What Is Niacinamide

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As busy mamas, we don’t have a lot of time to dedicate to our skincare routines. That’s why it’s great to have some “go-to” natural beauty products that maximize our time and give us great benefits—ones that not only give us glowing skin but are also quick and easy to use. 

Niacinamide is one skincare ingredient I recommend making a part of your natural skincare routine.

What Is Niacinamide?

This nutrient, also called nicotinamide, is one of the forms of vitamin B3, niacin. It’s a water-soluble vitamin that is found in meat in the form of niacinamide and plant foods as nicotinic acid. 

Because niacin is water-soluble, we need it daily. Water-soluble vitamins are absorbed quickly and are not stored by our bodies, so we need to replenish them each day.

What Is Niacinamide Good for? 

The body needs it to convert the food you eat into energy. Niacin also helps with important processes in the body, like creating hormones. It’s an important nutrient for metabolism, which means it’s also important for the growth and repair of the body’s tissues.

That’s especially evident in its ability to promote well-nourished, beautiful skin. After all, skincare starts on the inside with good nutrition. 

How to Get Niacinamide

Niacin and niacinamide are widely found in food and are typically added to fortified grain products to ensure we get the recommended amount—around 14-18 mg per day. It is also available in supplement form. You can also use it topically (as a lotion, gel, or serum) for a variety of skincare concerns. 

Niacinamide in Foods

Red meat, chicken, and fish are some foods with the highest amounts of this vitamin, along with peanuts and coffee. Barley, wheat, beans, soybeans, potatoes, and rice have moderate amounts, while fruits and vegetables have lower amounts. 

If you have a compromised gut, you may have a hard time absorbing niacinamide from food, and supplements may be more helpful to get the amount you need.

Niacin (also called nicotinic acid) can cause a “niacin flush” because of its effects on blood vessel capillaries. It causes the capillaries to expand quickly, increasing the blood flow to the skin’s surface, which causes redness, warmth, and itchiness in that area of the skin. That’s why I prefer the niacinamide form of this B-vitamin.

Niacinamide in Supplementation

A niacinamide nutritional supplement may help improve skin conditions, protect the pancreas in Type 1 diabetes, and support the kidneys. 

Besides supporting kidney and pancreatic health, the main health benefit of taking this supplement pertains to skin health:

  • Anti-inflammatory – when taken as a supplement and applied to the skin. A review study found it to be helpful in both acne and rosacea.
  • Reducing acne – and breakouts (which I still get from time to time). 
  • Anti-aging – helps slow the aging process and has an anti-aging effect
  • Protective against skin cancer – A 2015 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that supplementing (500 mg twice daily) reduced precancerous skin damage in people who had been diagnosed with skin cancer in the past five years. 

Niacinamide in Skincare

Many products use niacinamide as a skincare ingredient. You can find it in cleansers, toners, gels, serums, creams, eye creams, and moisturizers. It helps with many different aspects of skin health, including improving the skin barrier, hydration, evening out skin tone, and protecting against damage. 

Skincare products like cleansers and makeup removers that wash off probably don’t offer enough contact time with your skin to make much of an impact. It’s better to use products that stay on the skin, like serums, moisturizers, or creams.

Dermatologists recommend a topical application of niacinamide for some specific skin issues as well as general skincare. Here are some specific problems that it helps with:  


Hyperpigmentation is a condition where you develop darker patches on your skin and is caused by the skin creating more melanin. In a clinical study published in the British Journal of Dermatology, a group used niacinamide moisturizer for four weeks and found that hyperpigmentation significantly decreased.


A 2011 review study notes that dermatologists have used nicotinamide for over 40 years for rosacea and other skin conditions. A randomized controlled trial conducted in 2005 tested a moisturizer in patients with rosacea. The cream, applied twice daily for four weeks, improved the skin barrier and improved the condition in rosacea sufferers.

Dry Skin

Dry skin can be an issue as we age or based on the climate that we live in. If you have dry skin, you might want to try it. A study of patients with dry skin who applied nicotinamide cream twice daily to their face over four or eight weeks showed a significant decrease in the loss of moisture in the skin and an improvement in their dry skin condition.


This skincare ingredient can also help with acne and blemishes. In reducing the severity of acne conditions, one study of 4% nicotinamide gel found it was comparable to a 1% clindamycin gel (the standard antibiotic treatment). 

Anti-Aging (fine lines and wrinkles)

In a study of 50 women with signs of aging (including fine lines and wrinkles), a 5% concentrated product was applied to half of their face twice daily for 12 weeks. On the other half of their face, they used a placebo product. 

At the end of the study, the sides of the faces that used the treatment showed significant improvement overall, including a reduction in fine lines and wrinkles, more even skin tone, improved color (less yellowing), and better elasticity. 

Skin Cancer

Niacinamide’s anti-aging effects may also help prevent skin cancer. In a 2019 study published in the International Journal of Molecular Science, researchers pointed out that aging is a major risk factor for the development of skin cancer.

The body needs niacinamide to produce NAD+, a coenzyme that protects the skin from gene-damaging toxins. When genes are damaged, it can lead down a path toward cancer. The depletion of NAD+ in our bodies is often associated with the diseases of aging, which include cancer.

That’s where replenishing niacinamide in the skin, whether through supplements or skincare products, can help keep skin healthy and youthful. 

What Is Niacinamide Serum?

A serum is a light, quick-absorbing skincare product that delivers a concentrated dose of niacinamide. The concentration in the gel-like liquid can be anywhere from 2% to 10%. A typical dosage is 4%.

When used topically, this nutrient can help promote the growth of the skin’s ceramide (lipid) barrier. This helps prevent water loss and retain moisture.

Niacinamide is helpful for all skin types, whether your skin is oily, dry, or a combination. If you’re concerned about sensitive skin, it is very soothing, as long as there aren’t other ingredients in the product that can irritate your skin. 

When looking for a skincare product, like a cleanser, serum, or gel, pay attention to what else is in it. You’ll want to make sure it’s free of parabens, phthalates, and synthetic fragrances. 

If you want to make your own skincare product with niacinamide, here’s a recipe for a DIY silky moisturizer I love!

How to Use a Serum

It’s best to use the serum after cleansing, toning, and exfoliating. Then you can work with a clean palate. Apply it evenly over your face rather than just using it on target/problem areas. 

Follow up your niacinamide product with any moisturizers or sunscreen products you want to apply.

It is an ingredient you can use year-round. You won’t have issues applying it before going in the sun, and there’s no reason to take breaks unless you’re experiencing side effects.

Risks & Side Effects 

There are a few potential risks or side effects to consider when using this powerful B vitamin: 

Internal Supplements

Potential side effects of taking supplements include:

  • Stomach upset
  • Gas
  • Dizziness
  • Rash or itchy skin

These aren’t common, but if you start experiencing some of these shortly after adding a supplement form, try removing it and see if the symptoms improve. 

Taking excessive amounts over time could lead to diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, and liver damage. You’ll want to make sure your vitamin B levels are within a normal range when you get your yearly bloodwork done. 

Topical Niacinamide

Potential side effects from using a topical version are usually noticeable right away and include: 

  • Mild redness 
  • Itching 
  • Slight burning sensation

If you use a concentration of 5% or under, these tend to be uncommon and mild when they occur. Higher concentrations are more likely to create issues.

FAQs: Can You Mix Niacinamide and _________?

As you’re putting together your natural skincare routine, you might wonder about combining different products or ingredients. I’ll cover a few of those frequently-combined ingredients below and the best order to use them so you get the most out of them.

Niacinamide & Retinol Serum

Retinol is a common antioxidant serum used on the face. Retinol is stronger than nicotinamide and is known to cause irritation, dry skin, and redness. You can use retinol and niacinamide simultaneously, but ideally, you’d apply retinol first and follow it with niacinamide. This is because the retinol tends to be a bit irritating to the skin, and following up with niacinamide helps soothe the skin and help it to heal. 

Read this post to learn more about retinol/retinoids. Be aware that retinoids may cause sun sensitivity, though. 

Niacinamide & Vitamin C Serum

If using a vitamin C serum, apply it at a different time than the niacinamide skincare product. It can prevent the vitamin C serum from working as it should, inactivating it. If exposed to heat, vitamin C may react with niacinamide, turning it into niacin (nicotinic acid) and irritating the skin. 

Ideally, use the niacinamide serum in the morning and the vitamin C serum at night.

Niacinamide & Hyaluronic Acid

Hyaluronic acid is another skincare ingredient that can pair well with niacinamide. Both work to add moisture to the skin, lower inflammation, stimulate collagen production, and generally promote healing. 

These two ingredients are often found together in skincare products. They complement rather than compete, and each enhances the other’s moisturizing properties. The hyaluronic acid is great for improving moisture and tightening the skin, and the niacinamide adds a wonderful natural radiance.

If applied separately, use the hyaluronic acid first since it can draw water into the skin, keeping it moist all day. Then add the niacinamide, which helps protect the skin’s surface and maintains a healthy level of natural oils.

Niacinamide & Salicylic Acid 

Salicylic acid can work well alongside niacinamide, as it works as an astringent, cleaning out the pores and helping to treat acne. Niacinamide then adds back the moisture that the drying, sometimes irritating salicylic acid may remove.

If you use them together, apply the salicylic acid first and then use the niacinamide serum.

This article was medically reviewed by Madiha Saeed, MD, a board-certified family physician. As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk with your doctor.

Have you tried niacinamide skincare products? How does it work for you? Do you combine it with other serums or ingredients like the ones mentioned? 

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