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Niacinamide: the brilliant all rounder that your skin will thank you for

October 19th 2020 / Ayesha Muttucumaru Google+ Ayesha Muttucumaru / 1 comment


This skin barrier-boosting ingredient that's also calming on breakouts comes with the dermatologist’s seal of approval. Here's why you need it and the best places to find it

So-called ‘miracle’ ingredients come and go, but a handful provide skincare benefits that ensure they stand the test of time. One example is niacinamide (also known as vitamin B3), which is really coming into its own at the moment (over the last 90 days searches for "what does niacinamide do?" have increased by 250 per cent), thanks to its ability to strengthen our skin barrier - essential if you want to limit irritation and maskne - breakouts caused by wearing face coverings.

Highlighted in our ‘8 anti-ageing ingredients that actually work’ feature as a "brilliant all-rounder" by dermatologist Dr Sam Bunting in the skin-boosting stakes, it helps to reduce hyperpigmentation, ageing-associated inflammation and even helps to minimise irritation caused by other ingredients which is why you'll find it pairing well with actives such as retinol (more on that later…)

We asked Dr Sam to get under the skin of this hard-working ingredient that addresses a range of skin concerns in one fell swoop. From niacinamide works on a cellular level to how to incorporate it into your skincare regime, here's ere’s your go-to guide.

How niacinamide works

Niacinamide;'s hero benefit, and what make sit so tight for now, is the way it strengthens our skin barrier. What does that mean exactly? Think of your skin barrier as the first line of defence against environmental aggressors, UV, pollution and irritants, but as with most things, it weakens with age. “Niacinamide boosts barrier function by increasing ceramide production,” explains Dr Bunting, to aid better water-retention and overall skin structure. Ceramides make up 50 per cent of the uppermost layer of the skin and are fatty acids that maintain the skin barrier and retain moisture, keeping the skin hydrated. They are critical for an effective skin barrier function. So in simple terms, niacinamide is a friend to the skin barrier as it increases the production of ceramides.

The key skin concerns niacinamide tackles

Niacinamide also serves as an effective blemish-buster too – ideal if you're suffering with maskne. “It has anti-acne and anti-ageing benefits as it has an anti-inflammatory action,” explains Dr Bunting. “It, therefore, reduces the papules and pustules seen in acne. Plus, the good news is there’s no risk of antibiotic resistance to it.”

Its prowess isn’t just confined to acne either, with its benefits also extending to uneven skin tone too. “It’s helpful in hyperpigmentation as it reduces the transfer of pigment molecules from melanocytes to keratinocytes,” explains Dr Bunting. Come pimples or pigmentation, it looks like niacinamide has their number.

Who can use niacinamide

Due to its pretty all-encompassing nature, it’s impressively universal in its appeal. “It’s suitable for all ages – from teens through to those with mature skin,” advises Dr Bunting.

Are there any skin types that should steer clear of it? According to Dr Bunting, no. “It’s suitable for even those with sensitive skin,” she says. “It’s a fantastic all-rounder that’s brilliantly well-tolerated so most can benefit from it. It’s also safe in pregnancy and during breastfeeding.”

How to use niacinamide

“It’s suitable for morning and evening use,” recommends Dr Bunting. “One of my favourite products incorporates it into a sunscreen and given that this is the first anti-ageing step anyone should incorporate, the addition of niacinamide is a great bonus.” Find out more about Dr Bunting’s product pick in the recommendations section below...

How it fits in with other ingredients

Niacinamide's one of the most versatile ingredients out there. Plus, its role in strengthening the skin barrier also helps reduce risk of irritation caused by other ingredients. “This has the added bonus of increasing tolerance to topical retinoids, so it’s worth starting this before you start a retinoid if you have sensitive skin,” recommends Dr Bunting. “It’s also, therefore, a good way to help improve compliance with retinoids in acne sufferers.”

MORE GLOSS: Retinol & retinoids decoded - the skin experts’ guide

The risks and side-effects of niacinamide

Refreshingly, there are very few red flags to take heed of before incorporating niacinamide into your regime. “It’s very low-irritancy – I’ve not seen any patients have problems using it,” says Dr Bunting.

How much niacinamide do we need?

Skincare expert Ingeborg Van Lotringen writes in her book Great Skin: Secrets The Beauty Industry Doesn't Tell You, that any concentration of niacinamide will help to maintain the health and appearance of your skin, but dosages between two per cent and five per cent have been shown to be most effective in delivering results.

The best niacinamide products

Fenty Skin Fat Water Pore-Refining Toner Serum, £25 for 150ml


When Rihanna and the Fenty Skin team first dreamt up this toner serum hybrid two years ago, niacinamide wasn't the well-known ingredient it is now – trust Riri to be ahead of the times! This unique water-gel texture is tropically scented and reduces the appearance of pores and dark spots as well as making skintone more even. The unusual texture makes this a joy to splash onto the face of a morning. We're converts of the hybrid of toner and serum especially on busy days.

Buy now

MORE GLOSS: We tried Fenty Skin for a week, here's what we thought

Dr Sam's Flawless Moisturiser, £25 for 50ml


This hydrating non-comedogenic face cream has a 5 per cent serving of niacinamide to strength barrier function by boosting ceramide production, it also calms blemish-prone and clogged skin, minimises the appearance of pigmentation and pores, and improves tolerance of topical retinoids too.

Buy now

Olay Regenerist 3 Point Super Serum, £31.49 for 50ml


A brand which has long used niacinamide in a whole host of its skincare products, this hydrating pick also helps to address loss of elasticity on the face, neck and decolletage.

Buy now

Beauty Bay SkinHit Soothing Serum, £3.75 for 50ml


When we found out Beauty Bay was releasing skincare we were first in the queue. This purse-friendly serum is slightly blue in colour and is formulated with ten per cent niacinamide, as well as copper and zinc to help regulate overproduction and build-up of sebum, which can lead to pores appearing increased in size. It smells a little bit like old pennies (that'll be the copper) but you really can't go wrong with the price.

Buy it now

Q+A Niacinamide Daily Toner, £8 for 100ml


It takes a lot to sway us from Pixi's Glow Tonic, but this niacinamide toner from new brand on the block Q+A might have done it. The niacinamide acts as a magnet for dirt, while aloe vera moisturises and soothes skin, leaving it brighter and revitalised with pores appearing minimised.

Buy it now

Paula's Choice Resist 10% Niacinamide Booster, £41 for 20ml


Another favourite of Inges and a supreme multitasker, this liquid treatment addresses a variety of concerns ranging from large pores to excess oil and uneven skin tone.

Buy now

Garden of Wisdom Niacinamide Serum, £10 for 30ml


This bestseller from Victoria's Health's budget skincare brand, Garden of Wisdom, is small in price, but mighty in effects. Recommended by Inge in her book, it helps regulate oil production, calms inflammation and boosts ceramide and collagen production. The gel-like formulation melts into skin too.

Buy online.

Olay Total Effects 7 in One Anti-Ageing Moisturiser SPF30, £14.99 for 50ml


Hydrating, brightening and protective, this SPF moisturiser leaves skin smoother, suppler and softer.

Buy now

The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%, £5 for 30ml


A budget beauty oil-free pick that's formulated for the congestion-prone, its high concentration of niacinamide at a high street price looks after both blemishes and bank balances alike.

Buy now

Codage Peeling Lotion, £60 for 150ml


Formulated with a blend of exfoliating ingredients, this post-cleanse solution contains 7.2% lactic acid, 6% glycolic acid, 4.4% fruit acids and 8% PHA gluconolactone, to remove dead and damaged cells from the surface of the skin. This blend also helps to stimulate skin’s natural cell-shedding processes while clarifying and decongesting the pores for a more balanced complexion.

Buy now

Is Clinical Poly-Vitamin Serum, £58 for 15ml


This serum is infused with a combination of essential vitamins, barrier supporting niacinamide and antioxidants, to regenerate skin. Safe for use post-procedure or during radiotherapy and chemotherapy, this serum promises to help boost collagen production while improving skin’s overall feel, restoring a healthier appearance over time. Suitable for dry, compromised and sensitive skin types.

Buy now

For more skincare advice from Dr Bunting, follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

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