When a cream or serum promises that it’s packed full of skin-loving vitamins and minerals, one of them is probably vitamin B3, also known as niacinamide or nicotinamide. While the active ingredient has been around for years, it’s gaining popularity thanks in part to, well, you—the internet skincare obsessive. Unlike its active ingredient counterparts retinol and vitamin c, niacinamide’s benefits can’t be easily wrapped up as a collagen booster or skin brightener—confusion around niacinamide’s skin benefits exists because it has so many of them. So we asked three expert dermatologists to tell us everything you need to know about it, including how to add B3 to your routine and their favorite creams and serums that contain the useful vitamin.
WHAT IS NIACINAMIDE?
“Niacinamide is a water-soluble vitamin that is incorporated into many topical skincare formulations,” says Dr. Hope Mitchell, a board-certified dermatologist in Ohio. “It works with the natural substances in your skin to help visibly minimize enlarged pores, regulate oil production, tighten lax pores, improve uneven skin tone, soften fine lines and wrinkles, diminish dullness, and strengthen a weakened surface.
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WHAT DOES IT DO FOR SKIN?
Depends on how you apply it. “When applied topically, niacinamide helps replenish moisture to your skin barrier by decreasing transepidermal water loss,” says Dr. Shereene Idriss, a board-certified dermatologist in New York City. “Additionally, it also helps to slowly boost collagen production, which helps even out the appearance of fine lines, pores, and wrinkles.” Adds Dr. Idriss, “Its ability to control sebum production as well as its inherent anti-inflammatory properties help with minimizing the severity of acne breakouts. Finally, it helps minimize any hyperpigmentation by blocking the transfer of pigment to your skin’s surface.”
When taken orally one can treat a B3 deficiency. “It is sometimes used for acne and may help prevent skin cancer or pre-cancer in people with a history of those conditions,” says Dr. Victoria Barbosa, a board-certified general medical dermatologist and the Director of the Hair Loss Program at the University of Chicago. But as long as you’re eating a balanced diet, you don’t have to reach for a niacinamide supplement. “Vitamin B3 is generally found as niacinamide in animal-based products, such as meat and poultry, and as nicotinic acid in plant-based foods like nuts, seeds, and green vegetables,” notes Dr. Mitchell. “Many refined grain products, including cereals, are also fortified with niacinamide. Your body can also make vitamin B3 from tryptophan, an amino acid present in most protein foods.”
Dr. Idriss cautions that more is not better with niacinamide-containing skincare products. “Limit the concentration of niacinamide to around 4 to 5 percent as anything higher can counter-productively be irritating,” she says. Barbosa notes that can be true for supplements, too: “People should be on the lookout for side effects, including gastrointestinal upset or rashes.”
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HOW DO YOU ADD VITAMIN B3 TO YOUR ROUTINE?
According to Dr. Barbosa niacinamide is “wonderful anti-aging ingredient,” as it plays nicely with both oily and dry skin types as well as other active ingredients. “Niacinamide is uniquely compatible with any of the products in your skin care routine, including those that contain retinol, peptides, hyaluronic acid, AHAs, BHA, vitamin C, and all types of antioxidants,” adds Dr. Mitchell. “If you struggle with dry skin, topical application of niacinamide has been shown to boost the hydrating ability of moisturizers so the skin’s surface can better resist the moisture loss that leads to recurrent dry, tight, flaky skin. Niacinamide works brilliantly with common moisturizer ingredients like glycerin, non-fragrant plant oils, cholesterol, sodium PCA, and sodium hyaluronate.”
The vitamin is well tolerated by sensitive and rosacea-prone skin too thanks to its anti-inflammatory properties. But like any new product, conduct a patch test on your arm before smearing it all over your face (just to be sure).
This article originally appeared on Harper’s BAZAAR US.
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