In our toolbox of antiaging treatments, niacinamide has become an overlooked measure of prevention and rejuvenation. Niacinamide (aka vitamin B3) not only meets the rigorous Kligman* standards of proven effectiveness, it serves many purposes for skin health and aesthetic appearance. Its availability in the skin matrix helps more than 40 biochemical functions of skin cells. Niacinamide is easily named “fix-all” for skin.
Studies have shown that niacinamide acts as an antioxidant to inhibit cancers caused by the sun, and neutralize free-radical damage to good skin proteins, such as collagen, elastin and DNA. Niacinamide enhances the epidermal barrier to improve hydration. It also has anti-inflammatory effects in acne and rosacea.
For aesthetic purposes, niacinamide reduces fine lines and wrinkles, decreases redness/blotchiness, decreases skin yellowness (sallowness), and improves skin elasticity. In one well designed study, niacinamide-peptide outperformed tretinoin (Retin-A) in reversing the appearance aging.
Niacinamide is readily available in many products. It a dose dependent, meaning a greater percentage of niacinamide in products will produce a greater effect. Since it is well absorbed, finding a product with a pleasant scent and texture that is reasonably priced will help keep up its regular use.
Antioxidant capacity. This is probably the most well-studied anti-aging effect of niacinamide.
Epidermal barrier function. Niacinamide may improve the skin barrier function by increasing ceramide production as well as other SC intercellular lipids, and stimulating keratinocyte differentiation (found in healthy skin). These effects contribute to better hydration, firmness and elasticity of the skin.
Erythema and blotchiness. The mechanism by which redness/blotchiness is improved may be related to the improved skin barrier function for reasons discussed above. Increased barrier function may mean less irritation and redness when the skin encounters environmental insults, such as detergents and soaps, and hence less reddening of the skin.
Yellowing of skin. The yellowing of skin may be a result of glycation or cross-linking of proteins due to oxidation effects of aging, These proteins can accumulate in the skin matrix components, similar to collagen, in response to oxidative stress as we age.
Fine lines and wrinkles. Beyond improving the epidermal layer of the skin, niacinamide increases dermal collagen and protein production.
Hyperpigmentation. Topical niacinamide effectively decreases epidermal hyperpigmentation and reducing pigmented spots as we age. Niacinamide reduces the transfer of pigment from melanocytes to surrounding keratinocytes.
* Criteria establishing effectiveness of cosmeceuticals for their clinical and aesthetic benefit was developed by Dr. Albert Kligman in 2010. These criteria are:
absorption in intended target in the skin;
identified specific biochemical mechanism of action in the skin;
published, peer-reviewed, double-blind, placebo-controlled, statistically significant, clinical trials to substantiate the efficacy claims.
Levin, J and Momin SB. (2010). How Much Do We Really Know About Our Favorite Cosmeceutical Ingredients. J Clinical Aesthetic Dermatology, 3(2): 22-41.
Fu, JJJ et al. (2010). Randomized, controlled comparative study of the wrinkle reduction benefits of a cosmetic niacinamide/peptide/retinyl propionate product regimen vs. a prescription 0·02% tretinoin product regimen. Br J Dermatology, 162(3): 647–654.