Let me introduce you to a somewhat unsung hero in the skincare world: niacinamide. It’s less famous than the likes of retinol and vitamin C, but a total skincare workhorse with a multitude of benefits for the skin. Given that it can benefit every skin type, it’s an excellent ingredient to incorporate into your skincare routine. Here’s everything you need to know about it…
What is niacinamide?
Niacinimide is one part of the water-soluble vitamin B3 molecule, and occurs naturally in food such as grains, fish, meat and beans. The other part of the B3 vitamin is niacin – whilst oral intake of niacin has incredible benefits for your health, topical niacinamide has remarkable benefits for the skin across all skin types and ages.
What does niacinamide do?
As a cell-communicating ingredient, niacinamide “talks” to different types of skin cells and prompts them to make newer, fresher and healthier cells that essentially act younger. This helps generate the skin’s building blocks – the ceramides and keratin that make up the skin barrier. The healthier our skin and its protective barrier, the better the skin will look and feel.
If the barrier is damaged, toxins and pollutants can easily enter the skin so the skin becomes on high alert – making it red, irritated and reactions are more common. Toxins in the skin wreak havoc, causing free radical damage, which can affect all cell types and functions within the skin, leading to collagen and elastin breakdown, hyperpigmentation and increased inflammation, which exacerbates rosacea and acne. Water also evaporates out of the skin more freely – this is referred to as trans-epidermal water loss or TEWL – and leads to dehydration. All of this not only exacerbates, but actually initiates skin conditions, such as acne and hyperpigmentation. If you have an impaired barrier, your skin will look dull, whereas when the barrier is intact, the skin reflects light and looks luminous.
What are the benefits of using niacinamide?
Niacinamide is a highly effective ingredient that has a huge list of benefits. Here are the many ways it can benefit the skin:
- Increases cellular energy, improving cell functions, microcirculation (that’s the circulation of nutrients and oxygen to the skin’s cells via the blood) and antioxidant protection – essentially having a beneficial effect on most of the skin’s cell processes
- Improves the skin barrier’s function, helping to decrease skin sensitivity, ward off environmental damage and prevent trans-epidermal water loss in order to maintain hydration and that luminous glow
- Improves skin congestion and acne breakouts thanks to its antibiotic effect and sebum-regulating benefits
- It is one of the most potent anti-inflammatories in skincare, making it ideal for treating blemishes. It can suppress the skin’s inflammatory response to calm red and irritated skin
- Prevents and treats hyperpigmentation by slowing the transport of melanin from the melanosomes to the surrounding cells
- Improves and slows the signs of skin ageing by stimulating the production of collagen and elastin
- Helps to combat environmental damage, such as from pollution, thanks to its ability to repair damaged DNA and its powerful antioxidant properties
What skin types would benefit from using niacinamide?
Niacinamide is a fantastic ingredient for all skin types to use. It’s particularly great to start using in your early twenties in order to support your skin through the natural ageing process and prevent premature ageing.
It’s ideal for sensitive skin as it helps to repair the barrier function, calming any irritation and inflammation. It’s also great for anyone experiencing mild hyperpigmentation or acne.
Are all niacinamides created equal?
As much as some ingredients are superstars on their own, it’s always beneficial to incorporate these ingredients into your regime in formulations that include other active ingredients that support the target goal for your skin.
For example, combining niacinamide with retinol helps those with sensitive skin to tolerate it better, whilst niacinamide combined with tyrosinase-inhibiting ingredients such as arbutin, kojic acid and azelaic acid will help to prevent and improve hyperpigmentation by inhibiting the melanocytes production of pigment and blocking the transfer of melanin into the surrounding cells.
Niacinamide can also be found in a varying range of concentrations, so it’s important to work out what concentration works best for your skin. Studies have shown that 4% is effective when it comes to improving acne and hyper-pigmentation, whilst 5% is best if you’re looking to support your skin through the ageing process and prevent premature ageing.
It’s also a good idea to ensure that it features highly – anywhere between numbers three and five – on the ingredients list of a product. If you’re concerned about potential irritation, start with a lower concentration and gradually increase it.
How should you integrate niacinamide into your regime?
Niacinamide can be applied at any time in your regime, but it’s most beneficial when used as a leave-on formula, such as a serum or a toner. Using multiple products that contain niacinamide won’t have a cumulative or irritating effect as it’s an ingredient that’s well tolerated, even for those with sensitive skin types.
If you’re using a niacinamide serum, apply it twice a day, morning and night, after cleansing. Do the same if you’re using a toner. There will be a higher concentration of niacinamide in a serum, but it can be a helpful ingredient in toners that contain glycolic acid or salicylic acid to offset the initial irritation that occurs with these.
Are there any products you should avoid when using niacinamide?
Niacinamide can be used with a range of other skin rejuvenating and skin repairing agents in order to stimulate the skin and achieve optimum skin health. These include: retinol, AHA’s, BHA’s and hyaluronic acid. When using niacinamide with retinol, niacinamide’s hydrating properties can actually help to minimise retinol’s drying effect, whilst using niacinamide with products that contain hyaluronic acid can have a very hydrating effect as both ingredients are powerful humectants (meaning they can retain moisture).
Once upon a time, there were rumours that vitamin C and niacinamide are incompatible, and that combining the two would render them both ineffective and lead to redness. This is a myth! The basis of these rumours were studies (carried out in the ’60s), in which the two ingredients were tested in their unstabilised forms alongside heat. But in modern formulas, both ingredients are nearly always stabilised – and not subject to being heated, either. So you can use both.
How long does it take to see results?
Once you start using products containing niacinamide as part of an overall skincare regime designed to achieve optimum skin health, you should see a noticeable improvement within 12 weeks.
It’s important to look after the skin and all its processes with specific products within a comprehensive regime – whilst niacinamide is a superstar ingredient, it isn’t the answer to achieving optimum skin health on its own. If you would like advice on how a skincare regime, together with targeted facials and treatments, get in touch to book a consultation and we can provide a tailored plan that’s focused on your skin alone. If you’re an existing client and would like to know more about the specific ingredients we’re using to treat your skincare concerns, and if niacinamide might be a good addition, get in touch or mention it at your next appointment.