Medically reviewed by Minimalist Health Specialist - Written by Mahek Chawla (Dietitian & Nutritionist) on 22nd Sep 2020
No BS Guide to Niacinamide
Every once in a while, there comes a MAGIC POTION in the market to gain your affection, claiming to do wonders to your skin. Well, not all of them become a hero you desired, but this particular ingredient is backed with enough high-quality scientific evidence to earn your attention.
Niacinamide, aka vitamin B3, is the ultimate pleaser for all skin types. Because of this, it standouts among other classic skincare ingredients such as Vitamin C and Retinols.
Niacinamide is a trending ingredient in the skincare category, and this can be seen from our inboxes, full of queries related to this promising ingredient.
"Is Niacinamide good for oil balance? Does it actually reduce your oil and acne?"
"How to use Niacinamide along with Vitamin C. Heard that both cannot be used together. Can Niacinamide alone is sufficient for both glow and oil balance?"
"Looks too good to be true. Is it really safe for sensitive skin as I have tried many products and always end up with redness and irritation."
and many more
This guide covers everything you want to know about Niacinamide and why it is gaining popularity in the skincare world.
What is Niacinamide?
It is one of the two active forms of vitamin B3 known for soothing and healing properties. This vitamin B3 called niacin is the building block of the active ingredient present in most OTC (over the counter) or prescribed products available to treat/prevent a ton of skin issues.
This group of vitamins is water-soluble and present in many nutritious foods like fish, beans, meat, leafy greens, et al. These are renowned for giving you glowing skin.
Nicotinamide is the form that is clinically used for vitamin b3 supplementation because of its better bio-availability. Pellagra, aka D3 disease dermatitis, diarrhea, dementia, is a well known severe niacin deficiency disorder.
Well, if we are not taking into consideration the severe disorders associated with this vitamin’s deficiency, other skin disorders like hyperpigmentation, rosacea, acne, blemishes, et al. are also treated with TOPICAL or oral supplementation. This guide will walk you through the topical usage of this vitamin to keep the skin flaws at bay.
Dermatologists and estheticians have suggested its use for various issues to tackle without popping a pill, i.e., a topical application of vitamin B3 is efficient to a great extent.
Many products such as moisturizers, serums, gels, or cleansers do have Niacinamide as one of the active ingredients (All are not equally effective!) But for those who have an eye to all skincare essentials, the selection and usage of Niacinamide serum can be confusing.
You did not worry! All of these concerns are addressed in the upcoming sections.
Benefits of using Niacinamide
It is generally known for its multipurpose approach towards the betterment of our skin cells but to enlist. Below are the pros you could expect out of niacinamide, or below are the reasons you start using it.
- A potent antioxidant: reduces the oxidative stress, thus reversing the signs of photo and environmental damage (say hello to even skin tone & texture!).
- A dermal immunity booster improves epidermal barrier function, making skin more resilient.
- Keeps your oil in check: balances oil so that you can have a matte look through the day
- An efficient skin soother: calms your skin thanks to its anti-inflammatory properties, reducing redness & acne inflammation.
- Anti-aging: prevents & reduces fine lines, wrinkles & other signs of premature aging due to photo-damage.
- Anti-acne: reduces sebum production hence prevents acne and blemishes. Also, it reduces the visible pore size.
Minimalist Expert's Advice
Although Niacinamide is a great addition to the anti-acne routine for stubborn acne, you might need other actives such as Benzoyl Peroxide.
The claims mentioned above are clinically proven by an extensive study.
Apart from the foreign cited studies on niacinamide for skin, Indian dermatologists have also done well-versed research on it and have approved this power vitamin as anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial.
Along with this comes a bonus reason for us to get our hands on it. It is pocket friendly and has been used for over 50 years without any significant side effects (Covered later in the guide).
Those who want to know how it works, we unveiled the science behind this holy grail ingredient!
Science behind Niacinamide's action
For any active ingredient to be efficient, the utmost important factor is to penetrate our skin. Niacinamide being a precursor of NADP and NADPH, is absorbed almost immediately because NADP and NADPH are molecules that provide energy to every cell in our body.
This energy production action leads to the upregulation of other mechanisms such as enhancing aquaporin expression (a skin protein), controlling sebum production by reducing glycerides and fatty acids, reducing melanin formation, and more.
All of these mechanisms contribute to suffice what it claims to heal. The fact that it is an energy supplier and antioxidant proves why it is also helpful in reducing aging signs by strengthening the cells (boost the natural production of Ceramides).
Ceramides are responsible for maintaining the skin's protective layer. Its depletion can result in dry, flaky vulnerable skin.
In addition to this, mild to moderate acne associated redness or rosacea is also treated by topical niacinamide application because it is anti-inflammatory.
Although there is not much research on how it helps to reduce the appearance of visible pores, it does. There are many scientific theories to back this. Since Niacinamide helps keep sebum production in check, it prevents clogging of pores, resulting in reduced pore size.
Spend on niacinamide that suffices your needs and is a genuine product. You don’t want to make a blunder while trying to do wonders to your skin.
How to pick right Niacinamide Serum
The right concentration is the most important criteria to choose an effective Niacinamide serum. 5-10% Niacinamide is proven effective to balance oil and reduce photodamage. Less than 5% may show some improvement but not that significant.
Those with stubborn skin issues such as severe redness, sunburn, etc. could use higher concentration (>10%, up to 20%), but we suggest consulting your dermatologist first.
The pH of the active ingredient is also an important consideration while trying it over your skin.
Niacinamide having a pyridine ring in its structure is a weak base and has a pH range of 5-7. This range makes it suitable for all skin types as it ranges from being weakly acidic to neutral to weakly basic.
Since any skincare product usually takes time to show results, it is difficult to judge a serum based on a few applications. For Niacinamide serum, if it feels light and non-sticky plus balances your oil to some extent, then you have found your right bottle and stick to it for at least 3-4 months to see full results.
Minimalist 10% Niacinamide is an aloe-based light formula that combines the benefit of 1% Zinc. The addition of the mineral zinc assures a lot more as well like:
- Provides immunity to skin cells
- Fights bacterial infections
- Heals wounds
- Treats inflammatory acne
Other Benefits of Minimalist 10% Niacinamide + 1% Zinc
- Contains pure 10% Niacinamide (USP)
- Oil-free lightweight serum
- Combines the power of Zinc, doubling anti-inflammatory properties
- 100% aloe juice instead of water/aqua for long-lasting, non-sticky skin
- Works well on any skin type, from dry to oily to breakout-prone skin
- Fragrance-free and Dye-free with no harmful chemical
How to use Niacinamide serum
Though niacinamide has negligible side effects, do a patch test to be sure. Once your product has gained your assurity, begin with including niacinamide in your DAILY skincare routine.
Apply twice daily on cleansed face. You can apply hyaluronic acid before Niacinamide to increase its absorption and extra hydration. Using it in AM provides you an upper hand to use it as a physical and environmental damage barrier. Post its application, it's always good to conceal your skin with a broad-spectrum sunscreen (SPF 30 & above), and you are good to step out.
Minimalist Expert's Advice
You can apply Niacinamide in the under-eye area. Unlike other strong actives, it is safe and actually provides softness to the delicate skin in that area. Some experts also claim that it can reduce dark circles, although any study does not yet prove it.
Talking about its combination with other serums/gels, you can continue with your daily routine, i.e., with innumerable benefits. It is also compatible with almost all other products such as antioxidants, retinol & acids.
BFFs of Niacinamide
Retinols go well with niacinamide as they have a similar pH range and aid in each other's functioning. In fact, it’s suggested to use niacinamide before retinol as the former helps to curb the irritation caused by the later.
Niacinamide and zinc duo can do wonders on skin affected by inflammatory acne or redness. You can use them in one formulation or separately.
Non-comedogenic light moisturizers work best with Niacinamide as they create a barrier to retain moisture, thus supporting Niacinaimde's ability to provide hydration and softness to the skin.
Ingredients that contradict Niacinamide
Low pH skincare products. Since Niacinamide is formulated at pH between 5-7, its performance might get compromised if used with products with a pH of less than 4. While using mild to moderate face acids, it is better to use alternate time of the day or keep a gap of 30 min before applying Niacinamide after face acids.
Note:On the day you are using a strong AHA / BHA peeling solution, you can skip using Niacinamide.
Myth: Niacinamide and Vitamin C cannot be used together
The Internet is flooded with this myth, and many claim that the study supports it. The fact is, it is based on old research performed with unstable Ascorbic acid at low pH and Niacinamide at high pH. Today, most good formulations contain stable Vitamin C derivatives such as SAP or MAP, and the pH of both formulations is very similar. We at Minimalist even suggest including both these good ingredients in your routine!
Side effects of Niacinamide
Rigorous studies have shown negligible to zero side effects upon niacinamides application, but each individual is unique, and so is our skin. So, there is a possibility of a tingling sensation or mild itching for the first few days of its use.
Active ingredients tend to have these effects, but eventually, once your skin gets habituated, these mild effects fade away.
Dry skin people can also use Niacinamide for its other benefits!
Generally, individuals with oily skin use niacinamide, but people with DRY SKIN can also use it. We recommend you to use Hyaluronic Acid before serum and a good non-comedogenic moisturizer post niacinamide’s application.
PURGING is a well-known side effect after the use of most of the active ingredients. However, Niacinamide has reported no such side effects. Any individual observing purging needs to understand what is purging and keep calm (we know its difficult to) until the skin gets used to new ingredients (usually 2-3 weeks).
Who can use Niacinamide serum?
Anyone with the reasons mentioned above, be it male or female, can include niacinamide in their regimen, but the recommended age is 16 and above. Predominantly, people with oily skin use it, but people with dry skin can use it as well.
Younger and people with medical conditions must consult a doctor before using any active ingredient.
How long does it take to get results?
Although it is a magical ingredient, no skincare ingredient shows its magic overnight. Unfortunately, no product satisfies your needs in a jiffy; consistency is a must to see a long-lasting effect. Hence, upon the daily application of this serum, you can expect visible results in about 6 to 8 weeks.
Your takeaway from this Niacinamide handbook
This multi-benefit, budget-friendly, compatible ingredient suitable for all skin types is a must-have for treating and preventing many skin issues.
Apply it religiously for at least 6 weeks or more to reap full benefits. Vitamin B is water-soluble, which means your body lack the ability to store it, and thus a daily dose is required to maintain its level in the body or skin.