I saw an advertisement for NIA24, a range of anti-aging skin care based on niacin and decided it merited poking around to find out more for two reasons. I have always thought that niacin, which is vitamin B3 and is better known as an oral supplement, is not easily absorbed topically and therefore not a good ingredient for creams or hair restoring lotions. However, when I went to the NIA24 web site, it was hard not to be impressed by the pedigrees of the the founders: the Drs Jacobson (Mike and Elaine) have track records in chemistry and cancer research.

The problem with niacin and its effectiveness as a topical anti-ager is that it is hard to come by research  that wasn't conducted by the indefatigable Jacobsons. Their web site cites 20 studies and they were involved in all of them. That isn't to say that these clinical trials weren't impeccable, but I would still like to see some research by someone who isn't also selling me a cream.

Still these studies demonstrate that a niacin derivative, nicotinamide, can improve the ability of the epidermis to retain moisture and rebuild DNA. Niacinamide, another derivative, has also been shown to be an effective skin lightening agent, especially for skin conditions where hyperpigmention may occur on the face or other visible parts of the body, and to have anti-inflammatory properties, which makes it a potential treatment for acne, rosacea and any blistering-type disease. The studies also noted that niacin and its derivatives have chemopreventative effects. When applied to mouse skin, topical nicotinamide produced a 70 per cent decrease in ultraviolet-induced skin cancer.

So what of NIA24's products? I took a look at the ingredients in Skin Strengthening Complex with a 5% concentration of Pro-Niacin.

Pro-Niacin is a trademarked version of niacin and since the Jacobson's describe this as having a "unique micronutrient delivery system" I assume that they believe that they have overcome the problems of getting niacin to penetrate effectively. They seem like a nice couple and its a gorgeous sunny morning here in NYC so I'll give them the benefit of the doubt. What else is in NIA24 Skin Strengthening Complex?

Curiously, there are a few risky items: Polyacrylamide is shown in one study that it can degrade under normal environmental conditions, releasing acrylamide, a known nerve toxin; pentadecalactone was toxic to rabbit skins in one study and the MSDS says it is highly hazardous for the environment (although the MSDS always refer to a 100% concentration); BHT, a preservative banned in food in Europe; diazolidinyl urea, an irritant for a statistically significant one in 1,000 people; iodopropynyl butylcarbamate, an allergen.

The rest of the product uses the usual silicones and things that make cream a cream. There are also some nice moisturizers and anti-oxidants: olive oil, squalane, aloe, retinyl palmitate, ceramide and soy.