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Niacinamide (Vitamin B3) | Oral and Topical Use for the Skin

Updated: Jul 17

In our diet, we obtain niacinamide from nicotinamide, nicotinic acid, and tryptophan. Read more...

 

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What is Niacinamide?

Niacinamide is also known as vitamin B3 or Nicotinamide. In our diet, we obtain niacinamide from nicotinamide, nicotinic acid, and tryptophan. It is found in tea and coffee, legumes, leafy greens, meats, other vegetables, wheat, and oats.


 
Related | Dr. Ilyas discusses Niacinamide with MollySims.com

 

What effect does Niacinamide have on our body?

Niacinamide is hydrophilic, meaning it loves water or moisture. It has been shown to have multiple benefits for the skin. It has anti-inflammatory and anti-itch properties as well as antimicrobial activity. It actually even has photoprotective qualities as well. One more bonus, it has been shown to reduce sebum or oil production in the skin as well.


Niacinamide (Nicotinamide) effects on cells

​Anti-inflammatory Decreases pigmentation in the skin by blocking the transfer of pigment from melanocytes to skin cells called keratinocytes Anti-microbial, including Cutibacterium acnes (acne-causing bacteria) Improves barrier function of the skin with increased ceramide production Photoprotective


Based on how Nicotinamide works on cells, how can it help our skin?


Anti-inflammatory

There are multiple skin conditions that have inflammation as a component. Acne, rosacea, atopic dermatitis, and autoimmune skin conditions can benefit from the role of niacinamide. By reducing inflammation and inflammatory mediators, Vitamin B3 in your diet and added to your topical skincare routine can serve a benefit.

Decreased pigment production

Reduction in the transfer of pigment between cells can serve to help control excess pigmentation developing or depositing in our skin. This can be from photodamage, melasma, and post-inflammatory pigmentation.


Anti-microbial

There are studies comparing the effectiveness of topical antibiotics versus topical niacinamide that did not show much of a difference. Those that are seeking to reduce or avoid antibiotics topically in their skincare routine may benefit from the use of niacinamide. Please note it should be in the concentration studied which is 4%.


Anti-aging

By acting as an antioxidant, niacinamide plays a role in reducing the impact of free radicals on the skin during the aging process.


Photoprotective

Oral supplementation of nicotinamide has been shown in studies to decrease skin cancer risk by promoting DNA repair.

It is important to note that blue light from electronic devices can result in pigmentation of the skin. Niacinamide has shown benefits in reducing the pigmentation associated with blue light exposure.

Why should people use niacinamide?


Although Niacinamide can hydrate the skin, most of its reputation is built on its anti-inflammatory effects. It’s been used as an add-on for acne treatments for years to reduce the redness and inflammation associated with breakouts, in addition to decreased oil production that contributes to the development of acne. For dry skin, most people will start with what appears to be ashy and dry skin. If this lingers too long without being addressed, those dry cracked areas of the skin can become inflamed and exquisitely sensitive. To picture this, think of those times when you apply hand sanitizer and your skin just feels like it’s on fire! With this concept, I always go back to the analogy I give my patients- think of your skin as not smooth like a wall, it’s more like a cobblestone street or a brick wall. When your skin dries out it’s as though the mortar that holds the bricks (your skin cells) together is breaking down. This leaves it open to any insult from the environment which will inflame and irritate your skin. Think of niacinamide as a key anti-inflammatory that will help bring down this inflammation while also hydrating your skin.

How can Niacinamide be integrated into a skincare routine?


Given the benefits in studies noted with both topical and oral niacinamide, it is reasonable to consider the role both can play in your skincare routine. Oral Niacinamide is found as nicotinamide as 500mg capsules. Studies evaluating the decreased risk of nonmelanoma skin cancer found a benefit with Nicotinamide 500mg twice daily by mouth. Niacinamide topically in studies that evaluate effectiveness for skin-related conditions tends to be related to the 4% concentration. Although OTC preparations of niacinamide can be found in concentrations as high as 10%, it is unclear the role of the higher concentrations as I could not find any studies to support an added benefit. Most of the studies I reviewed looked at the use of niacinamide twice daily for cosmetic outcomes.

Should Niacinamide be mixed with any products in our skincare routine?

Niacinamide can be blended with any facial moisturizer or applied prior to applying a moisturizer. It is a lightweight serum and can often be applied first before other products are applied. For years I have been seeking OTC products for my rosacea-prone patients can use that can work with their skin to reduce inflammation, redness from flushing and blushing, and subsequent breakouts. Niacinamide is an ingredient to seek out for this type of sensitivity in the skin.


vitamin B3 niacinamide skin


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