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Niacinamide: How to use it and 8 expert-approved products

Niacinamide might be the ingredient your skin care routine is missing.
Woman putting lotion on her cheek while looking in the bathroom mirror
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Skin care is always evolving, and it seems as though there is always a new superstar ingredient that boasts more benefits than the next. Between face washes, oils, moisturizers and everything else on the market, finding these skin care saviors never seems to be an easy feat.

In fact, most of these ingredients aren't anything new — they've likely always been buried in a long list of ingredients but are just now starting to have their moment. The latest ingredient that is finding itself back on beauty radars seems to be niacinamide — and it can help your skin in a number of ways.

What exactly is niacinamide?

"Niacinamide, also called nicotinamide, is a form of vitamin B3," Dr. Robin Schaffran, chief dermatologist at BalmLabs, told Shop TODAY. "It functions predominantly as an antioxidant, meaning it counteracts oxidative stress induced by environmental damage, which can be caused by things like ultraviolet (UV) light."

While niacinamide is commonly found in skin care products, it is also a vitamin that we consume from foods such as eggs, fortified cereals, green veggies, beans, fish and milk, according to Dr. Robyn Gmyrek, a board-certified dermatologist at Park View Laser Dermatology.

Gymrek notes that while you should be looking to incorporate this form of vitamin B3 into your diet, it may not always be absorbed by the intestines and fully delivered to the skin.

"The only way to ensure that you are getting enough to maximally benefit the skin is to apply it directly in the form of skin care," Gmyrek said.

How do you use niacinamide?

Niacinamide is a versatile ingredient, so it works well in a variety of skin care products. However, whether you choose to apply it as a cream or a serum, it is important to take note of the amount of niacinamide present in the formula.

"It comes in 2% and 5% — make sure to start at a lower percentage if you have sensitive skin," New Jersey-based dermatologist Dr. Shari Sperling told us.

Even if you already use other popular ingredients in your everyday skin care routine, incorporating a niaciniamide-based formula into your regimen won't interfere with your results. However, Schaffran notes that it is best to apply it all over the face rather than opting to use it solely on target areas.

Better yet, you can feel comfortable using the ingredient year-round.

"Niacinamide is uniquely compatible with all products including retinol, peptides, HA, BHAs and AHAs, vitamin C and other antioxidants," Rhea Grous, aesthetics director and founder of La Suite Skincare at Union Square Laser Dermatology, told us. "It's a one-size-fits-all for the entire face, neck and eyes, too! This is an ingredient that can be incorporated at any time, during any and every season."

Why do I need niacinamide in my skin care routine?

The ingredient can be used to treat a wide range of skin issues, including acne, rosacea, hyperpigmentation and wrinkles. Additionally, it provides plenty of benefits for the skin, helping to increase collagen production, reduce moisture loss, improve fine lines and wrinkles, protect the skin barrier and minimize the appearance of pores and dark spots caused by sun exposure.

Niacinamide also supports the function of the skin barrier, which is particularly helpful during the warmer months when we spend more time outdoors. It does this by helping to produce ceramides, which is essential to retaining moisture in the skin, according to Gmyrek.

"When the skin barrier function is intact and healthy, it is more protected against environmental toxins and infectious agents, holds moisture and is much less likely to get irritated or inflamed," Gmyrek said.

According to New York-based dermatologist Melissa Kanchanapoomi Levin, niacinamide helps to treat hyperpigmentation by inhibiting pigment-producing enzymes. Additionally, it can improve the overall texture of the skin without irritating it thanks to its anti-inflammatory properties.

While the ingredient is useful no matter the form it comes in, we rounded up some dermatologist-approved and top-rated picks that are easy to incorporate into any skin care routine. From serums to sunscreens, read on for a full list of niacinamide-packed picks.

Expert-approved and popular products with niacinamide

1. CeraVe PM Facial Moisturizing Lotion

If you're looking to take in the overall benefits of niacinamide, Gmyrek recommends this moisturizing lotion from CeraVe. It is not only formulated with niacinamide, but also includes hyaluronic acid to keep skin hydrated and protected.

2. First Aid Beauty Eye Duty Niacinamide Brightening Cream

Suitable for normal to dry skin, this eye cream uses niacinamide as the main ingredient to visibly reduce the appearance of under-eye circles. It also works to address skin care concerns such as fine lines, wrinkles and puffiness.

3. The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1% Serum

This high-strength serum can be used on all skin types. The potent amount of niacinamide helps to reduce the appearance of blemishes and is balanced by a small percentage of zinc to maintain sebum activity. Gmyrek recommends this serum as another way to experience the multiple benefits of Niacinamide.

4. EltaMD PM Therapy Facial Moisturizer

If you prefer to let your skin do the work while you rest, this nightly moisturizer might be worth considering. Gmyrek says this is a great option since niacinamide is the third ingredient in the formula. Combined with other ingredients, the moisturizer also helps target aging skin, hyperpigmentation and works to protect the skin from free radical damage.

5. EltaMD UV Clear Tinted Broad-Spectrum SPF 46

Gmyrek recommends this tinted sunscreen that offers the brightening properties of niacinamide while providing lightweight coverage that can conceal discoloration. Other ingredients such as hyaluronic acid and lactic acid to keep skin healthy and hydrated, while also providing protection from harmful UV rays.

6. Bliss Glow and Hydrate Serum

The vegan formula of this serum combines the power of superstar ingredients hyaluronic acid and niacinamide to restore and replenish the skin without compromising moisture. It can be applied in the mornings to clean skin and then followed with a moisturizer to lock in the hydrating effects.

7. BareMinerals Skinlongevity Vital Power Infusion Serum

This serum includes niacinamide as the fourth ingredient, followed by other rich minerals that work to reveal a vibrant complexion after two weeks of application. To reap the benefits, the serum can be applied both in the morning and at night to the face and neck.

8. La Roche-Posay Toleriane Purifying Foaming Face Wash

One Shop TODAY editor loves this foaming face wash for sensitive skin. The formula is oil- and sulfate-free and gently cleanses the skin to remove dirt and impurities. In this face wash, niacinamide acts as a soothing agent to calm the skin.

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