Typical – just when we thought we’d finally figured out one beauty buzzword (“hyaluronic acid” certainly takes a few attempts to pronounce), another skincare super-ingredient pops up for us to get our heads – and tongues – around.
Niacinamide is the latest word to be popping up everywhere on bottles in the beauty aisles, and, because nowadays nothing can ever really be called a trend until it does the rounds on social media, it’s currently making waves on TikTok too. The #niacinamide hashtag has been viewed literally billions of times on the clip-sharing app, with brands like The Ordinary, The INKEY List and Glow Recipe quickly going viral.
So what exactly IS this mouthful of an ingredient, and is it a word worth hunting out the next time you’re shopping for skincare? We ask the experts…
What is niacinamide?
Niacinamide, also known as nicotinamide or nicotinic acid amide, is a form of vitamin B3. It’s a component of a key molecule in the body known as NAD+, which acts as a shuttle, helping our cells carry out a number of essential metabolic processes, and it also has anti-inflammatory effects, explains Dr Emma Wedgeworth, La Roche-Posay consultant dermatologist. “As our skin cells age, our natural NAD+ levels reduce, so applying niacinamide topically can help cells work in a more efficient way,” she says.
Although it’s found naturally in plants and animals, the ingredient in your skincare is most typically lab-derived.
What are the skincare benefits of niacinamide?
It’s this wide-ranging boost niacinamide gives to skin cell activity that results in a whole host of complexion benefits. It helps neutralize free radicals and preserve collagen levels, making it a great addition to an anti-ageing regime. It also reduces excess sebum production, which can help to manage oily or blemish-prone skin.
“It can also tackle pigmentation by reducing the interaction between pigment cells and skin cells,” explains Dr Emma. “It boosts skin barrier function as well, by increasing ceramide production – this can be beneficial to those with sensitive skin or inflammatory conditions such as acne and rosacea.” A jack of all trades then, if you will.
Why is niacinamide becoming popular now?
Largely because of its universal appeal; it suits all skin types and combines well with all other skincare ingredients. Pair it with gentle exfoliators and antioxidants to help pigmentation, BHA for blemishes, or retinol for anti-ageing effects, advises Dr Emma.
“Niacinamide is the friend you love to invite to the party without being the loud obnoxious center of attention,” says Dr Cristina Psomadakis (aka Dr Soma), consulting dermatologist for The INKEY List. “Its versatility and suits-all properties has led it to become a background hero product. It doesn’t pack the punch of vitamin C or retinol, but it’s a great sidekick. And a lot of times the sidekick is the crucial partner in success.”
How should I use niacinamide?
Because it pairs so well with other ingredients, niacinamide can be used in any formula (toners, serums, creams) and used morning and night. No need to avoid using it at the same time as tricksy actives like retinol or acids; “In fact, niacinamide can actually help to increase the tolerability of other more irritant ingredients,” adds Dr Soma.
Is it recommended to start using a low percentage and then build up?
“Not necessarily – it’s very uncommon for people to react to niacinamide,” says Dr Emma. “I would, however, avoid excessively high percentages – I think 10% is adequate.”
“The potential problem with ‘superstar’ ingredients is that people give up within a couple of weeks if they don’t see instant results,” says Dr Emma. “Boring as it may sound, slow and steady definitely wins the race with skin.”
Best niacinamide skincare products
Best for… Pigmentation
La Roche-Posay Pure Niacinamide 10 Serum, £30.40 here
The primary focus of this 10%-niacinamide serum is combating hyperpigmentation in two ways: by stopping melanin coming to the surface of the skin, and by reducing inflammation that can lead to pigmentation.
Best for… Hydration
Farmacy 10% Niacinamide Night Mask, £40 here
This leave-on overnight treatment is designed to replenish the skin while also balancing oil production, as well as refining the appearance of pores. Testers noted a significant improvement in hydration after four weeks.
Best for… Oily skin
Bliss Disappearing Act Toner, £8.66 here
Combining niacinamide with mushroom and rose extracts, apply after cleansing to remove excess surface oil plus reduce the production of it over time.
Best for… Blemishes
The INKEY List Niacinamide Serum, £7.99 here
Here the oil-controlling properties of niacinamide are combined with hydrating hyaluronic acid and glycerin, to tackle blemishes without drying out the skin.
Best for… Dullness
Doctors Formula Power Actives Niacinamide Serum
Here niacinamide is combined with citric acid to give a gently exfoliating action, revealing a brighter, fresher complexion. This serum usually costs £34.95 but you’ll find it inside the latest OK! Beauty Box, which costs just £4.95 here for new subscribers.*
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