What Is Niacinamide And Why Is It Good For Treating Acne?

Here's everything you need to know about this all-round superstar of a skincare ingredient

Niacinamide skincare benefits

by Emma Stoddart |
Updated on

With searches up 316% on Google, niacinamide (otherwise known as vitamin B3) is the latest buzz-worthy skincare ingredient to be in the know about. Occurring naturally in foods like meat, grains, beans and fish – vitamin B3 is one of the 8 B vitamins your body needs for good health. In the skincare world, this well-researched ingredient is known to have many key benefits for all skin types and ages - from helping control mild spots, acne and inflammation to reducing hyperpigmentation - here’s why…

What is niacinamide?

Niacinamide can be found in a varying range of concentrations in skin care and is usually well-tolerated, causing minimal skin irritation. ‘Ideally look for products that contain at least 5% niacinamide for best results and ensure that it features highly (top 3-5) on the ingredients’ list of a product,’ advises Dr Anjali Mahto, Consultant Dermatologist.

What does niacinamide do for skin?

Dr Mahto has outlined the key skincare benefits below:

Skin barrier improvement: ‘It reduces water loss from the epidermis and increases lipids (ceramides) and proteins found in the skin barrier layer.' The stronger the barrier, the more robust your skin will be, and the more plump, healthy and even-toned it will look.

Dark spots/pigmentation/age spots: ‘Studies show niacinamide reduces the appearance of hyperpigmented spots in both Asian and Caucasian skin by acting on the steps leading to melanin or pigment production.’

Improvement in skin texture and sebum: ‘Niacinamide reduces sebum or oil production in the skin which may indirectly help with improvement of visible pore size. It can also be helpful in mild acne.’

Environmental protection: ‘Topical niacinamide has been shown to reduce redness caused by sunlight - it is thought to act as an anti-inflammatory agent.’

Wrinkles: ‘Studies show it may play a small role in reducing fine wrinkles.’

How to use niacinamide

There’s a lot of unclear advice as to whether niacinamide should be used with other actives such as Vitamin C but those that suggest you can't are unfounded and incorrect: 'They can safely be used together,' says Aesthetic Doctor, Dr David Jack, 'having a strong and healthy barrier is encouraged by both vitamin C and niacinamide so together they’re a powerful pair.' You can also use it any time of day, incorporating it into your morning or night time routine.

How long does niacinamide take to work?

Research on the skincare benefits of niacinamide suggest that it can take between 8-12 weeks to notice a difference. Make sure you go for products containing at least 5% niacinamide for the best results and that it features highly (top 3-5) on the ingredients’ list of a product.

Can you use niacinamide with retinol?

Short answer = yes, they can be used together. Many dermatologists would highly recommend this combination as niacinamide strengthens the skin's barrier and can calm the irritating side effects some people experience with retinol. Either look out for a product that combines the two or layer two separate products - starting with the lightest texture first.

Is niacinamide skincare for everyone?

Any skin type can benefit from a well-formulated niacinamide product. Mature skin will benefit specifically as the skins' barrier weakens with age, whist those who are acne-prone can benefit from its anti-inflammatory and oil-reducing effects. 'It's definitely worth a go if you’re worried about dark age spots,' says Dr Mahto. 'But it's probably not the best choice for fighting wrinkles.' For that, click here to find out more about retinol and it's powerful transformative abilities.

From The Ordinary To Paula's Choice, these are the best skincare products containing niacinamide:


Grazia Niacinamide

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Skin W1 London Collagen Stimulating Serum, £95

While this serum might be on the pricey side - if you can afford it, it's worth every penny. It's enriched with 4% niacinamide - plus a blend of potent antioxidants - to ramp up collagen production. Get ready for glowier, younger-looking skin.

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Alpha-H Vitamin B, £39

Described as a 'daily protein powder' for your skin, this potent serum wards off environmental aggressors while strengthening the skin's moisture barrier with niacinamide, peptides and and chia seed.

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Paula’s Choice Resist 10% Niacinamide Booster, £40

Add 2-3 drops of this 10% niacinamide booster to your favourite moisturiser to help minimise pores, reduce breakouts and restore radiance.

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Garden of Wisdom Niacinamide serum, £10

This lightweight serum regulates oil production to help prevent breakouts. Shake before use and apply on to freshly cleansed skin before your moisturiser.

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The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% Plus zinc, £5

Formulated with niacinamide to support the skin's barrier and zinc to heal damaged skin, this powerful blend will lead to clearer and calmer skin in no time.

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The Inkey List Niacinamide, £6.99

A must-have for oily skin - this affordable serum uses 10% niacinamide as well as 1% hyaluronic acid to hydrate and banish blemishes.

READ MORE: Beauty Lingo Decoded: What Is Azelaic Acid And How Does It Help Combat Redness, Acne and Pigmentation?

READ MORE: Breakout Breakdown: What Is Actually Causing Your Spots?

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