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This is the One Ingredient All Skin Types Should Embrace Year-Round

Photo: Carlos Texeira

There are certain skincare ingredients that get all the fuss, while others are more humble and work hard but get less credit for it. Niacinamide, which is part of the vitamin B3 compound, is an example of the latter. Less known and loved than the likes of retinol and vitamin C, it is nonetheless a prime example of a skincare workhorse, and an ingredient that’s growing in popularity – even Kaia Gerber is a fan. Given it can benefit every skin type, it makes for an excellent ingredient to incorporate into your skincare routine now.

What exactly is niacinamide?

As one part of the vitamin B3 molecule (the other is niacin), niacinamide naturally occurs in food such as grains, fish, meat and beans. “Oral intake of niacin has incredible benefits for health,” says Paula Begoun, founder of Paula’s Choice. “For skin, though, topical niacinamide has remarkable benefits for all skin types and ages.”

What does niacinamide do for skin?

“It helps the skin in so many ways it’s mind boggling,” says Begoun. “Decades of research have shown that it works to protect skin from environmental damage, particularly sun damage, and improves hydration, reduces signs of ageing, shrinks enlarged pores, lessens blackheads and significantly improves skin discoloration and uneven skin tone.” A more recent 2019 study also found that it’s particularly good at combatting the pollution we all battle with each day, thanks to its ability to repair damaged DNA and its powerful antioxidant properties.

As a “cell-communicating” ingredient, niacinamide acts as a kind of social worker, talking to different kinds of skin cells and prompting them to make newer, fresher and healthier cells that ultimately act younger. This helps generate the skin’s building blocks – the ceramides and keratin that make up the skin barrier – the more robust our barrier, the better our skin will look and feel. “If the barrier is damaged, collagen and elastin break down, plus the skin can’t stay hydrated, loses moisture and is unable to heal or repair itself – that’s when skin conditions worsen. Protecting and restoring the barrier is important.” While in recent years many of us have overdone it on the AHAs and BHAs, or succumbed to over-cleansing our skin, the skincare industry is now offering a greater number of barrier-loving ingredients, hence niacinamide’s recent boost in popularity.

Our skin barriers are far more susceptible to damage in the winter time – harsh weather strips away at it – so looking for products with niacinamide in as the temperatures drop is a wise move.

Is niacinamide skincare for everyone?

Every skin type can benefit from making niacinamide a mainstay in their routines; after all, it does everything from take inflammation down to help control excess oil. The trick is to find a formula that is correct for your skin type: “If you have oily skin prone to clogged or enlarged pores and/or skin discoloration, look for a water-light product like my 10% Niacinamide Booster,” recommends Begoun. “If you have dry skin, an emollient moisturizer or hydrating toner that contains a lower amount of niacinamide will make a great difference.” It’s also a brilliant ingredient to use in conjunction with other products, helping to improve their efficacy – a team player, if ever we saw one.

“The beauty of a well-formulated niacinamide product is that it’s incredibly easy to add it to any skincare routine. There is really no downside to seeing if this kind of product gets you the improved results you’re looking for,” says Begoun.

Can niacinamide cause pimples?

Whether it’s pimples or purging you’re worried about, niacinamide is soothing, anti-inflammatory, and doesn’t increase cell turnover, so you shouldn’t have problems with either. Experts agree that if you are experiencing acne or suffering a reaction, then it’s time to stop the niacinamide product you’re using as it could be a reaction or hypersensitivity, which may occur if the concentration is too high.

Do you put niacinamide on before or after moisturizer?

Apply your niacinamide serum before you apply your moisturizer so that it can successfully penetrate the skin and get to work. You can use it in the morning or evening (or throughout the day if you’re so inclined).

Can niacinamide be used with Vitamin C?

Time for some myth busting. Contrary to many a rumor circulating within skincare circles – which suggest that combining niacinamide and vitamin C renders them both ineffective and can lead to redness – they can actually be successfully used together. Begoun says that the basis of these rumors were studies (carried out in the ’60s), in which the two ingredients were tested in their unstabilized forms alongside heat. But in modern formulas both ingredients are nearly always stabilized – and not subject to being heated, either.

So, what you need to know is that yes you can use niacinamide with most vitamin C formulas, but avoid combining it with pure vitamin C (meaning in powder or capsule form – you will be able to see on the product’s label). Simply layer them, and both should help in your quest for brighter skin.

Can I use niacinamide every day?

Yes, you can use it morning and evening, every day of the week.

The best niacinamide products

Unlike lots of other ingredients that come under various different names and in different guises, niacinamide will always be listed plainly on a product’s label, so look out for it when browsing the shelves.

Read Next: 9 Skincare Ingredient Pairings You Should Completely Avoid

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