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What Is Niacinamide? A Derm Explains Why You’ll Love This Multitasking Ingredient

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While trends may come and go, classic skincare ingredients never go out of style. Meet niacinamide, one of those go-to ingredients that keeps appearing in skincare products time and time again—and for good reason. Niacinamide is the ultimate multitasker and its beauty benefits are like a laundry list of things you hope for in a skincare ingredient. It helps nourish your skin barrier, ease irritation, address acne, fade pigmentation…need we say more?

To give us the pro take on all things niacinamide, we interviewed top dermatologist Dendy Engelman, MD, a dermatologic surgeon at Medical Dermatology and Cosmetic Surgery in New York City, to share all the deets on why you want this superstar vitamin in your skincare routine.


About the Expert:

Dendy Engelman, MD, is a dermatologist and Mohs surgeon at Shafer Clinic Fifth Avenue in New York City.

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So, What is Niacinamide?

First things first, it's time for a little background. Niacinamide is a form of vitamin B3, an essential nutrient. You can get your niacinamide through nutrition—known as niacin in this case—with a healthy diet that includes greens, meat, poultry, fish, and eggs. But using niacinamide topically in your skincare products is where all those anti-inflammatory, anti-aging, antioxidant, and brightening benefits come into play, says Dr. Engelman.

Niacinamide can be found in a variety of products, but niacinamide serums, boosters, and moisturizers are most common. Ultimately, you want to look for products like these that stay on your skin (instead of those that are rinsed off, like a cleanser) for the maximum effects.

According to Dr. Engelman, niacinamide is great as both a primary or supporting ingredient—meaning it plays well with a range of other ingredients. Other common superstar skincare ingredients, like peptides, ceramides, and hyaluronic acid, all help to build a protective barrier for your skin. Pairing niacinamide with any of these actives can help to amp up their potency.

What Are the Benefits of Niacinamide?

There are so many benefits of niacinamide that it’s almost hard to keep track. A few of our fave benefits include:

  1. Repairing your skin’s barrier. This will help protect and strengthen your skin and keep moisture in. It has similar effects to retinol in this way, but without the sensitivity or irritation, says Dr. Engelman.
  2. Calming redness. By reducing inflammation in skin, niacinamide helps to minimize red spots and blotches in your skin, creating a more even skin tone.
  3. Nourishing your skin. The vitamin helps boost hydration within your skin, keeping it plump and supple.
  4. Preventing free radical damage. As a powerful antioxidant, it can neutralize free radicals and protect your skin cells from environmental stressors like pollution and the sun.
  5. Fading hyperpigmentation. A higher percentage (think five percent) in skincare products can help reduce dark spots and uneven skin tone.
  6. Reducing the appearance of pores. While you can’t technically change the size of your pores, niacinamide helps lessen the appearance of pores by keeping your skin healthy and hydrated.
  7. Treating acne. By minimizing inflammation in your skin, using a product with niacinamide can help reduce breakouts. Plus, it has been known to help regulate sebum (a.k.a. oil) production, leading to less pimples. 

What Skin Types Can Use Niacinamide?

Now for the best part: niacinamide is safe for all skin types. Yes, we said all skin types—from dry to oily and everything in between. Using products with niacinamide are especially a great option for those suffering from redness or find retinol irritating, says Dr. Engelman.

Are There Any Side Effects?

While many ingredients have unpleasant side effects that accompany their benefits, niacinamide isn’t one of 'em. The ingredient is well-tolerated and since it’s water soluble, there is no risk of over-using it, says Dr. Engelman.

Of course, if you have super sensitive skin and are reluctant to try new ingredients, you can always do a patch test before slathering a new product all over your face. Simply apply a small amount of your niacinamide product onto an inconspicuous area of your skin and wait 24 hours to see if your skin has a reaction.

The Best Niacinamide Skincare Products to Try

Looking for the top products with this all-star ingredient? Look no further. We’ve pulled together eight favorites, from products with a cult following to superstar Glam Bag goodies.

1. FIRST AID BEAUTY Facial Radiance Niacinamide Dark Spot Serum

FIRST AID BEAUTY Facial Radiance Niacinamide Dark Spot Serum

Even sensitive skin will love this non-irritating brightening serum. The gentle formula uses a concoction of niacinamide, licorice root, and kiwi fruit to help fade annoying dark spots, like melasma, sun spots, and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.

2. THE ORDINARY Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%

THE ORDINARY Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%
Courtesy of THE ORDINARY

On the hunt for a niacinamide-spiked serum that won’t break the bank? This affordably priced formula from THE ORDINARY is designed to help reduce the appearance of congestion (think: enlarged pores) and blemishes. Plus, it contains zinc to help keep sebum production under control and ward off future breakouts. 

3. PAULA’S CHOICE 10% Niacinamide Booster

PAULA’S CHOICE 10% Niacinamide Booster
Courtesy of PAULA’S CHOICE

Give your skincare routine some extra oomph with a concentrated booster that’s universally loved. With just a few drops of this ultra lightweight serum (seriously, it’s as light as water), the formula gets to work on evening skin tone and helps minimize the appearance of pores, texture, and fine lines. 

4. AWAKE Glow Pill Super Serum

AWAKE Glow Pill Super Serum

Jam-packed with good-for-you ingredients—including vitamin B5, hyaluronic acid, and of course niacinamide, this lightweight serum will nourish and plump your skin like a pro. The gel texture glides over and absorbs into skin with ease, acting like a tall glass of water for parched complexions. It can easily be worn alone by oilier types, but also layers perfectly underneath moisturizers if your skin is on the dry side.

5. JJ YOUNG Pore Glow Mask

JJ YOUNG Pore Glow Mask

Just like a DIY facial in a jar. This clay mask brightens skin and tightens pores, while soothing skin and reducing redness. One Ipster wrote: "I used it before bed and the next morning my skin looked smoother and pores were smaller. My face had a glow to it," while Ipster @crazymae897 wrote "LOVE IT! I'm not a huge mask person but I loved this one!"

6. AROMATICA Rose Absolute First Serum

AROMATICA Rose Absolute First Serum

This serum is perfect for the girl on the go—it’s a two-in-one product that acts as both a toner and serum. The gentle formula—with a soft, powdery rose scent—hydrates your skin while protecting it from environmental damage. Ipster @Taffysw21 said it best: “A serum paired with rose water? Couldn’t have done anything better.” We couldn’t agree more!

7. IT COSMETICS Confidence in a Cleanser

IT COSMETICS Confidence in a Cleanser

The name says it all—it makes your skin feel clean, happy and fresh, never stripped or dry. One Ipster shared her love for this face wash. “Love the clean lemony smell and that it doesn’t leave my skin feeling greasy. I have sensitive skin and this has never broken my skin out. It’s my #1 fave cleanser these days!”

8. HANHOO Watermelon Illuminator – Overnight Serum

HANHOO Watermelon Illuminator – Overnight Serum

Think of this serum like a fruit smoothie for your skin. The watermelon and apple extracts work with powerful niacinamide to nourish and brighten skin while you sleep. You’ll wake up glowing and gorgeous! Plus, according to Ipster @Lucidgrace, the “smell is amazing!”

Want in on all the IPSY Glam Bag fun? Take our Beauty Quiz now to get started. Already an Ipster? Refer your friends to earn points, which you can use toward products. Either way, don’t forget to check us out on Instagram and Twitter @IPSY.

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About the author
Dori Price
Ipster, baby mama, skincare addict
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Article Last Updated January 21, 2022 12:00 AM