Niacinamide, also called nicotinamide, is a form of vitamin B-3, an essential nutrient. A B-3 deficiency can lead to disorders of the skin, kidneys, and brain. Taking niacinamide can help prevent B-3 deficiency.

And there’s much more to this nutrient, especially when it comes to general skin health. Although more research is needed, topical niacinamide may help treat certain skin conditions, including acne and eczema.

Read on to learn more about its benefits, what to look for in products, and more.

Despite the similarities in names, niacinamide isn’t the same thing as niacin. They’re two different types of vitamin B-3.

However, your body can make niacinamide from niacin supplements you’ve taken. This happens when there’s an excessive amount of niacin in the body. Tryptophan in the body can also be converted into niacinamide.

You should always talk to a doctor before taking vitamin B-3 or other supplements.

Overall, niacinamide can help build proteins in the skin and lock in moisture to prevent environmental damage.

Individual benefits include:

  • Immunity. Niacinamide helps build keratin, a type of protein that keeps your skin firm and healthy.
  • Lipid barrier. Niacinamide can help your skin grow a ceramide (lipid) barrier, which can, in turn, helps retain moisture. This is beneficial for all skin types, especially if you have eczema or mature skin.
  • Minimizes redness and blotchiness. Niacinamide reduces inflammation, which may help ease redness from eczema, acne, and other inflammatory skin conditions.
  • Minimizes pore appearance. Keeping skin smooth and moisturized may have a secondary benefit — a natural reduction in pore size over time.
  • Regulates oil. The benefits of moisture retention aren’t just for those with dry skin types. Niacinimide can also help regulate the amount of oil the sebaceous glands produce and prevent your glands from going into overdrive.
  • Protects against sun damage. Niacinamide can concurrently rebuild healthy skin cells while also protecting them from damage caused by ultraviolet rays.
  • Treats hyperpigmentation. Some research has found 5 percent niacinamide concentrations can be helpful in lightening dark spots. Benefits were seen after four weeks, but not beyond two months. This benefit may be due to increased collagen production.
  • Minimizes fine lines and wrinkles. Research has also found that the same concentration was helpful in reducing some signs of sun damage that come with aging. This includes fine lines and wrinkles.
  • Protects against oxidative stress. Niacinamide helps build cells in the skin while also protecting them from environmental stresses, such as sunlight, pollution, and toxins.
  • Treats acne. Niacinamide may be helpful for severe acne, especially inflammatory forms like papules and pustules. Over time, you may see fewer lesions and improved skin texture.

Eating a balanced diet is the best way to get micronutrients like vitamin B-3. You should only take supplements under medical supervision to treat deficiency.

When it comes to general skin health, you may obtain some of the benefits of niacinamide from the foods that you eat.

Vitamin B-3 is found in:

  • eggs
  • cereals
  • green veggies
  • beans
  • fish
  • milk

However, there’s no way to guarantee that the nutrients in your diet are impacting your overall skin health. The only way to ensure that niacinamide is targeting your skin care concerns is to use it topically.

Many topical niacinamide products come in the form of serums. Think of serums as extra treatments that address individual skin concerns outside of regular cleansing, toning, and moisturizing.

Your niacinamide serum should be applied after toning but before moisturizing.

Some cleansers and creams also contain niacinamide. This ingredient is also found in some face masks, which are rinsed off after each use.

Read each product label carefully and follow all instructions for use.

Niacinamide concentration can vary across products, though most formulations are 5 percent or less.

Some reports suggest 5 percent formulas are effective in treating hyperpigmentation and damage related to sun exposure.

If you have sensitive skin, you may want to start with a lower concentration. Formulas with 2 percent niacinamide may help ease symptoms of eczema and similar conditions.

Niacinamide may be listed as “niacin” and “nicotinamide” on product labels.

Niacinamide may be used alongside other active ingredients for optimal results.

For example, some reports suggest that supplemental niacinamide may work well alongside copper, folic acid, and zinc to treat acne.

You may be able to get more out of your niacinamide serum by using it alongside hyaluronic acid. Hyaluronic acid is said to increase product absorption.

Topical niacinamide is generally considered safe to use.

People who have preexisting allergies may be more likely to experience an allergic reaction. This is because niacinamide can cause your body to release histamine.

You can avoid widespread allergic reactions and product sensitivities by doing a patch test:

  1. Apply a dime-sized amount of product on your forearm.
  2. Wait 24 hours.
  3. If you begin to experience redness, itching, or swelling, wash the area and discontinue use.
  4. If you don’t experience any side effects, it should be safe to apply elsewhere.

As with any new skin care product, you probably won’t see any significant results for several weeks.

Although most of the available research describes noticeable improvements after four weeks of use, there’s no exact timeline.

You may see even more changes to your skin after eight weeks. This includes smoother, toned, and hydrated skin.

If you don’t see any changes within a couple of months, it may be time to consult with a dermatologist. They can assess your skin care routine and advise you on which products to use, dietary changes that may improve your skin health, and more.

When used topically every day, niacinamide may have a positive impact on your overall skin health. The ingredient can help reduce inflammation and hyperpigmentation, smooth your overall skin texture, and brighten your skin.

It can take several weeks to see noticeable improvement, so it’s important to be patient and to stick with your routine.

You should not take niacinamide supplements unless your doctor or other healthcare provider prescribes them to treat a B-3 deficiency or other underlying condition.