Ingredient Review: Niacinamide

Image result for the inkey list niacinamide

This post was conceived after a post by @Chemist.Confessions, and I’m totally writing it while we work out technical difficulties during a 2-hour webinar that typically lasts an hour. If you haven’t followed Chemist.Confessions on IG they’re a great resource on formulations and they compare products based on their ingredients list (or IL as it’s been shortened). I love their Instagram account and Blog. The graphics are adorable and it’s so much fun! They also have their own skincare line, I haven’t tried it yet though and I really do need to do so.

Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1% - 30ml

In their latest ‘This versus That’ review they compared different niacinamide boosters from The Ordinary and The Inkey List. The conclusion was The Ordinary was best for more oily skin types whereas the Inkey List was best for those with drier and dehydrated skin. It’s a solid review unless you’re me. I used Niacinamide for years and never saw a return on my effort.

The Claims

Niacinamide is supposed to shrink pores, brighten the skin, and improve overall tone and basically help to deage the face. Niacinamide is a form of B3 vitamin (Niacin) but niacin and niacinamide are not the same things although niacin, which you get in your diet or vitamins, does have skin benefits. One study involving 40-60 yo Caucasian women (N = 50) showed significant improvement in overall skin appearance in a double-blind, placebo-controlled study. But I’m not 40 (but getting close) so does it do anything for those under 40?

Younger persons don’t have as many wrinkles, minimal hyperpigmentation (compared to older persons), and overall still have good to excellent skin tone (again compared to older persons). But younger persons do suffer from acne and acne-related hyperpigmentation and scarring not typically seen in those over 40. A 4% solution showed improvement in acne among persons 18-25, although methods appear to be flawed so grain of salt this study. A 2% solution may result in decreased sebum production among those with oily skin. For those with hyperpigmentation, a 4% solution was used among POC and showed significant improvement in hyperpigmentation and inflammation. I couldn’t find a quality study that was exclusively among women under 40 that looked at skin brightness and tone.

But Does is Work for Everyone?

Regardless of unanswered questions, there are clearly benefits to younger persons using niacinamide, so why did it fail so horribly for me? I have no idea. It literally did nothing. I used Paula’s Choice 10% Niacinamide Booster for years. It’s a great formula. Most likely I had other issues I needed to fix before the niacinamide worked. Perhaps I had already applied a therapeutic amount using my other products so adding a booster didn’t really add anything. Perhaps I was too young to see the benefits? There are lots of reasons I might not have seen an improvement. I’m not alone either, 10-20% of clinical studies don’t show an improvement in skin quality.

For me I saw more improvement in overall skin quality after updating my exfoliation and changing how I moisturized my face. I also added a Vitamin C booster which is stronger at brightening the skin but does nothing to decrease pore size. Perhaps now that I’m older (I haven’t used a niacinamide booster in about 5 years) I might see a difference in my skin quality if I add a niacinamide. All the studies I’ve read and the studies I’ve linked to above don’t show HUGE changes either. Some studies showed that certain aspects didn’t get worse as quickly as the control, like skin redness. Fine line and wrinkles improved by half a grade or less. Expecting major, altering changes from niacinamide isn’t something that should be expected.

The science has definitively shown the addition of niacinamide to your skincare routine be it via sheet masks, essence, toners, boosters, serums, ampules, etc. is warranted. Long term studies (10+ yrs) don’t exist to see if long-term niacinamide use can slow the progression of fine lines and wrinkles. It seems responsible to believe it should. Therapeutic rates of niacinamide are between 2-5% although there are several products available that go WAY above that rate (The Ordinary 10%, The Inkey List 10%, Paula’s Choice 20% Clinical Niacinamide Booster, among others).

New! Niacinamide 20% Treatment

One note of the PC 20% Niacinamide product, only 81% saw an improvement in their skin, not much different from 5% Niacinamide solutions used in double-blind clinical trials. Is it worth the $50 price tag????? I’m not going to buy it but that’s a personal question. Even in the research that’s posted, I’m finding a hard time finding the justification for a 20% niacinamide formulation. The only other place I could find a 20% niacinamide formulation is in an exfoliating scrub patent likely to calm the skin after using the exfoliant. 20% is also used as a high-end challenge for skin sensitivity.

I’m getting off on a tangent and this is already a longer post.

Final Points

  • By all means add a niacinamide to your skincare routine, science completely supports that.
  • Don’t expect it to take 10 years off your face. It’s just not a strong enough product to be able to do that.
  • Niacinamide is everywhere, check the ingredients list to make sure you even need a booster. You probably already get it elsewhere.
  • More doesn’t mean better: therapeutic rates are 2-5%; higher rates likely don’t work better.

If you’re new to using niacinamide I’d suggest starting somewhere cheaper, like The Ordinary or The Inkey List’s Niacinamide Oil Control Serum. Both are solid products and incredibly easy on the wallet. As I said, niacinamide is cheap to the manufacturer, everything else in the bottle I can promise you is more expensive than the active ingredient. Use it morning and night for 8 to 12 weeks and see if it works for you. If it doesn’t, it’s skincare, there’s literally hundreds of thousands of other products and combination of products left to try.



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