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What exactly does Niacinamide do for the skin?

The past decade has brought an entire range of skincare products declaring Niacinamide to be a non-toxic, skin brightening, wrinkle reducing powerhouse ingredient.

But does Niacinamide really have noticeable benefits?
Also, you might have heard of side effects such as this skincare ingredient turning skin red.

Well, let’s dig deeper to answer how Niacinamide actually affects the skin.

But first, can you tell the differences between these skincare ingredients?

  • Niacin
  • Nicotinic Acid
  • Niacinamide
  • Nicotinamide

Well for starters, these are all Vitamin B3.
They just differ slightly in shape from one another.

Also, skincare products commonly use Vitamin B3 in two forms[3]:

  • Niacin (Also called Nicotinic Acid)
  • Niacinamide (Also called Nicotinamide)

Pro-Tip: Skincare products might use Vitamin B3 label instead of Niacin or Niacinamide.

squeezing skincare cream out of tube onto hand

Niacinamide Skincare Benefit #1:
Pigment Reduction (Lighter Skin)

Illuminating, brightening, whitening, radiating, pigment correcting.
All words used to describe what Niacinamide does best.

An older scientific study showed:

niacinamide is an effective skin lightening compound that works by inhibiting melanosome transfer from melanocytes to keratinocytes.

Hakozaki, Minwalla, Zhuang, Chhoa, Matsubara, Miyamoto, Greatens, Hillebrand, Bissett & Boissy, 2002

In other words, Niacinamide stops cells from depositing dark pigments into the skin.[1][5]

This test focused on people with Melasma, a skin condition that overly produces dark pigments, resulting in large, dark patches on the skin.

What resulted was dramatic improvements!

Take a look at the resulting photos yourself!

Even using a Niacinamide concentration as low as 4%[1], scientists observed significant reduction in dark pigments.

Pro-Tip: Niacinamide serums with concentrations up to 20% are available!

These results weren’t a single occurrence.

Another research group confirmed Niacinamide’s effectiveness stating:

[Niacinamide] significantly decreased hyperpigmentation and increased skin lightness… after 4 weeks of use.

Hakozaki, Minwalla, Zhuang, Chhoa, Matsubara, Miyamoto, Greatens, Hillebrand, Bissett & Boissy, 2002


SK-II GenOptics Aura Essence Bottle

Is SK-II GenOptics Aura Essence Brightening Serum with Pitera and Niacinamide worth the almost $300 price?

Niacinamide Skincare Benefit #2:
Skin Structural Support

Collagen, ceramides, keratin & proteins are key pieces in strengthening the skin structure.
These proteins & fats allow elasticity and rigidity, forming a boundary to lock in moisture while keeping a strong barrier.

Hyaluronic Acid is another critical piece in the skin that plays a huge role in holding onto water.

It turns out, the skin produces less of these structural pieces as it ages, causing wrinkles to appear as the skin loses structural support.[3]

To make matters worse, older skin is less effective in holding moisture, leading to deeper wrinkles and fine lines.

hands holding skincare product

Fortunately, Niacinamide directly offsets these issues by:

  • 1. Stimulating the creation of Keratin & Ceramides, resulting in new epidermis skin cells with proper support able to maintain a strong skin structure.[3][4]
  • 2. Reduction of moisture loss through skin as a result of improved skin structure.[4]
  • 3. Producing more collagen and skin proteins.[3]

In other words, Niacinamide helps strengthen the skin and decreases the appearance of wrinkles by keeping moisture in!

It’s easy to see why Niacinamide has quickly become a favorite skincare ingredient.

Niacinamide Skincare Benefit #3:
Inhibits Free-Radical Chain Reactions

Like Vitamin-C, Niacinamide is an excellent antioxidant.

Now, it’s easy to dismiss this benefit because antioxidants receive a great deal of attention.
However, antioxidants are actually quite important.

sun shin on face with hand shadows

Ultraviolet light and other lifestyle factors creates highly reactive & damaging free-radicals molecules.

Left unchecked, free-radicals creates more free-radicals, amplifying cellular damage.

Scientific research also shows that these reactions have by-products that build up over time, staining the skin slightly yellow.[3]

In other words, antioxidants reacts with free-radicals, stopping the destructive cycle from continuing and preventing unwanted stains.


Niacinamide plays an important role in our body, especially in maintaining skin health.

What makes Niacinamide a prime skincare ingredient is its size.
It’s small enough to enter deep into the skin, where it is most effective.[3]
(Unlike skincare products containing collagen.)

Finally, you might have read that Niacinamide causes the skin to become flush and turn red.

Well, it’s actually the other form of Vitamin B3 that causes these issues.

Niacin (also known as Nicotinic Acid), stimulates blood vessels near the skin to open wide, causing an increased blood flow and the “flush” appearance.[3]

This isn’t a cause for alarm though, as the Cosmetic Expert Review Panel has this to say about the two forms of Vitamin B3:

Overall, these ingredients are non-toxic at levels considerably higher than would be experienced in cosmetic products.
Both ingredients were considered safe as used in cosmetics.

Cosmetic Ingredient Review Expert Panel


  1. Navarrete-Solis, J., Castanedo-Cazares, J., Torres-Alvarez, B., Oros-Ovalle, C., Fuentes-Ahumada, C., Gonzalez, F., Martinez-Ramirez, J., Moncada, B. (2011). A Double-Blind, Randomized Clinical Trial of Niacinamide 4% versus Hydroquinone 4% in the Treatment of Melasma.
  2. Cosmetic Ingredient Review Expert Panel. (2005). Final Report of the Safety Assessment of Niacinamide and Niacin.
  3. Levin, J., Momin, S. (2010). How Much Do We Really Know About Our Favorite Cosmeceutical Ingredients?
  4. Gehring, W. (2004). Nicotinic Acid/Niacinamide and the Skin.
  5. Hakozaki, T., Minwalla, L., Zhuang, J., Chhoa, M., Matsubara, A., Miyamoto, K., Greatens, A., Hillebrand, G., Bissett, D., Boissy, R. (2002). The Effect of Niacinamide on Reducing Cutaneous Pigmentation and Suppression of Melanosome Transfer