Skincare heavyweight ingredient niacinamide is everywhere. But what does it do exactly, and does it really work? Skincare scientist Dr Michelle Wong AKA Lab Muffin answers all of your vitamin B3 questions.
Niacinamide. It’s everywhere. But what is it? And why do you need it? More importantly, is it worth the hype – and your money? Decoding beauty labels is hard enough.
There’s many different variations of the ingredient on the market, you’re likely already using it and might not even know. You’ll find it in serums, moisturiser, sunscreen, heck – it even comes in a powder form, now (we’ll get to that).
However, like all good skincare, it can be confusing so, we asked Instagram’s favourite skin scientist Dr Michelle Wong AKA @labmuffinbeautyscience to help explain this all-rounder. She’s a science-first beauty guru with a PhD in chemistry and she doesn’t fluff around.
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What is niacinamide and what does it do?
“Niacinamide is a form of vitamin B3. In food it’s often found as niacin. It’s a fantastic skincare ingredient that has a lot of studies to back up its effectiveness, and works for a broad range of skin issues [with no major side effects],” explains Wong.
“Niacinamide works great for sensitive skin. It has a range of actions including helping skin maintain its normal barrier function, improve skin texture, and even out skin tone and pigmentation. It’s also anti-inflammatory and an antioxidant. Niacinamide increases the level of skin lipids called ceramides in the skin, so it’s great for moisturising dry skin, too.”
Head here for a list of skin conditions where niacinamide has helped in clinical trials. Science, you see?
But that’s not all, the vitamin helps to minimise the appearance of pores, soften fine lines and wrinkles and even help with dullness to help get back radiance and glow.
How to use niacinamide
“Niacinamide is in lots of products, from serums to creams to sunscreens. There’s a rumour online that you can’t use niacinamide in the same routine as vitamin C, but that’s a myth,” says Wong.
Depending on your skin type and concerns, you may find that a regular moisturiser containing the ingredient is good enough, like Olay Regenerist Microsculpting Cream ($28.99, at Chemist Warehouse). The next easy option would to look for it in a serum.
Cult favourites include The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1% ($9.90, at Adore Beauty) and The Inkey List Niacinamide Face Serum ($12, at Sephora). There’s also the newly launched Alpha H Vitamin B Serum with Niacinamide and Ferulic Acid ($69.95, at Alpha H).
Wait, what about the powders?
If you’re a skincare obsessive you’ve probably seen a new formulation pop on to the scene: powders. But unlike traditional formulas, powders can be tricky to use and not as effective. Unless you do you research, or are savvy with concocting and mixing Wong has some words of wisdom for you. “I don’t think it’s possible to use them accurately at home in the way they’re advertised unless you’re using very expensive scales to weigh out the amount you’re mixing into each dose of serum,” she says.
“You can use them to make up a batch of serum, if you have the appropriate equipment and ingredients (scales, pH meter or strips, preservatives). But in the way they’re advertised, I think they encourage percentage chasing (using higher percentage than is supported by science) and they ignore the importance of the overall formula of a product.”
When it comes to skincare and popular ingredients, it’s always important to do your research before buying into trends. If you’re looking at using a specific ingredient (like niacinamide) research what percentage it needs to be to be effective (while being safe) – it’s recommended at 0.5-5%. This ensures you’re getting the results you’re after and not compromising your skin, causing irritation or wasting your money.
“I think it’s good to look for science-backed products that don’t rely on marketing myths and fear mongering. Unfortunately there isn’t really a shortcut for this – it requires us to think critically as consumers,” says Wong.
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