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To B or not to B… Niacinamide is the question. This fancy form of vitamin B3 crops up in many heavy-hitting anti-aging ingredients. Yet rarely, except in the case of brands such as NIA-24 or Olay Pro-X, does it take center stage. So I got to wondering if it is indispensable or merely somewhat useful as part of our anti-aging arsenals.
Niacin, vitamin B3, is in beets, leafy vegetables, eggs, poultry and tuna. Once in the body, it converts to niacinamide. There, it becomes a precurser of the co-enzymes NADH and NADPH. These enzymes are essential for cell-energy production and lipid synthesis. Unfortunately, levels decline with age. Fortunately, niancinamide is proven to reverse that decline. The nomenclature can get a bit confusing. Niacinamide is also known as nicotinamide, and niacin is also known as nicotinic acid. Nia-24, an anti-aging skincare range, majors on a proprietary form of niacin called Pro-Niacin. Still, it all boils down to vitamin B.
So what’s so good about it? Actually a lot. Niancinamide is a Herculean multitasker that tackles wrinkles, uneven skin tone, acne, melasma and hyperpigmentation. And there’s a ton of research to back up claims.
According to the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, niacinamide leads to an increase in protein synthesis (e.g. keratin), has a stimulating effect on ceramide synthesis and on aging skin, improves the surface structure, smooths out wrinkles and inhibits photocarcinogenesis. A 2003 study on 50 women aged 40 to 60 added niacinamide at 5% to a moisturizer and found “significant improvements” to fine lines, wrinkles, hyperpigmentation spots, texture, and red blotchiness.
If you suffer from adult acne and are also concerned about aging skin, then niacinamide is an ingredient that could be your new best friend. One study has shown that niacinamide at a 4% concentration can reduce that severity of moderate inflammatory acne. However, MedLine Plus (a service of the US National Library of Medicine) says that there is “insufficient evidence to rate its effectiveness.” This seems a little unfair since a Turkish study also got good results, and in North Carolina researchers found that niacinamide may modulate the production of sebum. The same team also found that it helped with rosacea. There are a ton of other citations that have helpfully been posted on the Acne.org message boards.
In a study on the treatment of melasma, niacinamide at 4% did almost as well as hydroquinone with fewer people experiencing side effects. Another study also showed that niacinamide can “significantly” decrease hyperpigmentation, although it must be noted that it was paid for by Procter & Gamble, owners of Olay.
I was also very excited to see research demonstrating that ultrasound with a skin-lightening gel (consisting of niacinamide and vitamin C) reduced hyperpigmention. So get out your Ultra Renews.
Niacin is given center stage by NIA24. However, although I see a lot to like in its products, it never seems quite enough to persuade me to try them out as I am put off by the synthetics, silicones and potential toxins. It also gets star billing in Olay’s Pro-X products, which for a drugstore brand take its anti-aging ingredients seriously.
One of my personal favorites with niacin is Your Best Face Define ($70 in the shop), a lip cream that I have used religiously since it launched in 2009. One of Your Best Face’s go-to ingredients, niacin, is in a host of its products – see below. Another brand that reaches for niacin is Osmosis and it is in both its retinol serum Correct ($46 in the shop) and Replenish ($44), one of the few serums to feature the antioxidant astaxanthin.
ReLuma uses niancinamide to round out the human conditioned media and Matrixyl 3000 in its Eye Cream ($76). Arcona Night Breeze’s elegantly simple formula has niacinamide as well as the intriguing fumaric acid, which is created naturally by the skin when it is exposed to sunlight and is used by cells to produce energy.
Other products with niacinamide loved by the Truth In Aging community include:
Stemulation Boost Cream ($75)