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Niacinamide Has a Cult Following for a Reason. Here's What It Does.

If there was a litmus test for determining how universally well-loved a product is, it would be the amount of times it pops up in conversations about skincare. Which means, according to our Facebook Group, the ingredient niacinamide has a cult following. But unlike most skincare trends that come and go, this antioxidant has been touted by experts for years, mainly due to the fact that it is one of the most multifaceted ingredients on the market. It tackles practically every skin concern—from acne to dark circles to wrinkles—yet is gentle for all types of complexions, making this ingredient a rare gem that should hold permanent residence in every skincare lineup. Read on as the experts themselves take us through a deep dive into everything you need to know about niacinamide. And no, it doesn’t cause purging (getting that one out of the way now).

What Is Niacinamide?

Niacinamide (or nicotinamide, as it’s also called) is a “water-soluble form of vitamin B3 which can be taken as a supplement in oral or topical formulations”, board certified dermatologist Dr. Anna H. Chacon, M.D. explains. It’s a natural antioxidant that can be found in nutritional foods like yeast, eggs, beans, and vegetables, but it’s also formulated in beauty products to improve skin health. 

What Are Some of Its Skincare Benefits?

As an antioxidant, niacinamide by definition fights off free radicals (unstable molecules that damage skin cells, often triggered by environmental aggressors like sunlight and pollution). But because it also increases keratin levels, an essential protein that keeps skin strong, healthy, and better able to retain moisture (which includes regulating oil production), it can also target more specific complexion concerns as well, such as “dyschromias, melasma, pigmentary disorders, and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, since it serves as a skin brightener. It can also be useful for its anti-inflammatory effects on acne and reducing sebum”, Dr. Chacon says. Basically, niacinamide can be used to treat nearly every skin concern in the book: pimples, clogged pores, oily skin, uneven tone, redness, loss of firmness, fine lines, wrinkles… We especially love it as part of a breakout-busting combo in our Clarifying Serum.
The fact that it’s universally effective only adds to its appeal. “Niacinamide is beneficial for all skin types but the most visible benefit is often seen in acne and other inflammatory skin conditions such as rosacea", estheticians Natasha Billeci, RN, BSN, C-HWC and Katherine Amato, LE of KatanKlinic explain. It even does wonders for dark circles. Tap niacinamide on the under eyes and lids using Vacation Eyes for a cooling, brightening effect that’ll give the most tired complexions a pick me up.

“Skin that is often exposed to UV radiation or blue light should also strongly consider leveraging the anti-aging potential of topical niacinamide” Natasha and Katherine add. “If you don’t have any immediate skin concerns like wrinkles, fine lines, acne, or pigmentation, it can still be a part of your routine as a preventative strategy”. 

How to Use Niacinamide (and What to Use It With)

Even better, it’s easy to incorporate into your regimen. “Niacinamide can be used in a toner, serum, or moisturizer—day or night—depending on the complexity of your routine. If you have reactive or compromised skin, start low and slow and allow your skin to acclimate. If you experience redness or irritation, dial back your application to just two times per week or use a lower concentration of niacinamide daily until your skin strength improves”, Billeci and Amato both advise. Otherwise, layer within your routine like you would with any other product. “Thinnest to thickest determines niacinamide’s place in your routine, with thinnest applied after cleansing and toning and thickest applied as the last product in your routine”, they add. 

If a glowy complexion is on your agenda, look for products that couple niacinamide with vitamin C. Both are star players when it comes to skin-brightening, which is why we paired them together in our Brightening Serum

Will It Cause My Skin to Purge?

A topic that often comes up when introducing new products and ingredients into your routine is the concept of skin purging. Purging occurs when the skin’s cellular turnover rate speeds up after starting a new regimen, and it can sometimes result in increased breakouts. As the old layers of skin shed away, acne moves up to the topmost layer. At first glance, it may appear that a product is having a bad reaction with the skin, but it’s actually doing quite the opposite: encouraging breakouts to move more quickly to the surface and therefore heal even faster. 

But here’s the thing: Purging only occurs when a product is formulated with an active ingredient—such as retinol or AHAs—that’s scientifically proven to speed up cellular turnover. Niacinamide doesn’t fall under that category, so you won’t experience purging with it. That makes niacinamide a great option for improving acne without having to wait through the purging process—which can take several weeks. If you’re experiencing breakouts as a result of a product made with niacinamide, take a look at the formula to see if something else might be triggering your skin.

Shop community-loved products that feature niacinamide below. 

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