Whether the goal is fighting wrinkles and age spots or eradicating stubborn acne, cosmetic manufacturers are turning to an old vitamin that seems to be learning new skin care tricks. Niacinamide, aka vitamin B3, is popping up in moisturizers, eye creams, antiaging serums, and acne treatments, as scientists continue to unlock this nutrient's beauty benefits.
What It Is
Niacinamide, also known as nicotinamide, is the water-soluble form of vitamin B3, which the body uses to produce fatty acids, steroids, and cholesterol. It's also a critical nutrient for normal carbohydrate, fat, and protein metabolism.
In the body, niacinamide is incorporated into nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide and nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate. These two coenzymes are used in a variety of processes, such as tissue respiration, fat metabolism, and the breakdown of glycogens, carbohydrates that play a role in controlling blood sugar levels. But it's niacinamide's impact on skin that has everyone talking.
What It Does
This versatile vitamin is no stranger to dermatologists, who have known about niacinamide's acne-fighting ability for years. When 198 people with severe acne were given a proprietary formula containing 750 mg of niacinamide, 79 percent experienced a significant improvement in skin lesions after eight weeks. In fact, niacinamide seemed to work just as well as a popular antibiotic to reduce acne.
While the study used an oral dose of niacinamide, this nutrient also works wonders when applied topically. A clinical trial comparing topical niacinamide with an antibiotic gel found that the niacinamide reduced inflammation equally well. Plus, the niacinamide cream didn't promote the emergence of drug-resistant bacteria-a drawback of using antibiotics. Another way this B vitamin fights breakouts topically is by reducing the amount of oil the skin produces.
But niacinamide isn't just reserved for the young. Applying this nutrient to the skin can help prevent many of the signs of premature aging. A growing number of studies show that niacinamide improves the function of the epidermis, the skin's outer layer. Niacinamide also smooths wrinkles, reduces sallowness, and boosts the skin's elasticity. The most exciting thing about niacinamide's age-defying effect is its ability to fade age spots and other discolorations, making it a safe alternative to hydroquinone, a chemical skin lightener that may cause cancer.
In one clinical trial, 50 women used a moisturizer containing 5 percent niacinamide on one side of the face and a placebo cream on the other. After 12 weeks, the niacinamide side showed less wrinkling and a significant reduction in age spots compared to the placebo side.
Niacinamide's skin benefits would be more than enough to recommend it, but researchers are exploring its effect on a number of other conditions. The two most promising are diabetes and osteoarthritis.
Niacinamide enhances insulin secretion and increases insulin sensitivity in people with type 1 diabetes. It may also help prevent the disease from worsening by helping to restore beta cells, which secrete insulin in the pancreas. While more research needs to be done, the results so far are promising.
Niacinamide's anti-inflammatory impact on arthritis, on the other hand, has been studied since the 1950s. In one double-blind study, people taking 3,000 mg of niacinamide daily for 12 weeks had better range of motion and joint mobility than those taking a placebo. The participants also experienced 13 percent less inflammation and reported less severity in their symptoms.
Product Examples (left to right):
In addition to supplements, niacinamide is being added to an ever- expanding number of skin care products. Here are a few to try:
Biotene H-24 Natural Shampoo and Conditioner with Biotin nourishes scalp and strengthens hair with niacinamide, biotin, keratin protein, nucleic acids, and cysteine.
Clear Skin Serum by MyChelle Dermaceuticals contains niacinamide to improve oxygenation and ingredient absorption. Natural acids ensure healthy cellular turnover and encourage collagen production. Great for blemish-prone skin.
Herbal Tonic Mist by Earth Science helps to cool and calm red, irritated problem skin with niacin, aloe, sea kelp, and calendula. Use it to boost your regular moisturizer.
Niacinamide by Solgar is suitable for vegetarians and is free of corn, yeast, wheat, soy, and dairy products.