What is niacinamide in skincare used for?

Health, Fitness & Food


Niacinamide is an essential vitamin, but it is also used as an ingredient in some skincare products.  What is niacinamide in skincare, what is it used for, and what are the potential benefits?

What is niacinamide in skincare?

Niacinamide, also referred to as vitamin B3, is an essential vitamin that should be consumed regularly to promote optimal health outcomes.  When consumed through the diet or supplements, niacin helps catalyze many biochemical reactions in the body related to metabolism.  More specifically, it helps turn dietary carbohydrates, proteins, and fats to energy that the body can use.1 

Although severe niacin deficiency, also referred to as pellagra, is rare in developed countries, one of its common symptoms is a skin rash where the skin becomes rough and discolored when exposed to sunlight.1  Consuming enough niacin in the diet, either through food or supplementation, is important and can help prevent the rash caused by niacin deficiency.

Niacinamide can also be found in skincare products, where it is applied topically to the skin.  A variety of studies suggest that niacinamide in skincare may be associated with a variety of benefits for skin health and appearance.2 

Niacinamide for fine lines and wrinkles

Niacinamide in skincare could potentially help reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, which could help promote a more youthful-looking complexion.3 

One study of 50 women between the ages of 40 and 60 found that the group that used a moisturizer containing 5% niacinamide for 12 weeks showed greater improvements in the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles than the group that used the same moisturizer without niacinamide.4 The difference in improvement between the two groups was only about 5.5%; however, these findings were still statistically significant.4 

Another study found that 64% of participants using a skincare cream containing 4% niacinamide for eight weeks experienced either a marked or moderate improvement in facial wrinkles compared to zero percent of the control group.5  More research is needed to determine the effectiveness of niacinamide in reducing the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines.

Niacinamide and skin health

Niacinamide in skincare may also help preserve and improve the function of the stratum corneum barrier, which is the outermost layer of the skin that acts as a barrier to protect the skin from pathogenic microbes and environmental damage.6  It also helps prevent trans-epidermal water loss (TEWL), which refers to the evaporation of water from the epidermis.

One study found that niacinamide increased production rates of ceramides and other stratum corneum components in human keratinocytes; given that ceramides are an important part of the stratum corneum, this could potentially suggest a beneficial effect.7 

Another study of 28 patients with atopic dermatitis found that applying a 2% niacinamide cream was associated with decreased rates of TEWL, whereas the control cream was not.8  More research is needed to determine whether this same trend would be observed in individuals without atopic dermatitis.

Niacinamide for acne

Some research suggests that topical niacinamide could potentially help reduce the severity of acne.  One study of 38 patients with mild to moderate acne vulgaris found that, on average, applying a 4% niacinamide gel for eight weeks was associated with a decreased number of a variety of acne lesions, such as papules, pustules, and comedonal acne.9  More research is needed to further study the potential effectiveness of niacinamide in skincare for reducing the effects of acne vulgaris.

How does niacinamide in skincare work?

Although the exact mechanism of how niacinamide in skincare works is not fully known, research suggests a few potential benefits that niacinamide may have on different skin concerns. 

  1. Niacinamide may help stimulate the production of collagen

One study found that niacinamide treatment increased the rate of collagen production in aged skin cell cultures in vitro by over 50%.10  This could theoretically help improve the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles given that collagen production generally declines with age, and collagen plays an important role in skin structure and elasticity.3  Another anti-aging property of niacinamide is its antioxidant effect, which can help to neutralize free radicals that may contribute to the process of photoaging.3,11 

  • Niacinamide could potentially help regulate and decrease the rate of sebum production in the skin.9 

Sebum is a natural oil secreted by the sebaceous glands in the skin to prevent it from becoming dry; however, elevated sebum production can be a contributing factor to the development of acne vulgaris.12  One study found that the use of a 2% niacinamide treatment was associated with a decreased rate of facial sebum excretion as well as reduced facial sebum levels.13 More research is needed to confirm this association as well as determine whether this change in sebum production could be linked to improvements in acne vulgaris symptoms.

What are the side effects of niacinamide in skincare?

Niacinamide seems to be fairly well-tolerated; however, some reported side effects14 include:

  • – redness
  • – itchiness
  • – mild burning sensation 

These side effects appear to improve with continued use of niacinamide, but it is important to seek medical help if you experience any side effects that you are concerned about when using skincare products that contain niacinamide.  Seek medical help immediately if you experience signs of an allergic reaction after using topical niacinamide, such as chest tightness, hives, or swelling of the face, mouth, or throat.

Protecting your skin from UV radiation

As with any other skincare routine, it is essential to protect yourself from UV radiation.  This can be done through limiting sun exposure, wearing sun-protective clothing, and regularly applying a broad-spectrum sunscreen that protects against both UVA and UVB radiation.

This article is not medical advice, and it is not intended to prescribe, diagnose, or promote specific treatments for any condition.  Consult your doctor, dermatologist, or other qualified healthcare provider for your unique skin needs.

References

  1. National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements (2021, March 26). Niacin: Fact Sheet for Health Professionals. U.S. Government National Institutes of Health. Accessed 2021, June 22, from https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Niacin-HealthProfessional/
  2. Bissett, D.L., Oblong, J.E., Berge, C.A. (2006, march). Niacinamide: A B vitamin that improves aging facial skin appearance. Dermatologic Surgery 31(1): 860-866. Doi: 10.1111/j.1524-4725.2005.31732
  3. Levin, J., Momin, S.B. (2010, February). How much do we really know about our favorite cosmeceutical ingredients? J Clin Aesthet Dermatol 3(2): 22-41. Accessed 2021, June 22, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2921764/
  4. Bissett, D.L., Miyamoto, K., Sun, P., et al (2004, September 20). Topical niacinamide reduces yellowing, wrinkling, red blotchiness, and hyperpigmented spots in aging facial skin. International Journal of Cosmetic Science 26(5): 231-238. Doi: 10.1111/j.1467-2494.2004.00228.x
  5. Kawada, A., Konishi, N., Oiso, N., et al (2008, October). Evaluation of anti-wrinkle effects of a novel cosmetic containing niacinamide. The Journal of Dermatology 35(10): 637-642. Doi: 10.1111/j.1346-8138.2008.00537.x
  6. Menon, G.K., Cleary, G.W., Lane, M.E. (2012, October). The structure and function of the stratum corneum. Int J Pharm 435(1): 3-9. Doi: 10.1016/ijpharm.2012.06.005.
  7. Tanno, O., Ota, Y., Kitamura, N., et al (2000, September). Nicotinamide increases biosynthesis of ceramides as well as other stratum corneum lipids to improve the epidermal permeability barrier. Br J Dermatol 143(3): 524-531. Doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2133.2000.03705.x
  8. Soma, Y., Kashima, M., Imaizumi, A., et al (2005, April). Moisturizing effects of topical niacinamide on atopic dry skin. International Journal of Dermatology 44(3): 197-202. Doi: 10.1111/j.1365-4632.2004.02375.x
  9. Kaymak, Y., Onder, M. (2008). An investigation of efficacy of topical niacinamide for the treatment of mild and moderate acne vulgaris. J Turk Acad Dermatol 2(4). Accessed 2021, June 25, from http://www.download.lifvation.com/IcotZ_Clinical_EfficacyNiacinamide_DrKaymak.pdf
  10. Matts, P.J., Oblong, J.E, Bissett, D.L. (2002). A review of the range of effects of niacinamide in human skin. IFSCC Magazine 5(4). Accessed online 2021, June 29, from https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Paul-Matts/publication/286270242_A_Review_of_the_range_of_effects_of_niacinamide_in_human_skin/links/57601eef08ae2b8d20eb27ba/A-Review-of-the-range-of-effects-of-niacinamide-in-human-skin.pdf
  11. Boljsak, B., Dahmane, R. (2012). Free radicals and extrinsic skin aging. Dermatol Res Pract 2012: 135206. Doi: 10.1155/2012/135206
  12. Makrantonaki, E., Ganceviciene, R., Zouboulis, C. (2011). An update on the role of sebaceous gland in the pathogenesis of acne. Dermatoendocrinol 3(1): 41-49. Doi: 10.4161/derm.3.1.13900
  13. Draelos, Z.D., Matsubara, A., Smiles, K. (2006). The effect of 2% niacinamide on facial sebum production. J Cosmet Laser Ther 8(2): 96-101. Doi: 10.1080/14764170600717704.
  14. Rolfe, H.M. (2014, November). A review of nicotinamide: treatment of skin diseases and potential side effects. Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology 13(4): 324-328. Doi: 10.1111/jocd.12119
  15. Image by Alexandr Ivanov from Pixabay 





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