Spotlight On: Niacinamide

Ingredients, Skin Care


Niacinamide is an amazing ingredient. According to Bissett et. al., niacinamide does it all: reduces fine lines and wrinkles, hyperpigmented spots, red blotchiness, and skin sallowness (yellowing), and increases elasticity. Further, according to a 2005 study by Draelos et. al., niacinamide may help alleviate some of the symptoms of rosacea by increasing hydration and barrier function of the stratum corneum (uppermost layer of the skin), and may have some anti-tumor characteristics as well. And finally, in a 1995 study by Takozaki et. al., it was reported that a 4% topical niacinamide treatment applied twice daily may help to treat acne by reducing inflammation with similar efficacy to 1% clindamycin gel. What’s not to love?

What is niacinamide?

Niacinamide, also known as nicotinamide, is a water-soluble component of the vitamin B complex group. In vivo, nicotinamide is incorporated into nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD) and nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate (NADP), coenzymes participating in a variety of enzymatic oxidation-reduction reactions essential for processes such as tissue respiration, lipid metabolism, and glycogenolysis (Wikipedia). However, topical application of niacinamide proves effective in treating the skin via reduced transepidermal water loss (TEWL), increased replicative potential and histone acetyltransferase activity, increased melanosome transfer from melanocytes to keratinocytes, and decreased inflammation (see below).

Is niacinamide extremely hydrating?

Yes! According to Paula Begoun, a published study in the International Journal of Dermatology found that 2% niacinamide was more effective than petrolatum (Vaseline, or a purified mixture of hydrocarbons from petroleum/crude oil) in reducing water loss from skin and increasing its moisture levels. This is extremely telling, as Dr. Leslie Baumann, director of Cosmetic Dermatology at the University of Miami, states in her textbook Cosmetic Dermatology that “petrolatum is one of the most occlusive moisturizing ingredients known…it is often the gold standard to which other occlusive ingredients are compared.” Due to the non-comedogenic nature of petrolatum, it has been popular in skincare formulations since 1872. Yet niacinamide is also non-comedogenic, and it does not have the greasy texture of petrolatum.

Is niacinamide an effective skin lightening agent?

Yes. According to a 2002 study by Hakozaki et. al., in comparison with a control, a topically applied 2% niacinamide+sunscreen lotion significantly decreased hyperpigmentation and increased skin lightness after 4 weeks of use. However, unlike the popular lightening agent hydroquinone, niacinamide does not decrease hyperpigmentation by inhibiting tyrosinase catalyzation of melanin production (Hakozaki et. al.). Instead, in the study, niacinamide was found to reduce hyperpigmentation in a pigmented reconstructed epidermal (PREP) model by inhibiting 35–68% of melanosome transfer from melanocytes to keratinocytes (skin cells). These results were affirmed by a study, using a niacinamide concentration of 4%. As such, in concentrations of at least 2%, niacinamide seems to provide a rather unique, effective method in decreasing hyperpigmentation.

Is niacinamide a superior anti-aging ingredient?

Maybe — niacinamide appears to be a promising anti-aging ingredient, but more research needs to be done. As mentioned previously, the study by Bissett et. al. demonstrated that 2% niacinamide may stimulate collagen production. A study further demonstrated that aging fibroblast (collagen-producing) cells exposed to 3 mM niacinamide increased replicative potential and histone acetyltransferase activity, which suggests that altered gene expression in skin cells may be restored by niacinamide. However, as Bissett is quick to point out, niacinamide may enhance the replicative potential of skin’s fibroblast cells, but seems to have little effect on their growth rate and life span, unlike sirtuins, which have been found to completely turn off gene expression and may actually extend fibroblasts’ life span.

Is niacinamide a good acne treatment?

Perhaps. Studies have not been conducted comparing the efficacy of niacinamide to salicyclic acid or benzoic acid, two commonly prescribed acne treatments. However, in comparison to 1% clindamycin gel, Shalita et. al. have shown that niacinamide yields similar results. In addition, use of niacinamide may be preferrable over clindamycin and other antibacterial agents in the long term because the bacteria tends to re-emerge after a period of antibacterial agent use (Shalita et. al.).

Added November 28, 2007:  Are there any potential drawbacks to niacinamide?

It is not advisable to use your niacinamide products with any products containing sirtuins, such as Avon Anew Ultimate Age Repair Elixir Serum and Night Cream.  This is because, unfortunately, sirtuins are inhibited by niacinamide.  Therefore, your attempts to increase levels of sirtuins in your skin with a CR diet or a cream containing sirtuins may be mostly futile if you use a moisturizer with niacinamide.  On the other hand, topically niacinamide has many documented effects for the skin, so until further research is done, it seems to be a question of whether you want the effects of sirtuins or niacinamide more!

In what products is niacin or niacinamide available?

A form of niacin known as nicotinic acid (related to niacinamide) was first found in the NIA24 skin care line. Unlike niacinamide and nicotinamide, nicotinic acid stimulates the release of the hormone leptin, a natural repair hormone, that aids healing within the skin cells and aids in the reduction of hyperpigmentation (NIA).

Niacinamide is available in Olay’s Total Effects, Definity, and Regenerist (my personal favorite of the three) lines. For the body, niacinamide is available in one of my favorite hydrating lotions, Olay Quench Body Lotion for Normal to Dry Skin ($18.64 for two, While Olay tends to imply that it does too much with its advertising campaigns (no cream can make you look like you just had a professional cosmetic procedure), their products with relatively high concentrations of niacinamide will help improve your skin’s moisture levels, texture, and pigmentation, and may improve your skin’s aging as well.

Altogether, niacinamide has strong scientific research backing the cosmeceutical claims, putting it in a class with antioxidants, retinoids (or kinetin if you have sensitive skin), hydroquinone and amino acid peptides. An excellent ingredient — try to fit it into your skin care régimé!

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  • Alveara

    Hi! Love your blog, I appreciate the science!
    The studies mentioned at least 4% niacinamide for optimum efficacy. Any suggestions as to what products contain at least 4%? Most of the standard products do indicate the percentage, which means that the product may not have a high enough concentration of niacinamide to achieve measurable results.
    If you know of any products that have this concentration, it would be appreciated!!!
    Thanks !

    • Nicki Zevola

      @Alveara — The products with the highest concentrations of niacinamide that I know of are Olay Regenerist and Olay Quench, which I estimate to be at approximately 4%, and Skinceuticals Metacell Renewal B3, which has 5% of the ingredient. That is the highest I know of to date.

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  • Angela

    Hi Nicki, I know you posted this a while ago however I use Vitamin C and E (Timeless) in the morning. Can I use a moisturising topical niaciminide product over the top.
    Another blogger for Future Derm says no hwoever there is also an article that suggests using NIA 24 after putting on the vitamin C serum so I am confused?

    • Nicki Zevola

      Absolutely you can use niacinamide over vitamins C and E.

      NIA 24 contains nicotinic acid, which is an acidic product. While I disagree with the statement that vitamin C cannot be used with nicotinic acid, I will agree in that caution should be taken. Vitamin C as L-ascorbic acid is acidic, and may be too sensitizing with the also-acidic NIA 24 line.

      Hope that helps.

  • @Lydelle – Myristoyl nonapeptide, also known as mySBP 189™, was designed to mimic retinol dehydrogenases (RDHs). WIthin the skin, RDHs naturally convert retinol to retinaldehyde and then trans-retinoic acid. This is the form in which it is active. It is interesting technology – the question is, how much does myristoyl nonapeptide increase conversion of retinol? Isn’t it just better to move from a retinol 0.5 to a retinol 1.0 when the time is right? After all, myristoyl nonapeptide would need to be doubling the conversion of retinol to trans-retinoic acid in order for it to be more effective than retinol 1.0% cream. In other words, we honestly don’t know yet.

    But in comparison to niacinamide, one would have to do a direct study – the effects and pathways are different.

  • Lydelle

    Really interesting stuff! Thanks for the enlightenment. How do you think that niacinamide fairs with Love My Body skin care products that use Myristoyl Nonapeptide? Or should they even be compared?

  • John

    The percentage of Niacinamide used in these studies is w/w (e.g 5g of niacinamide per 100g of product) or w/v (e.g. 5g per 100ml of product)?

  • So excited to find this post! For the past year I’ve been using a sunscreen that contains niacinamide on a daily basis and it has done wonders for my skin! It not only cleared up my blemishes but also faded my old acne marks and freckling. I’ve been looking for people to share this with, its a sunscreen by Elta MD. Here’s more info on it:

  • You you should change the page title Spotlight On: Niacinamide to something more specific for your content you create. I loved the post all the same.

  • lavender

    I like this ingredient(Niacinamide), but due know cheap alternative other than olay products. or tell me how to search for it…

  • Angie

    Thanks Nicki. By the way, do you have any opinions about people who like to add actives or to make their own creams?
    I’ve been lurking for a while in DIY forums, and I’m tempted but have my reservations. So, far I’m starting with very simple actives and would really appreciate your opinion about DIY skincare. Thanks a bunch!

  • Dear Angie,

    I honestly don’t know the topical % of niacinamide in Olay Regenerist, sorry. 🙁

    I will let you know if I do find out!
    Take care!

  • Angie

    Ops…sorry a/ the typos 🙁

  • Angie

    I wonder what would be the optical % or niacimine?
    I don’t want to add another cream but would like to add niacimine to my moisterizer. Thanks a bunch!

  • Carol

    I apologize for asking a question about an older topic but I just found your website. Do you know which products contain the highest amounts of niacinamides? Thank you and thank you for this website. You’ve done a great job!

    • Nicki Zevola

      The products with the highest concentrations of niacinamide are Olay Regenerist and Olay Quench, which I estimate to be at approximately 4%, and Skinceuticals Metacell Renewal B3, which has 5% of the ingredient. That is the highest I know of to date.

  • Dear Jennifer,

    I honestly don’t know! I have asked dermatologists this question, and they are not sure, as it does not seem as though any published clinical studies have been done to determine how to maximize the effects of each while still using both niacinamide and sirtuins.

    I would talk to your dermatologist and see what s/he recommends for you. I’m sorry that I couldn’t be of more help.

  • Jennifer Wicker

    I have a question concerning the writeup on Niaminicide. I have products containing both sirtuins (Avon) and niaminicide (Olay). Since it sounds like you are saying they are incompatible, should I alternate their use on different days or different months instead? What would be the best way to handle this? Thank you for your help!
    Jennifer Wicker

  • Denise

    ahh:) good to know!

    I’ll be looking for a good source of niacinamide to add to my routine. Currently, I don’t use a cream at night, maybe I’ll try out the Olay regenerist line like you suggested.

    thanks again for the very informative post.

  • Danielle

    Olay Quench is my favorite body lotion. I have tried all drug-store brands and nothing compares to Quench. It is not too heavy, and my skin feels soft all day.

  • marigolds

    I LOVE products with Niacinamide! This is a great article on the ingredient.

    My favorite use of it is in a moisturizer, used over a potent benzoyl peroxide cream for my acne. My skin stays clear and the niacinamide keeps me soft, hydrated and non-irritated. I also love it in body lotions, lipsticks, eye creams, etc. You name it, I probably have it.

    Great blog. Keep it up! I’ll be back often.

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