There are a crazy number of ingredients in skin care products, but which ones actually work? You might be surprised to find out that very few of them have scientific studies backing them up! This isn’t necessarily because they don’t work – unfortunately, science is slow, and there’s a lot of cancer to cure, so studies on making your skin smooth and glow are pretty scarce. But every once in a while you’ll come across an ingredient with lots of studies to back it up, that you KNOW will definitely work. The most under appreciated of these, in my opinion, is niacinamide. So here’s my little ode to a workhorse ingredient that deserves much more love!
Niacinamide, also known as nicotinamide, is a form of vitamin B3 that’s a superstar skin care ingredient. It’s an essential nutrient in your diet that can be found in meat, fish, nuts and mushrooms. Your body turns it into substances needed for important biochemical reactions that occur in every living cell.
Niacinamide penetrates into your skin easily, where it has a bunch of fantastic effects:
- It increases the antioxidant ability of your skin, allowing it to soak up free radicals which cause skin damage, cancer and premature aging.
- It improves your skin’s barrier function, helping it stay hydrated for longer and making it more resistant to irritating and harmful substances. It’s thought that this happens because niacinamide increases the production of essential fatty molecules called ceramides in your skin, and by speeding up the replacement of skin cells.
- It decreases redness, splotchiness and aging-related yellowness
- It reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles and smooths out the skin (possibly due to its ability to increase the production of collagen).
- It evens out skin tone and reduces hyperpigmentation (brown spots on the skin that can result from things like sun damage and acne scarring) by preventing packets of melanin pigment from reaching the outer layers of skin. In clinical studies, hyperpigmentation was faded significantly after as little as 4 weeks.
- It’s been found to be as effective as an antibiotic cream in reducing acne, without the risk of bacterial resistance.
- There’s also some evidence that it can reduce sebum production, which is fantastic news for my fellow oily skin sufferers, since almost nothing else works!
One problem with niacinamide is that it can convert into another form of vitamin B3 called nicotinic acid or niacin in some products. Nicotinic acid also has beneficial effects on skin, but it has one big downside… it expands blood vessels temporarily, leading to a hardcore tomato-red face! It’s not harmful, but it feels uncomfortable and looks a bit silly. It isn’t possible to tell from the ingredients list or pH whether this will be a concern, so check some reviews before you choose a niacinamide-containing skin care product.
A recent study also found that dietary niacinamide supplements could prevent certain types of skin cancer with very few side effects, so you’ll probably be hearing a lot more about niacinamide soon!