Niacinamide – what is it, and what are the best products?

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  • Find out how this wonder ingredient could help your skin

    These days we’re a lot savvier about the ingredients our skincare contains, from niacinamide to glycolic acid, peptides and salicylic acid.

    But if you’re yet to be versed in the ways that niacinamide benefits skin, allow us to clear some of the fog surrounding this excellent all-rounder. We picked the brains of some of the industry’s top experts to break down why this ingredient is so good for your skin…

    What is niacinamide?

    ‘Niacinamide is otherwise known as vitamin B3 and is crucial for the functioning of the skin barrier,’ explains Dr Justine Hextall, La Roche-Posay’s Consultant Dermatologist. ‘It’s also a great anti-inflammatory ingredient and can help to improve uneven skin tone, soften fine lines and wrinkles, diminish dullness, and strengthen a weakened surface. This means it can also help to treat and improve redness and sensitivity.’

    Found in many of the best face serums, the benefits of this wonder ingredient don’t stop there. Paula Begoun, skin expert and founder of Paula’s Choice, adds that niacinamide is an important part of our diets, found as niacin in foods like grains, fish, meat and beans.

    ‘For skin, topical niacinamide has long standing research showing a wide range of remarkable benefits for all skin types and all ages,’ she explains. ‘Interestingly, not much of the niacinamide we consume from foods or supplements makes it way to skin, so topical application is a great way to get its numerous skin benefits.’

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    What does niacinamide do to skin?

    Because of the seemingly endless list of its benefits, Paula explains that niacinamide can be benefit pretty much all skin types and concerns.

    ‘Topically, it has so many ways to help skin [that] it’s really mind boggling. Decades of research has shown niacinamide works to protect skin from environmental damage, especially sun damage, and also helps skin make vital substances it needs.

    ‘It also improves hydration, reduces signs of ageing, diminishes enlarged pores, lessens blackheads, and significantly improves skin discolouration and uneven skin tone. More current research shows it even has cell repairing properties.’

    There are a number of ways that this super ingredient manages to do all this. ‘One way is because of its powerful antioxidant properties,’ Paula explains. ‘Another way is how niacinamide helps generate other important substances in skin such as ceramides and keratin – both are major protective elements in skin. Even more notable is how niacinamide works as a “cell-communicating ingredient”. This means it can “talk” to many different kinds of cells in skin, telling them to make normal, healthier, and younger-acting cells.

    ‘And the list goes on,’ she adds. ‘Research has also shown niacinamide helps control excess oil and reduces the appearance of wrinkles because of its anti-inflammatory action, and assists in repairing the skin’s barrier. In short, it’s an endlessly fascinating ingredient for skin with ongoing research discovering new benefits.’

    How to use niacinamide

    If you want to add niacinamide to your skincare routine, Dr Hextall recommends starting with a 10% concentration. ‘There are lots of excellent serums that include niacinamide, but it can also be found in many moisturisers,’ she explains. ‘I’d always suggest changing only one thing in your routine at a time so that you can tell where any irritation may be coming from, though it is rare for niacinamide to cause irritation.’

    The good news is that most skin types get on well with this ingredient, including sensitive skins, and you don’t need to worry about avoiding particular skincare ingredients alongside it. ‘Niacinamide can work with most other actives and can be layered if it is in more than one product in your routine,’ Dr Hextall adds. ‘It can be really helpful to include niacinamide if you are using actives such as AHAs, BHAs or Retinoids as it can help to cushion the blow to your skin.

    ‘The new Retinol B3 from La Roche-Posay (£28.50, Lookfantastic) actually includes niacinamide as a key accompaniment to the 0.2% retinol, to ensure that even sensitive skin can tolerate the active. It really is an ingredient that anyone can benefit from in their routine.’

    Intrigued? Keep reading for the niacinamide skincare buys to shop right now.

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