Every now and then, a new "it" skincare ingredient starts making headlines in beauty blogs and magazines and this time round, it's Niacinamide. But if you're not quite sure what Niacinamide is, you're not alone. Here's a crash course on everything you need to know about this master-of-all skincare ingredient.
If you're an avid skincare fan then you would probably have heard of Niacinamide or seen it listed in one of your skincare products. While Niacinamide has risen to fame in recent times, it has actually been around in our skincare products for years now. Relatively uncelebrated in the past, Niacinamide has now joined the ranks of the “It” ingredients alongside the likes of Vitamin C, Retinols and Hyaluronic Acid.
And not for nothing, this belated recognition has been largely deserved as Niacinamide is considered by many experts as the “holy-grail” solution to many of our most common skin issues. Suitable for all skin types, Niacinamide delivers a wide range of skincare benefits from treating hyperpigmentation to boosting hydration - there really isn’t much this all-rounder can’t do!
It is low-irritation and its versatility in treating a variety of skin conditions makes it a very handy to have in any skincare routine. It is also lightweight making it ideal for the humid Singapore weather and can be easily found in many skincare products. But what makes Niacinamide such a powerhouse ingredient and how do you choose the right product? Read on to find out!
What is Niacinamide?
Niacinamide or Nicotinamide is one of two forms of Vitamin B3, one of eight B vitamins that your body needs for good health. Discovered in the 1930s, Vitamin B3 is not only an essential nutrient for healthy skin but also supports body functions such as converting food into energy and other important chemical reactions in your body that are critical to good health and well-being.
Vitamin B3 is found naturally as an Niacinamide in animal-based products and as Nicotinic Acid in plant-based foods such as seeds, nuts and other greens but don't worry if you’re a vegan. Although Vitamin B3 is most often found in skincare products as Niacinamide, these are often synthesized from plant-derived sources. If you’re still concerned though, always look out for the vegan labeling on your skincare products.
Our body is actually able to produce Vitamin B3 from the amino acid tryptophan but this process is inefficient and we get most of our daily dosage of B3 through the foods we eat such as beef, poultry, eggs, legumes, avocados and whole grains. Since it is water-soluble, our bodies do not store Vitamin B3 which means that we need to consume Niacinamide or Nicotinic Acid daily.
While that is a bit of a bummer, if you’re a fan of skincare products with a light texture, you’re in luck! The fact that Niacinamide is water-soluble makes it perfect for lightweight, water-based skincare formulations. This is why Niacinamide is found in many skincare products that tend to be lighter and are less likely to clog your pores making them perfect for use in our mucky Singapore weather.
So Niacinamide is actually more common than you think but while it features in lots of skincare products from cleansers to face moisturisers, it’s not always a top-of-mind skincare ingredient as it provides a range of benefits instead of one easily marketed benefit that can fit in a 15 second sound bite.
Benefits Of Niacinamide For Skin
Niacinamide is easily absorbed by the skin which makes it a good candidate for topical application and explains its popularity with skincare manufacturers the world over. It's also one of the gentlest and most stable active ingredients, with a neutral pH of around pH level 6.0. So unlike AHAs, BHAs, and retinoids, it is non-acidic and non-irritating.
"It works with the natural oils and substances in your skin to help regulate oil production, visibly minimize and tighten enlarged pores, smoothen uneven skin tone, soften fine lines and wrinkles, diminish dullness, and strengthen a weakened surface.” says Dr. Hope Mitchell, a board-certified dermatologist from Ohio.
So Niacinamide is an all-rounder when it comes to skincare and Vitamins from this group are renowned for their healing and soothing properties. Here are 5 more reasons why you need to incorporate Niacinamide into some of your skincare routine steps today.
Niacinamide, applied topically or taken orally, has anti-inflammatory properties. It’s a relatively gentle ingredient, which means that dry or sensitive skin types can add this ingredient to their skincare regimen without much worry. It can also be used to effectively treat acne, skin redness or inflammation associated with mild to moderate rosacea (instead of using steroids).
It regulates the production of a wide variety of cytokines, naturally produced proteins that are the main reason for skin redness. This can help to ease redness from eczema, acne and other inflammatory skin conditions. Some studies suggest that Niacinamide's soothing properties may also come from its ability to repair the skin's barrier function from free radical damage.
02 Maintains Moisture Balance
There's evidence that topical Niacinamide can increase the production of ceramides, lipids that help maintain the skin's protective barrier. If this protective barrier is depleted, our skin can be left vulnerable to a range of skin issues such as persistent patches of dry and flaky skin to extra-sensitivity.
A healthy lipid barrier is key in preventing transepidermal water loss as it helps retain moisture within your skin cells regardless of your skin type. Niacinamide also works well with other hydrating actives to give a boost to the efficacy of your other moisturising products. Being light and water soluble, Niacinamide is a great addition to any skincare routine here in Singapore’s humid tropical climate.
The benefits of moisture retention in your skin aren’t only great for those with dry skin. Niacinamide can help regulate the production of sebum by your sebaceous glands helping those with oily skin better manage skin conditions such as clogged or enlarged pores and acne that those with oily complexions are at higher risk of.
03 Treats Acne and Clogged Pores
Well balanced skin with well regulated sebum production allows your pore size to reduce over time helping you to achieve a smoother, more youthful complexion and reducing the risk of clogged pores. Niacinamide also has the ability to normalise the pore lining which plays a role in keeping debris from getting backed up, reducing the chances of inflammation.
In addition to minimising the risks of getting clogged pores and potentially acne, Niacinamide can also be a gentle remedy for severe acne, especially inflammatory forms like papules and pustules. Regular use over time will help you reduce the number of lesions and can help improve overall skin texture by reducing pore size and smoothing out rough and bumpy skin.
04 Prevents Signs of Premature Ageing
Niacinamide is also a great anti-ageing agent helping build keratin in your skin. A type of protein, keratin helps keep your skin firm and healthy, making your skin more resilient and slowing down the ageing process. At the right concentrations, Niacinamide can also reduce signs of damage that come with ageing skin such as fine lines and wrinkles
Not just curative, Niacinamide has a lot of preventative anti-ageing benefits as well. It can protect your skin against oxidative damage from pollution and environmental toxins and can also protect your skin from the damaging effects of ultra-violet light as it aids healthy skin cell production. What all this means is that regular Niacinamide use in your skincare routine is going to help you preserve your skin’s natural youthfulness.
05 Discolouration and Uneven Skin Tone
Skin discolourations such as pigmentation and uneven skin tones are caused by excess melanin - skin pigment - showing on the surface of your skin. Also known as hyperpigmentation, it is often considered undesirable. Thankfully, Niacinamide’s protective effects can help prevent excess melanin from building up and causing unsightly dark spots.
At the same time, Niacinamide can also help break up existing discolouruation so your skin tone looks more even and brightened. It is most effective when also paired with other brightening or lightening ingredients but can also be used on its own at the right concentrations if you find Vitamin C serums too sticky or if your skin is sensitive to Retinol.
Which Skin Type Will Benefit From Niacinamide?
Niacinamide plays well with many other skincare ingredients and is well tolerated by sensitive, acne-prone or rosacea-prone skin thanks to its anti-inflammatory properties. In fact, Niacinamide can help boost the efficacy of other skincare ingredients making it an ideal, and easy, addition to your existing skincare routine.
Sensitivity to Niacinamide is also very rare and its versatility and all-roundedness in terms of skincare benefits also makes it useful in managing or treating a variety of skin concerns. So, Niacinamide is pretty much safe and suitable for anyone of any skin type with any routine and with any skin concern.
But those with dry and sensitive skin would benefit the most and should definitely consider adding this skincare miracle ingredient into any step of your skincare routine. Niacinamide’s low risk of irritation, hydrating properties and its ability to boost the effect of other moisturising ingredients makes it a powerful addition into your routine. But like any new product, conduct a patch test on your arm before smearing it all over your face.
Any Side Effects Of Niacinamide?
Niacinamide has virtually no side effects. According to Cosmeceuticals and Cosmetic Practice, “it can be used at high doses topically and is generally well tolerated." So it's one of the safest and gentlest active ingredients and an excellent alternative to harsh retinoids, acids and L-ascorbic acid.
That said, some people do experience irritation though it is often caused by another active ingredient. According to Joshua Zeichner, Director of Cosmetic and Clinical Dermatology at Mt Sinai Hospital in New York City, "It likely was one of the other ingredients in the product causing the irritation, not the Niacinamide itself."
But if you’re still worried, then stick to a skincare product that has a concentration level of Niacinamide that is 10% or lower but our recommendation is not to go lower than 5% if you want to reap the most benefits from Niacinamide’s use. As an added bonus, Niacinamide is also pregnancy safe and good for when breastfeeding causes hormonal changes pre and post delivery, wreaking havoc on your skin.
I must confess my obsession with Niacinamide but what’s not to like? Safe and effective to use with a wide range of benefits, it is a skincare ingredient worthy of the hype and your skin will love you for using it. Among powerhouse skincare ingredients such as Retinol and Vitamin C, Niacinamide is a standout for its versatility and low-irritancy.
Best Niacinamide Products To Add Into Your Skincare Routine
The Illuminating Nutri Serum Concentrate from Singapore-based brand, Kumuya, is a regenerative brightening serum made from natural actives such as Alpha Arbutin, Niacinamide and Vitamin C. This serum soothes and protects your skin against free radical damage and environmental stressors, which can cause premature ageing. Ideally suited for sensitive skin, this serum has a lighter texture that sits comfortably in humid environments.
The Tea Tree Balancing Toner from Aromatica, as the name suggests, contains rich Tea Tree Extracts. The anti-microbial properties of Tea Tree Oil alongside Niacinamide helps to clear pores and purify your skin while balancing your skin's natural pH levels. It helps control sebum production in oily skin while maintaining your skin's natural moisture. This toner is ideally suited for oily skin types or acne-prone skin.
Ideally suited for Singapore’s warm and sunny climate is the Jeju lotus Leaf Radiance Brightening Serum from The Pure Lotus. This serum uniquely combines a high concentration of antioxidant-rich White Lotus Extract and Niacinamide to help reverse dark spots and treat acne scars and melasma. It also protects your skin by neutralizing free radical damage, helping prevent more dark spots and brightening your complexion.
Head over to our blog for more skincare tips or get your hands on some Korean skincare products over at our store!
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About the writer
Julia Mia, a woman who needs her full 8 hours of beauty sleep, is an avid fan of coffee with a fiery passion for writing and a flair for creativity. When she's not at her desk typing away, you'll find her in the kitchen, cooking Korean cuisines with her kids in the kitchen.