How Does Niacinamide Work? The Truth About This Effective Skin Care Ingredient

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Niacinamide is one of those ingredients that seems to be popping up everywhere in skincare right now. But how does niacinamide work, exactly? And what is it?

Niacinamide is an active form of vitamin B3 that works by going deep into the innermost layers of the skin, where it can help to address several skin concerns and prevent damage from external aggressors.

It’s found in everything from moisturizers to sunscreens, and it’s advertised to improve a variety of skin conditions, like eczema, acne, and rosacea. Let’s take a closer look at niacinamide, including what it does and how it works.

What Is Niacinamide?

Niacinamide, or nicotinamide, is a form of vitamin B3 that occurs naturally in many foods, including meats, fish, and dairy products. It’s also sold in many health food stores as a supplement which is taken by mouth for a variety of health problems.

You might also see it listed as an active ingredient in many moisturizers, toners, and serums. You can also find it in many cosmetic items like lip balms and facial masks.

“This is because niacinamide has several benefits for skin including reducing inflammation, fading dark spots, and preventing premature aging,” says Dr. Leslie Baumann, a board-certified dermatologist.

According to her, this vitamin form also reduces pore size, clears clogged pores, and can improve the overall skin texture as well.

How Does Niacinamide Work?

Like its precursor nicotinic acid (niacin), niacinamide can improve skin elasticity. It does this by stimulating the synthesis of ceramides, which results in a more resilient and youthful appearance.

“Additionally, niacinamide has been shown to have a beneficial impact on your skin’s barrier function by strengthening its lipid components,” says Dr. David Khalil MD. FAAD., a board-certified dermatologist.

According to him, this explains why it can help reduce transepidermal water loss (TEWL) and may play a role in healing acne. It also works by protecting your skin from harmful environmental factors that lead to inflammation.

Furthermore, niacinamide works to prevent the excessive production of melanin, which is a natural substance in the skin and a precursor for dark spots and other forms of hyperpigmentation.

In addition to these benefits, niacinamide also has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects on the skin. It may be effective in preventing sun damage and treating certain skin conditions, such as psoriasis and eczema due to these effects.

Niacinamide Benefits for Skin

1. Hydrates Skin

Niacinamide increases ceramides in the skin. This is great news because ceramides strengthen the skin barrier and help keep skin hydrated by preventing moisture loss.

Dehydrated skin can make it easier for bacteria to enter pores and cause breakouts, so increasing ceramides in the skin can help keep things under control.

This makes niacinamide a great ingredient for those with dry or sensitive skin types because it helps provide lasting hydration without leaving your skin feeling greasy or oily.

2. Reduces Fine Lines and Wrinkles

A study published in the Journal of Dermatology Times found that a pharmaceutical-grade niacinamide lotion was effective at improving fine lines and wrinkles when applied consistently for 12 weeks.

According to the study, niacinamide stimulates the production of collagen and elastin. Collagen and elastin are the proteins that keep the skin elastic, which helps promote a more youthful appearance.

Niacinamide may also help with aging if used with other treatments like retinol. You’ll notice a reduction in fine lines, wrinkles, and age spots after about three weeks of use.

3. Fights Acne

Acne occurs when dead skin cells, excess oil, and bacteria get inflamed and become clogged within your pores.

Niacinamide helps treat acne by reducing inflammation and inhibiting the growth of p. acnes bacteria (the bacteria that causes acne). By reducing inflammation, niacinamide also helps reduce the amount of redness associated with acne breakouts.

Applying niacinamide to the skin can also help reduce sebum production, which will, in turn, help reduce clogged pores. Furthermore, this ingredient helps to shrink the appearance of pores by strengthening the walls of sebaceous glands.

4. Fade Acne Scars

Treating acne isn’t just about getting rid of pimples. When you have acne scars, it can be difficult to feel confident in your appearance or even comfortable going out in public.

While covering up your blemishes with concealer can help, you need to use a skincare ingredient like niacinamide. Niacinamide can help boost the production of collagen and elastin — two important proteins that keep your skin smooth and elastic.

Increased levels of these two proteins will improve the texture and tone of your acne scars for a more youthful look without any harsh side effects.

5. Fights Free Radicals

Niacinamide is an effective ingredient for preventing skin cancer and reducing the visible effects of sun damage due to its ability to combat free radicals.

Free radicals are unstable molecules that can damage cells in the body by stealing electrons from them. This causes damage to cells, which can result in inflammation and a variety of diseases such as skin cancer.

Therefore, by using niacinamide, you can protect your skin from free radical damage while improving your skin’s texture and elasticity.

6. Increases Cell Turnover

Cell turnover is one of the most important biological processes in the body. Old cells die and new ones take their place. This process allows us to maintain healthy cells for our entire life.

Niacinamide stimulates the production of new cells within the skin. It can also help repair damaged skin cells, which increases your skin’s ability to renew, repair, and regenerate itself.

As a result, your skin becomes younger-looking with fewer wrinkles and blemishes as well as reduced scars from previous blemishes.

7. Reduces Hyperpigmentation

One of the major causes of hyperpigmentation (excessive darkening of the skin) is excess melanin. Certain factors can cause melanocytes (the cells responsible for producing melanin) to become overactive and produce excess melanin.

“This can lead to dark or brown spots on the skin and make it look aged. It can also create an uneven skin tone which makes your complexion appear dull and lifeless,” Khalil says.

A clinical study published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information found that 5% niacinamide helps reduce hyperpigmentation on the skin of volunteers when applied daily for 4 weeks.

The data suggest niacinamide helps reduce hyperpigmentation by inhibiting melanin transfer, which prevents discoloration from occurring in the first place.

8. Strengthens Skin Barrier

In addition to these visible benefits, niacinamide also improves the overall health of your skin barrier function. It helps strengthen this protective outer layer so that it better resists environmental stressors like pollution and harsh UV rays.

Niacinamide is also one of the few skincare ingredients that are stable in the presence of sunlight. While some other antioxidants will break down in UV light, niacinamide can stay intact.

This allows your skin to reap the benefits of this powerful anti-aging ingredient throughout the day, even when you’re outside.

How to Use Niacinamide Supplements

Talk to your doctor

Before you take oral niacinamide for any purpose, it’s a good idea to talk with your doctor first. Your doctor can help you decide whether or not niacinamide will work for you.

Your doctor will also be able to recommend a supplement that is just right for your skin and help you decide on the ideal dosage level.

However, it’s important to let your doctor know if you have any allergies or other medical conditions that might affect niacinamide effectiveness.

Avoid carbohydrates

Reduce your intake of carbohydrates, particularly the simple ones. This means no white rice, white bread, or refined sugar. You should also avoid eating any sugary drinks or alcohol.

All these foods are rapidly digested and raise your blood sugar levels, so they’re going to stop niacinamide from working properly. Instead, eat a lot of proteins and vegetables.

How to Use Niacinamide on Skin

  • Find a high-quality skincare product containing niacinamide that is non-comedogenic and free of fragrances.
  • Cleanse your face thoroughly, then apply a toner. This will ensure that the niacinamide penetrates deep into your pores.
  • Apply the niacinamide serum on your skin, gently massaging the product into your skin until it gets absorbed completely.
  • Wait for 5-10 minutes, then apply a light moisturizer over the niacinamide serum to avoid dryness and flaking of the skin.
  • Apply sunscreen over the moisturizer for additional protection from sun damage.

It’s best to start off with a small amount of niacinamide and slowly work up to the full amount if needed. Your skin might get a bit flaky when you first start using it, but that should subside within a few days of using it regularly.

Side Effects of Using Niacinamide

Oral niacinamide doesn’t have any serious side effects. However, it can cause some minor side effects, such as stomach upset, diarrhea, flushing, and headache.

Topical niacinamide is generally considered safe for use on all skin types, but it can cause irritation in sensitive individuals. Therefore, doctors recommended that you conduct a patch test before applying niacinamide to large areas of your face or neck.

“In some people, topical niacinamide may cause an allergic reaction called prickly heat. This reaction causes small, red bumps to appear on the skin that is similar to acne but don’t hurt or itch,” Dr. Baumann says.

If you’re prone to this reaction, your doctor will probably suggest that you don’t use niacinamide until you’ve developed a tolerance over several weeks or months.


Is niacinamide good for acne?

Yes, it is. Niacinamide is a powerful ingredient that helps to normalize the production of sebum. This leads to a reduction in the formation of acne.

Another benefit of niacinamide for treating acne is that it promotes new collagen and elastin production to help reduce the appearance of acne. It also helps remove hyperpigmentation left behind from acne spots on your skin.

Does niacinamide brighten skin?

Yes, it does. Niacinamide is one of the most effective ingredients for brightening skin, evening skin tone, and reducing hyperpigmentation caused by sun exposure, acne, or aging.

Niacinamide works well because it penetrates the deep layers of your skin to increase cell turnover, which allows dead skin cells to shed faster. It also combats excess melanin production that would otherwise lead to dark spots.

How do you use niacinamide for acne?

Apply a niacinamide serum or cream on your face twice daily after cleansing your face and neck area thoroughly with a mild cleanser and lukewarm water.

To prevent the spread of bacteria to your skin, it’s best to wash your hands before applying the serum or cream.

How long does it take for niacinamide to work?

The time it takes to see improvement depends on the severity of your condition. This may take up to 8 weeks or longer depending on the product that you are using.


Niacinamide, also known as nicotinamide, is a form of vitamin B3 that is used to treat skin conditions such as acne, sun damage, and hyperpigmentation.

It’s a popular ingredient in many skin care products because it can help reduce inflammation and redness, stimulate the production of new cells, and increase skin elasticity and hydration.

While there aren’t any major side effects, it’s important to do a patch test and consult your doctor before using oral or topical niacinamide for your skin.

Thanks for reading.

Visit Serum101 to learn more about niacinamide and other ingredients.