA (G protein-coupled) receptors present in the skin. While that sounds impressive, even then the effects aren’t that different from those of NCA or that “amazing.” NTA has been shown to enhance epidermal differentiation and act as an anticarcinogen, in addition to stimulating wound healing (by increasing skin levels of leptin). As you will see later in this article, NCA can also function as a mild exfoliant and be anticarcinogenic, albeit via sometimes divering pathways. And wound healing has little to do with the average skin care routine; though of course it can help conditions that involve open lesions such as inflammatory acne. However, NCA also helps inflammatory acne; albeit again via a different pathway. Now, the main disadvantage of NTA is that when applied topically, it has an unpleasant and undesirable side effect of intense vasodilation or skin flushing, which is mediated by the release of prostaglandin D2. Furthermore, because NTA has even more side effects when administered orally (inluding alterations in blood pressure, pulse, and/or body temperature), there are significantly fewer studies that document topical NTA as compared to NCA. So how good is NCA then?

Niacinamide (NCA)

There is a wealth of evidence supporting the benefits of topical NCA use. While some of mechanisms by which NCA provides these skin benefits have yet to be elucidated, several clinical studies have demonstrated its capacity to exact these positive changes. ANTIOXIDANT CAPACITY: NCA acts as an antioxidant mainly by increasing the levels of the reduced form of NADP, NADPH. While most of its beneficial properties can be attributed to this ability, in terms of antioxidant capacity, NCA can prevent NAD depletion during DNA repair of keratinocytes by inhibiting poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase (PARP), which may similarly help repair UV-induced DNA damage. Note that this is different than the antioxidant capabilities of compounds such as L-ascorbic acid (vitamin C) and polyphenols (such as green tea and pomegranate).
Both NTA and NCA help strengthen the stratum corneum (SC), the top layer of the skin.
EPIDERMAL BARRIER FUNCTION: The stratum corneum (SC) or the top layer of the skin has the crucial responsibility to inhibit transepidermal water loss (TEWL). It does this in-part by synthesizing ceramides and other SC lipids, as well as stimulating keratinocyte differentiation in order to obtain adequate impermeability. However, various factors such as UV exposure, aggressive cleansing, and dermatological conditions can negatively affect the SC’s function. Fortunately, NCA has been shown to not only increase ceramide synthesis (by upregulating serine palmitoyltransferase, the rate-limiting enzyme in sphingolipid synthesis), which has been demonstrated in clinical studies such as this one utilizing 2% NCA; but to also stimulate keratinocyte differentiation by influencing keratin (K1), which increases “epidermal turnover,” and of course by raising levels of NADP! IRRITATION AND ACNE: An improved epidermal barrier, as described above, will naturally lessen the amount of irritation from negative environmental exposure. In terms of acne and other inflammatory conditions, NCA has the ability to inhibit neutrophil chemotaxis or the movement of inflammatory aspects of the skin’s immune system. At 4%, it was even shown to be comparable to 1% of the antibiotic clindamycin. YELLOWING OF THE SKIN: As skin intrinsically ages, it begins to yellow due to the glycation of proteins known as the Maillard reaction. Glycation is when proteins and sugars (like glycose) cross-link and form complexes that are yellowish-brown in color; you could call them advanced glycation end-products (AGEs). Because NCA increases the levels of NADP, and its reduced form, it seems likely that NCA can inhibit oxidative processes, one of which is protein glycation. FINE LINES AND WRINKLES: NCA has been shown to stimulate collagen synthesis and the epidermal proteins K1 (keratin), fillagrin, and involucrin, which are responsible for protein synthesis (collagen is a protein) and increasing skin hydration (by altering the natural moisturizing factor (NMF) as well as the structure of the SC). The SC of course, as we discussed above, inhibits TEWL. The cited study also shows clinical evidence of improvement in terms of skin yellowing or sallowness. HYPERPIGMENTATION: Unlike tyrosinase-inhibiting ingredients like hydroquinone, arbutin, and kojic acid, NCA combats hyperpigmentation by inhibiting melanosomes transfer. As we learned in "The Biology of Skin Color" last week, melanosomes are the vesicles that transport and distribute melanin from melanocytes to the keratinocytes of the epidermis. The exact mechanism of this inhibitory action of NCA is unclear; though several clinical in-vivo studies have shown that NCA is effective against hyperpigmentation. While not as effective as hydroquinone, NCA represents an effective alternative. Of course, they can also be used together as combination therapy. As stated in the introduction, the topical use of NCA for anti-aging purposes has been proven many times over. It is one of the best studied “cosmeceutical” ingredients available in our armamentarium. And while all of these attributes have been demonstrated in clinical studies, more in-vitro studies need to be done to elucidate the specific mechanisms by which NCA achieves these benefits.

Nicotinic Acid (NTA)

nicotinic-adic NTA really isn’t that different in structure compared to NCA.
As mentioned earlier, the main disadvantage of NTA is that it causes intense vasodilation or skin flushing. Note that while this effect looks harmful, it actually isn’t. It’s just redness, not irritation. Some potential workarounds have been implemented: one of which, is to link the link the NTA with a long fatty chain ester such as myristic acid. This gives birth to myristyl nicotinate (MN), which was designed to prevent the vasodilation side effect. Therefore, because NTA is not applied to the skin nor contained in topical products, the discussion of NTA will be in reference to the MN form. The cited study demonstrated that MN increased levels of NAD (by 25%) in the skin, which increased SC and epidermal thickness. These of course help prevent TEWL and increase barrier function. However, the main problem is that in this MN form, NAT did not demonstrate any of the other positive attributes of NCA such as those dealing with inflammation, sallowness, wrinkles, and hyperpigmentation. This may be because as NM, the NAT is not in its free acid form. It is unclear whether or not the skin has the capability nor the desire to cleave/hydrolyze the fatty acid chain from the NAT molecule because if it did, there would be that unwanted vasodilation effect. In solution, it was shown that very little MN converts to free NAT (< 0.05%). THE QUESTION IS THEN, "DOES MN HAVE TO CONVERT TO FREE NTA IN ORDER TO FUNCTION OPTIMALLY?" The answer is again unfortunately, unknown. However, given the various similar examples seen in skin care, I’d say that it’s logical for the answer to be, “Yes.” For example, if you take two other essential nutrients: vitamins A and E, ester-linked forms such as retinyl palmitate and tocopheryl acetate, are commonly found in skin care products. Both of these have different functions than their “pure” counterparts, retinol and tocopherol. And I demonstrated inWhat is Retinol Metabolism?”, retinyl palmitate would have to go through multiple conversion steps in order to become tretinoin, the only metabolite that has any vitamin A activity in the skin. And since NTA also has receptors like tretinoin, that only further substantiates this hypothesis. Overall, there are just too many unknowns when considering NTA (and therefore MN) as an effective, multi-faceted topical treatment.

Closing Remarks for Niacinamide and Nicotinic Acid

NTA has definitely been shown to facilitate epidermal barrier function, wound healing, and keratinocyte differentiation. However, NCA has also been shown to do these things (except wound healing), in addition to improving so many other common skin conditions such as sallowness, hyperpigmentation, and irritation. Furthermore, NCA is present in significantly higher amounts of products, indicating a wider choice in selection, and elicits very few if any negative reactions. Finally, NCA is stable, inexpensive, and above all: well-documented. Therefore, given the numerous question marks about the attributes of NTA, in conjunction with the sheer amount of proven benefits of NCA, it is my personal opinion that for now NCA>NTA in skin care, and my personal recommenation for everyone to introduce and implement an NCA product into your routine!

Product Recommendations

Now, you didn’t think that I’d make you wander off and attempt to select an NCA product out of the thousands available on the market by yourself, did you? So together, let’s get the shorter list out of the way first. While NTA has not been shown to be as effective as NCA, I’m sure there will be those of you who still want to try out a product containing NTA just to quell any doubt, despite the evidence presented. Fortunately, there are a few good products that contain NTA in the form of MN. Note that both of my recommendations are products that are more appropriate for normal to oily skin types. This is because someone with dry skin can always add an additional moisturizer, while someone with oily skin can’t do anything about an emollient (dry skin-appropriate) one.
  1. STRIVECTIN-SH AGE PROTECT SPF 30: This sunscreen contains a high amount of NTA, as well thestrivectin-sh-age-protect anti-inflammatory and antioxidant blueberry, in addition to a few ceramides to enhance epidermal barrier function. The lightweight texture makes this appropriate for normal-oily skin types and works well under makeup. In terms of protecting against the sun, this provides excellent organic-based UV protection. The 3% avobenzone is stabilized by 2% oxybenzone and 2.6% octocrylene, without any oxtinoxate to form a 2 + 2 addition byproduct that will quickly reduce the amount of effective avobenzone. ($24.5/oz)
  2. NIA24 SUN DAMAGE REPAIR-DECOLLETAGE AND HANDS: This body lotion can certainly be used on the face. It has a beautifully silky, smooth texture that absorbs quickly without leaving a greasy residue. In addition to good amounts of NTA, it contains some non-fragrant plant oils (olive, evening primrose), in addition to the lightening licorice extract, anti-inflammatory willow bark, and the antioxidant green tea. There are also small amounts of a vitamin C-ester and two forms of vitamin E. If used on the face, this is a very inexpensive option and deserves much praise. ($11/oz)
Now, on to product recommendations that contain NCA! Yay! Look no further than Olay! Note that because a lot of Olay products are very similar, I tried to pick out the “best” ones in my opinion considering ingredients, price, and packaging. As with the NTA section, I will recommend a moisturizer wihout SPF and a moisturizer with SPF (sunscreen).

Products for Normal to Dry Skin Types

  1. OLAY REGENERIST DNA SUPERSTRUCTURE CREAM WITH SPF 30: This contains a good amount of olay-regenerist-nicotinicNCA, in addition to the Matrixyl peptide, the anti-glycation ingredient carnosine, the hydrating vitamin B5, as well as the antioxidant green tea. There’s also small amount of vitamin C (though the pH of this is most likely not low enough to allow for adequate penetration and function), and some vitamin E-ester. In terms of sun protection, this provides excellent organic-based UV protection. The 3% avobenzone is stabilized by 2.6% octocrylene and 6% oxybenzone, without any oxtinoxate. Olay’s a smarty-pants! Also, I adore the packaging. It’s super sleek and high-end looking. I wish more products looked like this! (~$13.23/oz) ***Note that, while this product does contain both niacinamide and L-ascorbic acid, the rates of negative complexation are likely insignificant due to the fact that the L-ascorbic acid content is very minimal, and the pH is not appropriately low.
  2. OLAY TOTAL EFFECTS 7-IN-1 MOISTURIZER PLUS MATURE THERAPY: I deemed this superior to other similar Olay products because it contains higher than normal amounts of the emollient coconut and soybean oils, as well as the hydrating vitamin B5 (panthenol) and hydrolyzed wheat protein. In terms of antioxidant potential, there are good amounts of magnesium ascorbyl phosphate, which is significantly more potent than the vitamin C form usually used by Olay, ascorbyl palmitate. There’s also a higher than normal amount of the antioxidant green tea. Finally, there are of course excellent amounts of NCA. All of these rank this product a step above the rest of the Olay moisturizers without SPF. Note that this does contain mineral pigments (zinc oxide and titanium dioxide) that add a faint sheen to the skin; something that's desirable for those with dull, dry skin. (~$11.17/oz)

Products for Normal to Oily Skin Types

  1. ELTAMD CLEAR SPF 46: If this looks familiar, that’s because I also recommended this inAre Inorganic Sunscreens Better Than Organic Ones? Part V: Conclusion and Product Recommendations.” The same review applies. While this only contains NCA, it provides excellent inorganic- and organic-based UV protection that doesn’t leave a white cast and sits beautifully under makeup. ($17.06/oz)
  2. PAULA'S CHOICE RESIST PURE RADIANCE SKIN BRIGHTENING TREATMENT: This is positioned as a “natural” hydroquinone-free skin brightener or lightener. In addition to NCA, this contains an even higher amount acetyl glucosamine, which has been shown to provide some exfoliation like hydroxy acids without the low pH, in addition to reducing hyperpigmentation, though the exact mechanism is unknown. Furthermore, one study demonstrated that 2% of acetyl glucosamine and 4% NCA reduced hyperpigmentation better than either compound alone. So that’s great news! This also contains several other lighteners that function similarly to hydroquinone by inhibiting the tyrosinase enzyme, such as the mulberry, and licorice extracts. There are also moderate amounts of several ceramides (to compound the effects of NCA to improve barrier function), as well as a vitamin C-ester as tetrahexyldecyl ascrobate, which is also known as ascorbyl tetraisopalmitate. This is all wrapped up in an elegant primer-like texture that works brilliantly with oilier skin types. ($26.95/oz)
***Keep in mind that Dermstore has 10% off sales around the holiday season. In addition, Sephora always has their annual 20% off Friends and Family (F&F) and VIB sales around October and November. So be sure to stock up then! I always do. Note that, unlike with the inorganic sunscreen recommendations, I did not calculate the price/oz with these discounts because the sales for the Olay and Paula’s Choice brands can vary every year in both discount and time. It would be unfair to apply a discount to some products, and not to others. I thoroughly hope you enjoyed this 2,500+ words and 15+ citations article! Let me know what you think and feel free to share your own product recommendations that contain NTA/NCA! Since this is such a popular ingredient, please don’t hesitate to share this article.
By: John Su
Date: September 27 2012 at 2:50 PM
Ingredients, antioxidant, eltamd, hyperpigmentation, melanosomes, NIA24, niacin, niacinamide, nicotinic acid, olay, paula's choice, vitamin B, vitamin B3, wrinkles

Comments (38)

  1. A
    September 27 2012 at 3:34 PM

    Hmm...so, for example: NIA 24 products contain Myristyl Nicotinate (Pro-Niacin™) = NTA = Not as good or as proven as NCA. OLAY Pro X products contain Niacinamide = NCA = more proven and more effective than NTA. Nicotinamide = niacinamide = nicotinic acid amide. Correct? Or do I have this confused?

  2. John Su
    September 27 2012 at 3:43 PM

    @A It's not quite as simple as that. But it's essentially what you're saying. :) Also, a lot of non Pro X Olay products contain niacinamide too. Like I said, NCA is very affordable, so you don't have to get products from the Pro X line. In fact, one of my favorite body lotions is the Olay Quench Plus Firming Body Lotion, which contains high amounts of NCA!

  3. JennBee
    September 28 2012 at 12:23 AM

    I just started using PAULA’S CHOICE RESIST PURE RADIANCE SKIN BRIGHTENING TREATMENT today. I have oily skin and love the texture. Now if it does what it says it should, I'll be thrilled. I received some free Strivectin-SD not long ago with some samples of some of the others from the line. I've decided that I don't like it. It's far too greasy for me and I can feel the menthol in it irritating my skin. I'm super sensitive to menthol and peppermint in skin and hair products.

  4. Jess
    September 28 2012 at 12:30 PM

    I use CeraVe face moisturizer which has NCA in it. Would you happen to know if the amount of NCA in the CeraVe lotion is enough to get these great benefits?

  5. John Su
    October 3 2012 at 5:26 AM

    @JennBee I agree that the PC product looks promising, and I hope it works out for you! As for the Strivectin, I don't think you should evaluate an entire skin care line based on a single or even a few selections. But yeah, I recommended this Strivectin-SH product because it doesn't contain any irritating ingredients like menthol or peppermint, although those ingredients aren't SO bad. I did a post on menthol here: http://www.futurederm.com/2012/06/07/spotlight-on-menthol-a-fascinating-look-at-a-mysterious-ingredient/ Anyways, thanks for commenting!

  6. John Su
    October 3 2012 at 5:30 AM

    @Jess Yes it certainly can! Both the Cerave AM and PM Lotions are good products containing relatively high amount of NCA. As I said in the post, NCA is stable, effective, and affordable, so keep using them! Though, I do wish the AM SPF 30 had a bit more UVA protection; 2% octocrylene and 3.5% ZnO does not provide enough in my opinion.

  7. Jess
    October 3 2012 at 4:24 PM

    Thanks John!

  8. maria
    October 3 2012 at 6:05 PM

    Hi - I've noticed a drying effect from Niacinamide. My skin looks dehydrated when I use it regularly. It also makes my skin more sensitive to the sun. At first I liked Olay prox spf 30 and the wrinkle cream but it sensitizes my skin and makes it feel greasy (in addition to the dryness) so i'm no longer a fan. I would love a recommendation for a good night cream to use over or under Retin A. Thanks.

  9. Landa
    October 3 2012 at 6:42 PM

    I had a question about the NIA24 too. How can NIA24 not be as effective? Doesn't it have all those studies to back it up or it is just hype? Is NIA24 still a solid product? Also, Nicki has always recommended their sunscreen. I guess I should ditch my NIA24 Skin Strengthening Complex that I use every morning and go get something with NCA in it, like Olay. Any other products top products with NCA?

  10. John Su
    October 4 2012 at 5:43 AM

    @Jess You're welcome. :)

  11. John Su
    October 4 2012 at 5:57 AM

    @maria Hm your situation IS a bit confusing. So I have a couple of questions for you: 1. How do you know that the niacinamide is causing your skin to become dry? Why can't it be something else in your routine, or even another ingredient in your NCA-containing product? Do you exfoliate properly? Have you been diagnosed with a sebum-related condition such as seborrheic dermatitis or dandruff? 2. How has NCA made your skin more sensitive to the sun? How can you tell? 3. Which product(s) is (are) making your skin greasy and dry simultaneously? I'm asking these questions because, as the research shows above, the only thing that has anything to do with lipids when it comes to NCA, is the expression of ceramide synthesis. And ceramides make up only a small part of the overalll "oiliness" of the skin, if any. Furthermore, the drying effect is even more bizarre, since NCA does the exact opposite via ceramide synthesis and inhibition of TEWL. Oiliness has also to do with your hormone levels, and can also be affected by diet. Also, I can't really give you a good product recommendation if I don't know your skin type. But since you sound like someone with combination skin, you're best bet would be to try something appropriate for an oilier skin type. The Paula's Choice product mentioned is pricey but quite excellent. However, there are a lot of products with NCA available on the market. Something with SPF would be like the Neutrogena Ageless Intensives Tone Correcting Moisture SPF 30. Since it looks like you don't like Olay products, maybe you can consider something like the EltaMD AM Thepray Facial Moisturizer (which does NOT have SPF despite being a "day" product); the CeraVe Facial Moisturizing Lotion PM, or even the Paula's Choice RESIST Anti-Aging Clear Skin Hydrator. Any of those would be fine. So yeah, let me know if you have any other questions.

  12. John Su
    October 4 2012 at 6:10 AM

    @Landa That's exactly it! Like I said in the post, because nicotinic acid or myristyl nicotinate has those drawbacks of skin flushing, etc, there's just less data and research available for that ingredient when it comes to topical application. I'm not saying that NTA DOESN'T have the same effects as NCA; I'm just saying that NTA's effects just haven't been discovered yet, (because of the many side effects). And again like I said in the post, if you doubt the research, there are still products on the market with NTA! So NTA isn't just all hype, I'm just saying that it doesn't have has many studies behind it as NCA, which for now, makes it appear as an "inferior" ingredient to NCA. Does that make sense? As for the NIA24 Complex, it certainly can be effective! If you get good results from it, why stop? The only reason why I didn't recommend this product when writing this article, is because it's very pricey when compared to the neck version. But if you like it, there's no reason for you to not use it. And fortunately, this product contains a lot of other good ingredients such as green tea, soybean, evening primrose oil, a peptide, and a tad of vitamins A and E. However, I do think that you should at least try a NCA-containing product (perhaps from this list) to see if you can get better results. If you so wish, you could try your own split-face left-right experiment, where you apply the Strength Complex to one side of your face, and an NCA-containing one to the other side for a month or however long. And see if there's a noticeable difference after the sustained period of time. In no way will that indicate histological and/or physiological differences (since the average consumer doesn't have the necessary analytical tools), but it'll perhaps give you an idea of effective NCA is when compared to NTA for you. But again, this wouldn't be anything conclusive at all. Just a fun idea! At the end of the day, if you're taking care of your skin with sunscreen, and have a "good" regular routine, you will be fine! Don't spaz out over this because I'm sure your skin looks great! :)

  13. maria
    October 5 2012 at 12:48 PM

    hmm - well your questions are good but....I think perhaps it's the concentration of niacinamide that matters? When I use the regular regenerist night cream that has niacinamide, it does work well and doesn't dry me out. I've been using a great toner with aloe but I do think that might contribute to the drying also so i've stopped using that -- darn 'cause i liked the antioxidants. I bought some straight niacinamide powder from Bulk Actives and i applied it mixed with Olay ProX to my skin and it was awful!!........oily and dry at the same time. So again I'm thinking maybe the concentration is too high for me -- or maybe mixing it with other things is not good. Whenever I use the ProX nighttime cream, it's almost like I can see the spots on my hands and face are darker as soon as I get out of bed - I know it's strange. (by the way i'd love a recommendation for a good antioxidant toner without witch hazel or panthenol 'cause i like to put it under a moisturizer...) Witch hazel is also drying for me and panthenol or sodium pca dilate my pores.....yes I know my skin pretty well:))

  14. John Su
    October 5 2012 at 1:53 PM

    @maria There's no need to get defensive. I'm just throwing ideas out there upon which you can speculate. :) And too much niacinamide can certainly have negative side effects, and they can vary from person to person. In the previous response, I assumed it was from a particular product, and not you throwing some niacinamide powder into an existing formula: another reason why DIY is just adequate at best. Anyways, the best antioxidant toners are from Paula's Choice, regardless of price in my opinion. My personal favorite is the Skin Balancing one, but that is quite milky in texture. Perhaps you'd like the Hydralight one, which is more watery and contains comparatively good amounts of green tea.

  15. RAFAEL
    October 5 2012 at 6:26 PM

    hello John, My dear, as always one more post of extreme refinement and with excelent information. The effects of nicotinamide here in Brazil are also greatly appreciated. pity that products containing the NCA is still limited, including Olay products. As always here the portfolio of options is more limited compared with you there in the United States, however this line "total effect 7 in 1" and "Regenerist" here is just that I did not like! I very gloss that gives the face, as the weather here is hot like in most products that confirem a matt effect. One way to use then nicotimamida more enjoyable is the manipulated in pharmacies. I know that in this way the stability and the efficiency of the product may not be the same as the industrialized form, but is an option. What do you think the formulations manipulated nicotinamide? which in his opinion would be a good concentration to do gel cream?

  16. John Su
    October 6 2012 at 3:02 AM

    @RAFAEL Thank you for your kind words. And thank you for taking the time to write in English; it must be difficult. However because of that, I'm not quite sure I understand what you're trying to tell me. But I'll do my best. It sounds like you don't like the current line of Olay products because they're too "oily" feeling, and you want something matte since it's really hot in Brazil. I think you're also saying that prescription products with NCA are more pleasant to use because they're less oily. And I think you're asking my opinion on prescription NCA-products and what concentration I think would be most appropriate for you. Well prescription products like Nicomide-T, can certainly be good for you! It's a gel formula, which should be quite matte in finish. Furthermore, I believe that only comes in a 4% concentration. So that may work for you. If you can get your hands on it, there's no reason why you shouldn't use it, unless it's too expensive. Now, if you were asking if I could give you another NCA recommendation that's has a gel-cream base, I'm not really sure what I can do for you since I don't know what products are available in your area. But I just read that Olay is releasing a brand new CC cream in the United States. I'm not sure if it'll be available in your area, but you should definitely give it a try. I don't at all believe the marketing and hype around BB or CC creams, but this post (http://www.allure.com/beauty-trends/blogs/daily-beauty-reporter/2012/08/introducing-cc-creams.html) confirms that this product will contain 4% niacinamide and 2% n-acetyl glucosamine, which has an Olay-affiliated study confirming that combination's efficacy to lighten the skin; I linked that study in this post. But anyways, that's really great news! The full ingredients for the CC cream can be found here: http://www.olay.com/skin-care-products/total-effects/Total-Effects-Tone-Correcting-UV-Moisturizer-Medium-to-Deep?pid=75609190704 While I wish Olay made a non-SPF version, if you apply enough, this may be great as a daily moisturizer with SPF, even for a guy! It provides probably sheer-light coverage (comes in 3 colors) and can be a good one step process. I do wish that the level of UV protection were higher, but like I said, as long as you apply enough, you should be okay. And try to avoid the sun; this product isn't for going to the beach or staying in the sun for a sustained period of time. I hope that helped and if you have any more questions, I'm always here! Haha.

  17. RAFAEL
    October 6 2012 at 5:20 AM

    Dear john (hahaha like the movie :D) Really sorry for my poor english. I must confess that it is not very easy because the word order is different the Portuguese to English (here the adjective comes before the pronoun, among other rules hahahha) and many time in a single English word has many meanings depending on context. What makes a really not very easy task. However you managed to perfectly understand what I meant, both for products olay as indicated percentage of nicotinamide. in the case of olay products, they really would be better if they had a matte effect. (despite not having very oily skin, my skin is mixed in the T-zone and normal in the rest of the face, any sense of brightness to the skin is uncomfortable). My country is really hot, and looks that I live in the southern region of the country where temperatures tend to be milder than the rest of the nation. (seriously! we are in the spring here, but it seems that we are in the middle of summer ... it really worries me, glogal warming is no longer a trend, it is the REALITY) Now about manipulated formulations, they are more easiest to obtain are also cheaper. Currently I have used a facial lotion aqueous (before sunscreen) containing nicotinamide 4%, 4% grape extract (Vitis Vinifera). So by your words I have used in proper concentration nicotinamide. (the only problem is the odor characteristic of vitamin B12, but this is corrected with the addition of some essence) Now about CC creams, marketing them here, will not be soon, since BB creams are now beginning to appear in the brazilian market (a real shame ¬_¬). Thanks again for your attention. graciously Rafael

  18. John Su
    October 7 2012 at 7:29 AM

    @RAFAEL Sigh, if only I looked like Channing Tatum. Haha! Again, super props to you for writing in English. I can't imagine writing every article and/or comment response in another language. I shudder to think of the results. Global warming is scary and a reality. I personally try to take public transportation if it's reasonable for wherever I'm going. Less fossil fuel emissions that way! And because you're already using a great NCA treatment, there's no reason to try something else then, so long as you're satisfied. Thanks for writing and you're welcome. All readers always have my attention. :)

  19. Landa
    October 10 2012 at 12:07 PM

    Thanks for all the info. I like facts. I want facts. That's why I read Futurederm. What I use isn't important really, but it's Nia24 for day and Olay ProX at night, among other things, so I'm all set! What I get from your post is this: NTA appears inferior to NCA because there is less data and research available for NTA when it comes to topical application. Why less data? Because of NTA's side effects. Whether NTA is actually more, less, or equally effective as NCA isn't known and/or remains to be seen. Maybe there will me more studies in the future to give us a more definitive answer to the NTA / NCA debate. Good blog post. Thanks again.

  20. John Su
    October 10 2012 at 1:01 PM

    @Landa I'm glad that you're able to easily come up with a succint and clear conclusion to the overall message after our various discussions. You're very welcome and thank you for your continued support!

  21. Landa
    October 27 2012 at 1:33 PM

    Will the NIA24® products help remove brown spots? Yes. Clinical trials have demonstrated that the Pro-Niacin® molecule helps to reduce the appearance of hyperpigmentation. Can Vitamin C serums be used with the NIA24® products? Yes. You can layer a Vitamin C serum underneath the Skin Strengthening Complex or Sun Damage Prevention 100% Mineral Sunscreen SPF 30 because of the consistency of serums versus moisturizers and creams. However, when using NIA24® products in conjunction with other non-prescribed products, NIA24® products should be applied first because of their very efficient penetration properties and to ensure maximum efficacy. What is the difference between nicotinic acid and nicotinamide? While nicotinic acid and nicotinamide are both forms of Niacin, they do not share the same therapeutic properties due to their different chemical structures. Nicotinamide has not been proven as effective in combating sun damage because it cannot be effectively delivered to the skin cells for conversion to the active form, NAD, and it does not stimulate the release of leptin. Unlike nicotinamide, the Pro-Niacin® molecule consists of nicotinic acid and a lipophilic tail which enables it to be absorbed through the lipid-rich stratum corneum and to penetrate the other layers of the epidermis. Once delivered to the skin cells, the lipophillic tail is cleaved, leaving nicotinic acid which is then converted to NAD. NAD stimulates cell’s natural repair processes, enables better energy metabolism and promotes the release of leptin, generating healthier skin cells from the inside-out and strengthens the skin barrier. What are the pH levels of the NIA24® products? Gentle Cleansing Cream: 6.0 – 7.0 Physical Cleansing Scrub: 6.0 – 6.6 Skin Strengthening Complex: 6.0 – 7.0 Sun Damage Prevention 100% Mineral Sunscreen: Not Applicable

  22. John Su
    October 27 2012 at 4:27 PM

    @Landa "Yes. Clinical trials have demonstrated that the Pro-Niacin® molecule helps to reduce the appearance of hyperpigmentation." Well, can you please link the studies? Because I've look on PubMed multiple times and on the Nia24 website clinicals. There are absolutely no studies that document nicotinic acid's ability to reduce hyperpigmentation. There are plenty for niacinamide, one for another niacin derivative, but none for niacin itself. "Yes. You can layer a Vitamin C serum underneath the Skin Strengthening Complex or Sun Damage Prevention 100% Mineral Sunscreen SPF 30 because of the consistency of serums versus moisturizers and creams. However, when using NIA24® products in conjunction with other non-prescribed products, NIA24® products should be applied first because of their very efficient penetration properties and to ensure maximum efficacy." I didn't say they can't be used together. I only said that there MAY be a negative complexation interaction. So why would you risk it at all, since you can just use the vitamin B3 at nighttime. Besides, nicotinic acid has no significant photoprotective characteristics. And no, I don't think nicotinic acid products should be applied before L-ascorbic acid products. Since nicotinic acid apparently has SUCH a good permeability profile as you indicated, it should be able to effectively penetrate the base ingredients of the L-ascorbic acid product and into the skin. However, because L-ascorbic acid is so much more tempermental when it comes to penetration, that should definitely be applied to clean skin first. Why would you potentially reduce the rates of penetration of an ingredient (L-ascorbic acid) that already HAS such difficulty penetrating into the skin? It makes no sense at all. "While nicotinic acid and nicotinamide are both forms of Niacin, they do not share the same therapeutic properties due to their different chemical structures. Nicotinamide has not been proven as effective in combating sun damage because it cannot be effectively delivered to the skin cells for conversion to the active form, NAD, and it does not stimulate the release of leptin. Unlike nicotinamide, the Pro-Niacin® molecule consists of nicotinic acid and a lipophilic tail which enables it to be absorbed through the lipid-rich stratum corneum and to penetrate the other layers of the epidermis. Once delivered to the skin cells, the lipophillic tail is cleaved, leaving nicotinic acid which is then converted to NAD. NAD stimulates cell’s natural repair processes, enables better energy metabolism and promotes the release of leptin, generating healthier skin cells from the inside-out and strengthens the skin barrier." As I indicated in the post, both niacinamide and niacin do have some overlapping benefits. So I wouldn't say that they have different therapeutic properties. Yes, NTA improves epidermal barrier function and reduces TEWL via different specific mechanisms (leptin synthesis). However, the end results are quite similar. And while NTA may be more lipophilic, and NCA is hydrophilic, NCA's permeability profile is very well-documented and excellent; it satisfies Kligman's penetration requirement. So that characteristic isn't very exclusive. And thanks for providing the pH of the various Nia24 products. However, they aren't very different from the pH of other moisturizers. But yeah, thanks for attemping to elucidate the exclusive benefits of nicotinic acid. However, you've only substantiated my conclusion that you (if you are the same person as the "Landa" that commented above) so succinctly summarized: "NTA appears inferior to NCA because there is less data and research available for NTA when it comes to topical application. Why less data? Because of NTA’s side effects. Whether NTA is actually more, less, or equally effective as NCA isn’t known and/or remains to be seen. Maybe there will me more studies in the future to give us a more definitive answer to the NTA / NCA debate." :) Therefore, for now it is simply more reliable and beneficial to use NCA rather than NTA. But of course, the choice is ultimately yours.

  23. Paula
    December 13 2012 at 11:07 AM

    Your website is just amazing! Could you please list the 5 crucial classes of ingredients necessary for everyone's routine? I just buyed the serum 10 from skinceuticals and was planning to buy a Olay product with NCA. Considering that my skin is a bit oily (mostly in the T zone), I kindly ask to you indicate to me a product from Olay that probably fits best to mu skin. I am 32 years old. I also buyed "redermic eyes" and a tretinoine gel 0,1% and use sunscream daily. For last, I really would like to know the ideal routine. Could you please help me? I am not sure what is best to use during the day and what is best to use during the night (to avoid the UV sensibilization, as I live in Brazil and is really sunny for at least 6 months). And what can be combined with what. I first wash my face with Avéne cleanance gel soap and afterwards I use the Avéne cleanance lotion. Then I use the thermal water and after was thinking in use the serum c10 from skinceuticals and then sunscream. In which moment do I use the redermic eyes? And the AHA? And the NCA? The tretinoine I know is during the night. Can I use tretinoine with NCA? Wuthout waiting 30 min? Thanks in advance! All the best!

  24. John Su
    December 15 2012 at 8:45 PM

    @Paula Thanks for reading! I actually listed the 5 classes of ingredients in this post: http://www.futurederm.com/2012/11/22/happy-thanksgiving/ But your routine looks fine. Use the Serum 10 during the day with the Redermic Eyes around the eye area if you'd like. Then apply sunscreen. Wait at least 15-30 minutes between applications. In the evening, you can apply the tretinoin and then the niacinamide. You can apply your NCA product immediately after the former product if you'd like, though I would prefer you wait at least 15 minutes between applications as well. This isn't because tretinoin is incompatible with niacinamide; I'd just give the tretinoin some time to penetrate into the skin first. I hope that helps!

  25. Marbbie
    December 22 2012 at 10:29 PM

    Hi John! Learned about the effects NCA could have with Acetyl Glucosamine on hyperpigmentation. I want to know if Glucosamine Sulfate could give the same results?Thanks

  26. John Su
    December 23 2012 at 11:58 PM

    @Marbbie Yes, you're right: NCA does have limited evidence supporting the claim that it works well with N-acetyl glucosamine (NAG). However, that has not been shown with glucosamine sulfate, which is essentially just glucosamine. When it comes to the skin, no studies have shown that glucosamine sulfate functions similarly as NAG in any way. NAG is an amide of glucosamine (with acetic acid) and its chemical interactions are therefore, quite different. Does that make sense?

  27. Joellen
    February 20 2013 at 6:24 AM

    This is the best site I've discovered thus far with regard to clearly explaining the difference between niacinamide and nicotinic acid - thank you so much. Can you please tell me which products on the market offer the highest percentage of NCA? Thank you again for offering this information to the consumer.

  28. John Su
    February 21 2013 at 3:08 PM

    @Joellen You're very welcome. I'm so happy to hear that! Now, I can only guess which products contain the highest amount of NCA, because that's almost never listed. But all the products I've recommended here likely contain >2% NCA. Keep in mind that so do many or other products. As I said above, I only recommended these because they are more unique formulations that include a lot of other beneficial ingredients. But most Olay products that list NCA at in the top 5 or 6 ingredients contain similar amounts of NCA. Does that all make sense?

  29. Mia
    February 26 2013 at 12:49 PM

    Great article, but hold on, haven't you said that niacinamide and vitamin c should not be used together? Some of the products you recommended contain both, or is there any exception?

  30. John Su
    February 26 2013 at 3:22 PM

    @Mia Ooh nice catch! However, keep in mind that most of the recommended products that contain both ingredients actually contain niacinamide and a vitamin C derivative, not vitamin C itself (L-ascorbic acid). This interaction does not apply to vitamin C derivatives. However, the one product that actually does contain L-ascorbic acid--the Olay SPF 30 sunscreen, is likely not at an acidic pH, meaning that the interaction between L-ascorbic acid and niacinamide is small. It is therefore still a good option for those looking for a multi-purpose sunscreen. However, I personally recommend using a separate antioxidant product underneath sunscreen anyways, but that's just for me and those who want a more comprehensive routine. I hope that all makes sense. Again, thanks for the reminder. :)

  31. Mia
    March 2 2013 at 4:49 PM

    Good to know that! I was already worried because both are amazing ingredients to incorporate to a routine. I been using products with vitamin c as an active for years and I really like it. After reading this article I said "ooohhh", and I immediately though that it was something I should incorporate to my skincare routine, but I cannot think of leaving vitamin c as an option. Now I know is as simple as avoiding ascorbic acid and choosing instead a derivative. Thanks!

  32. John Su
    March 3 2013 at 3:03 PM

    @Mia You're welcome! Glad I could help.

  33. Emel
    March 5 2013 at 10:53 AM

    Hello John, i just stumbled on your site and love what i see :-) i have especially followed the NCA/NTA discussion. I am currently researching sun care for a friend who has a severe sun allergy. she is currently using a prescription sun screen that is extremely expensive so she uses little of it and avoids the sun. during my research i came across some info that nca and folic acid might be a good solution. I was wondering if you know of this and also if the creams you mention with spf would work for someone like her? or any other suggestions? perhaps i have written too early as i will dig further into your site now..:-) she lives in germany but i suppose most products can now be obtained online anyways :-) any suggestion and help is appreciated. sunny greetings from germany, em

  34. John Su
    March 6 2013 at 2:02 PM

    @Emel I'm glad you like what you see! As for the sun allergy issue, keep in mind that a sun allergy isn't like most types of allergies in that it's not mediated by immunoglobulin E (IgE), meaning that the reaction is not immediate. Instead, sun "allergy" is categorized as a Type IV delayed-type hypersensitivity that's mediated instead by T-cells; this type of reaction does not involve cytokines, which are the pro-inflammatory signaling molecules upon which many topical anti-inflammatory ingredients such as niacinamide, green tea, and resveratrol primarily act. Therefore, the effectiveness of these topical ingredients are limited. Don't get me wrong, these ingredients are fantastic and may be helpful as a preventative or inhibitory measure. But if your friend experiences an episode, these ingredients won't be of much use. Instead he/she will want to use the standard treatment protocols prescribed by the doctor, which include things like hydrocortisone creams. I know you want to help your friend, but unfortunately there's not much more that can be done except for what he/she is already doing, which is to simply stay out of the sun. And if your friend has to go into the sun, make sure to use high SPF and UVA-PF inorganic-based sunscreens, wear a lot of sun-protective clothing, and of course sunglasses. Finally, while the options recommended in this post are excellent products overall, they don't provide very high levels of protection against the sun. For more potent options, the Josie Maran SPF 40 sunscreen is a good choice for drier skin types, and the EltaMD SPF 47 sunscreen is a good one for oilier skin types. Sorry I couldn't be of more help, and I wish your friend the best.

  35. Adriana
    May 19 2013 at 7:11 AM

    Helllo John My skin is dehydrated from using acne products for years. Now I have no acne but my skin looks dehydrated and very dull. I made my own niacinamide toner ,water and niacinamide mixed. Do you think that will help my dehydrated and dull skin? Can I apply this niacinamide toner around my eyes for dark circles? I think my skin barrier is very damage from the harsh products I use. I'm 24 years old Thank you for your time

  36. John Su
    May 19 2013 at 9:40 AM

    @Adriana Niacinamide can certainly help improve the appearance and feel of your skin. But it sounds like you would benefit a lot more from using an alpha hydroxy acid like glycolic or lactic acid, and then layering over that with something that contains lots of lightweight emollients and humectants to keep you skin soft and moisturized. As for dark circles, nothing topical can really address that problem unfortunately. I hope that helps!

  37. Jessica
    June 12 2013 at 11:06 AM

    Hi John, Love the article n info! But I have an interesting question for ya:) ok, for about 2 years now I have had SEVERE dry skin. It started 3 months after I had my daughter. I've been to several docs and had labs, biopsies, etc but everything came back normal. That include ny thyroid, hormones, etc. but now they suspect it might be autoimmune in early stages since my labs and tests came back negative. So, I ave tried EVERYTHING on m face. I had to resort to using coconut oil on my face which I the doing. I even tried that new anatabloc creme that is $300 a bottle and the results were hilarious. As soon as I put it on my face it evaporated. Like I stood there and watched it dry on my face. It's crazy to think of how dry my face is. I'm taking primrose oil and tons of fish oil including krill and more supplements. I've tried the oil of Olay regenerative creams too and they didn't work either. Do u have any advice? I can use any help I can get at this point. Thanks!

  38. John Su
    June 12 2013 at 5:58 PM

    @Jessica Hm, I'm sorry to hear that. Unless you want me to, I'm not going to speculate on what might be the cause of the dry skin, because it really could be anything. Although, I find it a bit surprising that your docs haven't discovered the cause yet. Were said doctors dermatologists or just family physicians? I If it's the latter, consider seeing a dermatologist because the training that goes into becoming a dermatologist is truly SO much more than a family physician, and/or obviously a doctor of another specialty. They really are more knowledgeable and experienced, comparatively. Fortunately, we can treat the symptom! Now, when it comes to super dry skin, I usually tell people to treat it like if it were the skin on your feet, which tends to be dry, flaky, and pretty much a mess. Haha. :) Therefore, you need something that's going to increase hydration with humectants and water (derp), moderately heavy occlusion, and moderately-strong chemical exfoliation to break down that dry, flaky skin. You're basically looking for an emollient product that contains some type of exfoliant like one of the alpha hydroxy acids. Urea works well, too. It's probably best to look for lactic rather than glycolic acid, as the latter has been shown to be more effective at treating dry skin, since it is also part of the skin's natural NMF. Something like this: http://www.dermstore.com/product_U-Lactin+Therapeutic+Body+Lotion_2085.htm with 10% urea and 2% lactic acid, would be an affordable and effective option. A step up in potency would be this: http://www.target.com/p/pond-s-rejuveness-anti-wrinkle-cream-7-oz/-/A-11223386#prodSlot=medium_1_1&term=Rejuveness+Anti-Wrinkle+Cream with ~8% lactic acid at a pH of ~4. Finally, the last affordable option (it's probably best to experiment with cheaper products in case they don't work for you) would be this: http://www.dermstore.com/product_Heel+Repair_23527.htm with a 20% glycolic, lactic, and mandelic acid mix at a pH of ~3.6. I'd suggest giving one (or more) of these recommendations a try, and see if your condition improves. If it does, you can consider splurging on more expensive and tailored formulations if necessary. Furthermore, you can break up your routine. For example, instead of using a combination product like this, you can use a powerful dedicated chemical exfoliant, and layer over with a rich cream or butter. I hope that helps and good luck!

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