Looking at skin care ingredient labels, the list of scientific-sounding formulas can be daunting. One ingredient that’s popping up more and more is niacinamide (pronounced nahy-uh-sin-uh-mayhd), which is a naturally derived form of vitamin B3. Niacinamide has tons of skin benefits (which we’ll unpack below) and is a dermatologist-approved ingredient that’s safe for virtually anyone to try.
If you’re considering adding niacinamide to your skin care routine, here’s what you should know about the anti-aging ingredient.
What is niacinamide, and what does it do?
“Niacinamide, also known as nicotinamide, is the physiologically active form of niacin or water-soluble vitamin B3,” says Dr. Adeline Kikam, board certified dermatologist and founder of Brown Skin Derm. The skin care ingredient can help with various skin concerns, especially for those with oily and/or aging skin. “[Niacinamide has] notable dermatological benefits, including regulating excess sebum production (helpful for oil control), reducing acne breakouts and minimizing the appearance of pores,” Kikam shares.
Niacinamide isn’t just a beauty buzzword — it’s become a major skin care player for a reason: “Niacinamide has become more popular, as it is a versatile ingredient that provides a great option on its own to help target skin care concerns such as discoloration and redness while being gentle on the skin,” explains New York-based board certified dermatologist Dr. Marisa Garshick. “It is also effective when paired with other ingredients because it can help to strengthen the skin barrier by increasing ceramide production, making other ingredients easier to tolerate as well.” Because it is complementary to other skin care ingredients, such as hyaluronic acid, you’ll often see niacinamide paired with it in the same formula. According to Garshick, niacinamide also works well with active ingredients like retinols or exfoliants, where it “can be added to help boost tolerability or efficacy.”
From improving hyperpigmentation to supporting the skin barrier, niacinamide has a bevy of skin benefits. “Niacinamide boosts collagen production to improve skin texture, including smoothness, fine lines and wrinkles and helps brighten and fade hyperpigmentation through the regulation of melanosome transfer,” Kikam says. Plus, one of its biggest claims to fame is its ability to minimize pore size by helping regulate excess sebum production and keep them from appearing large and congested.
Overall, it’s a great ingredient for a range of skin concerns, and it’s even safe for those with sensitive skin. “[Niacinamide has] soothing and anti-inflammatory properties, making it a good option for those with acne- or rosacea-prone skin,” Garshick notes. Kikam agrees, adding, “All skin types can benefit from niacinamide, especially oily and acne-prone skin and those with rosacea and uneven complexion.”
There are plenty of ways to incorporate niacinamide into your skin care regimen. It’s found in cleansers, moisturizers, serums, eye creams, sunscreen, body products and more. “One of the most effective ways to incorporate the benefits of niacinamide is in your evening skin care routine, when the skin and body work to repair and replenish themselves while we sleep,” shares Despina Freimanis, Apto Skin Care esthetician.
In addition, the dermatologists say that there is little concern when adding niacinamide into your skin care. “Niacinamide can be paired with many other skin care ingredients, as it is gentle on the skin and can often boost tolerability,” says Garshick. The only caveat is layering it with vitamin C, which may reduce the efficacy of the products. However, Kikam says a simple fix is to do skin cycling with the two ingredients or wait a few minutes between applying them. “Vitamin C works best at a lower skin pH and is traditionally unstable, while niacinamide works best at a higher/neutral pH,” Kikam says. “Given this, it’s best to space layering these two applications a couple of minutes apart.”
Whether you’re looking for a new face serum or moisturizer, the experts have you covered with their favorite niacinamide products ahead.
$17.99 at Sephora and The Inkey List
“If you want a higher concentration of this active ingredient to target specific issues like excess oil and hyperpigmentation, then go for serums like The Inkey List Supersolutions Excess Oil Solution 20% Niacinamide,” Kikam says. “It’s a very lightweight yet moisturizing serum with 20% niacinamide, the highest possible concentration to balance excess oil. It’s also enriched with zinc PCA 0.5% to refine skin texture caused by excess sebum buildup, along with 3% squalane to replenish the moisture barrier.” Even better, the gentle formula is made without fragrances and was clinically tested to reduce excess oil and improve skin texture and evenness.
$55 at Sephora and Charlotte Tilbury
“This acid-free toner works to gently exfoliate using ‘exfolactive’ prickly pear extract while also helping to improve the appearance of pores and skin tone using niacinamide,” Garshick says. “It is a great option for all skin types, including those with dry or sensitive skin and can be used daily.”
Kikam recommends this toner that targets pores. “If you use toners after cleansing, then this is a good niacinamide toner to incorporate into your skin care,” the dermatologist says. “I like it because it’s alcohol-free, making the formula less moisture stripping. It’s also enriched with green tea to help boost antioxidant effects.”
$52 at Sephora and Paula’s Choice
This potent treatment tightens pores and smoothes rough skin texture with 20% niacinamide, along with purslane and acetyl glucosamine. You can add it into your routine after a toner but before your thicker moisturizer.
For a targeted dose of niacinamide, Garshick recommends this anti-aging eye cream. “This vitamin B3-containing eye cream evens out skin tone and reduces hyperpigmentation to improve under-eye discoloration,” she says. “It also contains retinol to improve the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Because vitamin B3 also helps to strengthen the moisture barrier, it won’t leave the skin feeling dry or irritated.”
$88 at Sephora
This tone-correcting treatment that helps improve the look of dark spots is another one of Kikam’s favorites. “If you’re seeking a product to even hyperpigmentation, this is a solid formulation that brightens skin by combining niacinamide with other discoloration-fighting ingredients like kojic acid and tranexamic acid,” she says. “For those looking for an acid-free alternative to brightening skin tone, this is a good option.”
Made for deeper skin tones but effective for all, this dark spot corrector helps improve hyperpigmentation. Its formula is made with 95.1% naturally derived ingredients, including antioxidant-rich baobab fruit and licorice root to protect against free radicals.
“Containing a blend of key ingredients that help to brighten, this serum combines niacinamide, glycolic acid and tranexamic acid to help visibly fade dark spots and even out the skin tone,” explains Garshick. The dermatologist also loves that it’s fragrance-free and can be used by all skin types.
A drugstore option packed with skin-loving ingredients like niacinamide, hyaluronic acid and ceramides, this is a great product for hydrating the skin and replenishing the moisture barrier. “It’s also very lightweight and can be used by those with oily, dry and dehydrated skin,” Kikam says. “Keep in mind, it can be used in the a.m. as well; there are no ingredients that particularly restrict it to only nightly use.”
$7.99 at Sephora and The Inkey List
Garshick also loves The Inkey List’s simple and affordable niacinamide serum. “This lightweight serum helps to improve the appearance of excess oil and redness using niacinamide to gently regulate sebum production and reduce inflammation,” she says. “It can be used one to two times daily and can be used with a retinol to help reduce irritation.
If you’re after smooth jello skin, Freimanis loves this soothing serum. She recommends using it in the evening “because the niacinamide combined with ceramide-5 is a dream for strengthening skin’s moisture barrier.”
“For when it comes to daytime, I recommend the Glow Recipe’s all-new Watermelon Glow Niacinamide Dew Drops,” Freimanis says. “It gives you that dreamlike glow finish, which comes from the niacinamide, vitamins and hydration.” She also loves it because it adds a dewiness under or over makeup.
$95 at Replenix
Niacinamide brings a brightening effect to this daily moisturizer. It also contains hydrating hyaluronic acid, nourishing bio-equivalent ceramides and antioxidant-rich proprietary green tea polyphenol technology to smooth texture and strengthen the skin barrier.