What is niacinamide?
Niacinamide is a form of vitamin (B3) which occurs naturally in very small concentrations in many foods. It was discovered in 1937, being the deficient vitamin causing Pellagra, a serious and potentially deadly disease, characterised by skin lesions1.
The benefits of topical applications of niacinamide to the skin include2:
- Anti-ageing and moisturising
- Skin lightening
Niacinamide is easily absorbed by the outer layer of skin and does not cause irritation or flushing, which is commonly seen with other forms of vitamin B33.
How does niacinamide work?
Anti-ageing and moisturising effect
Niacinamide enhances the skin’s barrier function by stimulating enzymes that act as antioxidants, and protein production within skin cells. The skin’s barrier function reduces with age, as the key cellular enzymes that produce the necessary fatty acids and the key proteins required to maintain the skin's outermost layer diminish. The weakening of the skin’s outermost layer can lead to heightened sensitivity and irritation. By maintaining a healthy barrier, the skin is also able to maintain moisture3.
Additionally, niacinamide increases collagen production and slows the bonding of glucose and proteins in the skin that lead to cross-linked molecules such as cross-linked collagen. Whilst collagen itself gives the skin elasticity, cross-linked collagen molecules are stiff and rigid and therefore reduce the skin’s elasticity3.
In summary, niacinamide reduces the signs of intrinsic ageing by:
- Maintaining a healthy skin barrier
- Improving skin elasticity by promoting collagen and reducing collagen cross-linking
Niacinamide also reduces signs of extrinsic ageing through its skin lightening properties.
Skin lightening effect
Niacinamide reduces colour (pigmentation) by disrupting the action of one of the key enzymes required for the production of melanin. Melanin is produced by the skin in response to damaging sunlight and causes the darkening and pigmentation of the skin.
Additionally, niacinamide helps prevent melanin production stimulating the production of keratin (which increases the thickness of the skin’s harder outer layer)3. Therefore, treatment with niacinamide preparations reduces this transformation, leaving the skin softer.
Niacinamide reduces the production of facial sebum (the oil naturally produced to protect and moisturise the skin) 3. It is sebum, which when trapped by pores in the layers of dead skin cells, gives rise to blackheads, pimples and blemishes associated with acne4.
Niacinamide has many benefits when used as part of topical applications:
- Enhances barrier function; moisturising and protecting the skin
- Improves elasticity and firmness through collagen promotion and inhibition of cross-linking
- Reduces pigmentation by melanin inhibition
- Reduces hard skin build up by slowing keratin transformation
- Improves acne by reducing sebum production
This article is intended as general information only. You should seek advice from a professional before altering your diet, changing your exercise regimen or starting any new course of conduct.
1 WHO. NHD 00.10. 2000
2 Bains P, Kaur M, Kaur J, Sharma S. Nicotinamide: Mechanism of action and indications in dermatology. Indian J Dermatol Venereol Leprol [serial online] 2018
3 Dermatology Times. October 2017
4 US National Library of medicine. PubMed Health. Acne Overview July 2016