Ingredient Highlight: Niacinamide
*The descriptions below only reflect the quality of the raw ingredient.
Other names: vitamin B3, nicotinamide
What it is: antioxidant, skin brightening, anti-acne, sebum regulation
You can find it in: Aloe Milk Cleanser
Niacinamide (AKA: vitamin B3) is a water-soluble vitamin superstar that does wonders for your skin.
Seriously, it does SO much!
For this reason, niacinamide is currently being touted as an “it girl” ingredient, beloved by everyone in the skincare world. From dermatologists and cosmetic chemists to skincare influencers and enthusiasts alike, everybody is making this multifunctional ingredient a part of their life.
So what is it about niacinamide that helps it grab so much attention? Well, that’s what we’re going to discuss.
A brief history of niacinamide
Here’s a little-known fact: Niacinamide was once known as vitamin PP. Though it may sound a bit funny, PP actually stands for Pellagra-Preventive.
What’s “pellagra,” you may ask?
Basically it’s a skin disease that was common in the early 1900s. It occurs due to a severe lack of two types of vitamin B3: niacin (nicotinic acid) and nicotinamide. Chronically low B3 levels can result in the 4 D's: diarrhea, dermatitis, dementia and possibly even death.(1)
However, back in the olden days, we didn’t have the knowledge that pellagra was caused by a vitamin B3 deficiency. In fact, it was widely believed to be caused by bad genes, airborne germs or unhealthy vapours resulting from poor sanitary conditions.
It wasn’t until 1937 that Conrad Arnold Elvehjem, an American biochemist, discovered niacin and its derivatives (including niacinamide) to be linked to PP. This discovery was based on the extensive studies of Dr. Joseph Goldberger, a physician in the U.S. government's Hygienic Laboratory.(2)
Nowadays, niacinamide can be used as an over-the-counter supplement to treat pellagra. It’s also an extremely common skincare ingredient that you may find in cleansers, toners, serums, creams and more!
What makes niacinamide such a wonderful ingredient?
For starters, it has pro-ageing, wrinkle-smoothing properties.
You might already be aware, but as we age and become wiser, our skin tends to become less bouncy, less smooth and less structured, with wrinkles and fine lines gracing our faces. One reason for this change is that as we age, our skin produces less of the important proteins such as collagen, elastin, keratin, filaggrin and involucrin—all of which are factors that impact our skin, hair and nail health.
This is where niacinamide comes into play. Niacinamide encourages the collagen synthesis process, and the production of three other important proteins: keratin, filaggrin and involucrin. This translates into a better skin structure, fewer fine lines and wrinkles, as well as smoother, more resilient skin.
Although many studies have confirmed this, I’m particularly interested in this 2005 study(3) conducted on 50 women with clinical signs of aging, such as wrinkles and dark spots. The participants applied niacinamide to only half of their faces twice daily. After 12 weeks, researchers observed that the niacinamide-treated sides of the participants looked significantly better. They saw a reduction in fine lines and wrinkles, hyperpigmentation, blotchiness, and sallowness. Moreover, the participants’ also experienced improved skin elasticity on the side that used niacinamide.
Another reason I love niacinamide is its skin-brightening properties.
Hyperpigmentation is an annoying skin condition that a lot of us have experienced at one point in our life. If you’ve ever suffered from acne, you’ll understand the dark spots that come after the pimples are even more annoying than the pimples themselves. Or if you’ve spent way too much time in the sun without proper sun protection, you might also see dark spots donning your skin afterwards.
Whatever the cause, hyperpigmentation is extremely stubborn and can take a long time to get rid of. It occurs due to an excess of melanin, the natural skin pigments that cause darker colour, forming as a protective mechanism against skin trauma, such as sun damage or acne.
But don’t worry! Niacinamide can help alleviate hyperpigmentation by suppressing melanin from the melanocytes (AKA: skin cells that produce melanin).(4) As a result, these pigments won’t easily reach the top layer of your skin to create dark spots.
In a study from 2011,(5) niacinamide was put on trial against hydroquinone, the standard ingredient for treating hyperpigmentation. To compare the two treatments, 27 participants suffering from melasma applied niacinamide on one half of the face and hydroquinone on the other half. After eight weeks, the researchers found that niacinamide yielded comparable results to hydroquinone. Particularly, there was a decrease in pigmentation, inflammatory infiltrate and solar elastosis on both sides. Yet, the side using niacinamide reported 11% fewer side effects than the side using hydroquinone.
In addition to improving hyperpigmentation, did you know that niacinamide can also help with fighting acne?
It’s true! Although it’s not a gold-standard ingredient in the battle against acne, like benzoyl hydroxide or salicylic acid, there is evidence to suggest that niacinamide has anti-acne properties.
In an 8-week long study,(6) researchers randomly assigned niacinamide and clindamycin, a clinically-proven antibiotic to treat acne, to a pool of 76 participants. The participants had to apply their assigned treatment to the face twice a day, evaluated at 4 and 8 weeks. In the end, the researchers found that the two ingredients yielded similar results, with statistically similar reductions in acne lesions and acne severity. However, niacinamide actually has an edge over clindamycin as it doesn’t risk inducing bacterial resistance, which commonly happens with antibiotics.
In a separate study in 2006,(7) 100 participants were randomly assigned to use either a niacinamide moisturizer or a placebo. After 4 weeks, the niacinamide treated group demonstrated significantly lower sebum production compared to the placebo group. This might also contribute to niacinamide’s acne-fighting abilities since an overproduction of sebum can clog pores, leading to blackheads. Not to mention, sebum can act as food for the acne-causing bacteria, leading to inflammatory acne.
In addition, niacinamide helps to reduce the production of various inflammatory agents in the body, giving it broad anti-inflammatory properties.(8) This makes niacinamide beneficial to acne-prone skin, especially inflammatory acne, such as papules and pustules. Those with inflammatory skin conditions may also find niacinamide useful.
Moving on to the next point, let’s quickly discuss how niacinamide can also be extremely beneficial to your skin barrier function. We’ve discussed it here, but to quickly recap, the skin barrier is the outermost layer of your skin. It’s made up of tightly packed dead skin cells.
According to a 2008 study,(9) niacinamide does an amazing job at strengthening your skin barrier. It does so by increasing the production of cholesterol, free fatty acids and ceramides (AKA: the mixture that glues dead skin cells together). The result? A healthier and stronger barrier that can help your skin retain more hydration, block out foreign substances and environmental stressors, modulate your immune system and fight off oxidative stress.
Who is niacinamide good for?
Short answer: Everyone!
As I mentioned already, niacinamide is such a superstar ingredient because it does so many things. For this reason, most (if not all) of us can benefit from adding this ingredient into our skincare routine.
If you’re looking to help your skin age more gracefully, then niacinamide is the gal for you.
Want to lighten up hyperpigmentation? Niacinamide can help.
Trying to keep your acne in check? Niacinamide can do that.
Looking to strengthen and reinforce your skin barrier? Well, well, well, niacinamide has you covered.
Seriously, if you’re not adding niacinamide to your skincare routine, then you’re missing out on all this goodness.
Niacinamide in Graydon Skincare products
Look for this multitasking superstar in Aloe Milk Cleanser, the soothing, non-foaming cleanser for sensitive skin.
This milky cleanser is formulated with a mélange of aloe vera, black tea and niacinamide to calm and balance your skin. Its gentle, yet effective, formula easily breaks down makeup and impurities without stripping your skin of its natural moisture.
Now you know niacinamide is beneficial to everyone, no matter who they are or what skin type they have.
But did you know that niacinamide also plays extremely well with other skincare ingredients?
Seriously, you can pair it with pretty much any other ingredients and you’ll be sure to receive double the skin benefits, compared to using the ingredients separately.
These two niacinamide combos are my favourites. ❤️
Brightening: niacinamide + vitamin C
As you probably know, vitamin C is another effective skin brightening agent that everyone can benefit from. However, it works slightly differently from niacinamide. Vitamin C acts as an inhibitor of the tyrosinase enzyme in your body that enables the formation of dark spots.
So if you’re dealing with skin hyperpigmentation, consider using niacinamide and vitamin C together in your routine.
Even though niacinamide and vitamin C are both skin brighteners, their mechanisms of action are totally different. By combining these two ingredients in the same skincare routine, you’re addressing the issue of hyperpigmentation from multiple angles.
With niacinamide as the main ingredient, our Aloe Milk Cleanser makes for an amazing first step in your skincare routine. After cleansing, apply Fullmoon Serum, which is packed with vitamin C from moringa extract to brighten your skin even further.
Pro-Aging: niacinamide + botanical retinol
Retinoids are the royalty of the skincare world due to their ability to prevent signs of premature aging and keep your skin looking beautiful and full of life.
That being said, they don’t always work well for everyone. In fact, since they’re such strong active ingredients, they may even end up irritating your skin, especially if it’s sensitive. What does that mean? Peeling, redness, dry patches… yeah, no one wants that.
So how can you get the benefits of retinoids without the irritation? Simple! Use a retinoid botanical alternative instead.
Retinoid botanical alternatives are plant-based ingredients, such as bakuchiol and moth bean extract, that offer very similar skin benefits to retinoids, without the common side effects. So if you’re looking to help your skin age as lovingly as possible, consider adding these ingredients to your skincare routine—both of which can be found in Phyto Clear.
Still slightly concerned since your skin is really sensitive and reactive?
No worries. I have another tip for you, and it has to do with niacinamide.
Essentially, what you want to do is prep your skin before using your retinoids. You can do this by buffering your skin with a niacinamide mask or moisturizer before your retinoid application. Because niacinamide boosts ceramide production and has anti-inflammatory properties, it can help to offset any side effects coming from retinoids.
From its pro-aging and anti-inflammatory properties, to its ability to battle hyperpigmentation and acne, niacinamde does it all—while also strengthening the skin barrier! It’s easy to understand why this superstar skincare ingredient deserves all the attention it gets.
Try adding niacinamide to your skincare routine to experience the benefits for yourself!
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(1) Redzic S, Gupta V. Niacin Deficiency. [Updated 2021 May 24]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2021 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK557728/
(2) Kraut, Alan. “Dr. Joseph Goldberger & the War on Pellagra.” National Institutes of Health Medical Arts and Printing department, 1996, https://history.nih.gov/pages/viewpage.action?pageId=8883184. Accessed 11 September 2021.
(3) Bissett, Donald L et al. “Niacinamide: A B vitamin that improves aging facial skin appearance.” Dermatologic surgery : official publication for American Society for Dermatologic Surgery [et al.] vol. 31,7 Pt 2 (2005): 860-5; discussion 865. doi:10.1111/j.1524-4725.2005.31732
(4) Hakozaki, T et al. “The effect of niacinamide on reducing cutaneous pigmentation and suppression of melanosome transfer.” The British journal of dermatology vol. 147,1 (2002): 20-31. doi:10.1046/j.1365-2133.2002.04834.x
(5) Navarrete-Solís J, Castanedo-Cázares JP, Torres-Álvarez B, Oros-Ovalle C, Fuentes-Ahumada C, González FJ, Martínez-Ramírez JD, Moncada B. A Double-Blind, Randomized Clinical Trial of Niacinamide 4% versus Hydroquinone 4% in the Treatment of Melasma. Dermatol Res Pract. 2011;2011:379173. doi: 10.1155/2011/379173. Epub 2011 Jul 21. PMID: 21822427; PMCID: PMC3142702.
(6) Khodaeiani, Effat et al. “Topical 4% nicotinamide vs. 1% clindamycin in moderate inflammatory acne vulgaris.” International journal of dermatology vol. 52,8 (2013): 999-1004. doi:10.1111/ijd.12002
(7) Draelos, Zoe Diana et al. “The effect of 2% niacinamide on facial sebum production.” Journal of cosmetic and laser therapy : official publication of the European Society for Laser Dermatology vol. 8,2 (2006): 96-101. doi:10.1080/14764170600717704
(8) Yanhong Si, Ying Zhang, Jilong Zhao, Shoudong Guo, Lei Zhai, Shutong Yao, Hui Sang, Nana Yang, Guohua Song, Jue Gu, Shucun Qin, "Niacin Inhibits Vascular Inflammation via Downregulating Nuclear Transcription Factor-κB Signaling Pathway", Mediators of Inflammation, vol. 2014, Article ID 263786, 12 pages, 2014. https://doi.org/10.1155/2014/263786
(9) Tanno, O., et al. “Nicotinamide increases biosynthesis of ceramides as well as other stratum corneum lipids to improve the epidermal permeability barrier.” Wiley Online Library, 2008, https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1365-2133.2000.03705.x. Accessed 23 September 2021.