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There are only a handful of ingredients that can qualify as a swiss army knife in skincare. And niacinamide is definitely on the list, right after retinol and vitamin C. The best niacinamide serums work wonders on dark spots, a damaged skin barrier, and oily skin. You’d think that a multi-tasking ingredient that works amazing for anything from acne to dehydration would make life easier. Well, it doesn’t. It makes things complicated. Finding the best niacinamide serum for your individual skin issue is not an easy task.
Because it all comes down to what you’re going to use it for. To help you find the right one for your skin, here’s the lowdown on what niacinamide is, how it benefits your skin, and how you can utilize it for your skin.
What is Niacinamide?
Niacinamide is a form of vitamin B3 (1). It’s a water-soluble ingredient used in skincare products to target a variety of skin concerns like aging, hyperpigmentation, and acne (2). Niacinamide comes in face serums, creams, and toners, either alone or paired with other active ingredients.
Niacinamide is also called niacin, nicotinamide, and vitamin B3. But in your skincare products, it usually shows up as “niacinamide” on the ingredient list.
What Are The Benefits of Niacinamide For Skin?
Below are the most important benefits of niacinamide/vitamin B3 for your skin.
1. It reduces oil production.
Niacinamide reduces sebum, aka oil, production in the skin (3). That’s why it’s incredibly helpful in managing oily skin. As excess oil leads to congestion and breakouts, niacinamide is helpful in preventing acne too. So you can use a niacinamide serum to target acne, balance oil production, and reduce the look of enlarged pores too.
2. It improves skin barrier function.
Niacinamide increases the skin barrier lipids like ceramides (Draelos, 2015). As these lipids are important components of a healthy skin barrier, niacinamide can protect and repair the skin barrier. A healthy skin barrier ensures your skin retains water. That’s how niacinamide helps reduce transepidermal water loss and keeps the skin stay moisturized for longer too.
3. It has anti-aging benefits.
We usually think of vitamin A when we think of anti-aging. But not all skincare ingredients prevent wrinkles by increasing skin turnover. Some work way gentler and a little bit indirectly than that. Niacinamide reduces and prevents inflammation in the skin. As inflammation causes a cycle of events that can lead to wrinkles and skin damage, niacinamide is considered anti-aging too.
4. It reduces redness.
As a result of its barrier-restoring and anti-inflammatory effects, niacinamide can help reduce redness in the skin too. Unless your skin is sensitive to niacinamide, you can use a niacinamide serum or cream simply to calm the skin and reduce redness.
5. It treats hyperpigmentation.
Another commonly known skin benefit of niacinamide is its ability to reduce skin discolorations (4). Niacinamide inhibits melanin transfer. In doing so, it reduces the look of dark spots and dark patches on the skin.
6. It brightens the skin.
A common skin issue that comes with age is skin yellowing. And niacinamide helps with that too (5). Niacinamide reduces skin yellowing and helps brighten the skin. In the end, it can give you a more even skin tone that’s healthier and brighter.
What Are Some Side Effects of Niacinamide For Skin?
Niacinamide is usually well tolerated by most skin types. However, a common problem that comes with using it is redness and flushing. Now, this usually goes away in a matter of minutes or until your skin gets used to your new niacinamide product.
But when you have sensitive skin, you might not be okay with this fact. So it’s for you to decide if niacinamide is worth it. But given that it’s considerably gentler than other skin-brightening ingredients like vitamin C or other anti-acne ingredients like salicylic acid, niacinamide is definitely worth a shot, if you ask me.
How To Choose a Niacinamide Serum
Because it’s such a multi-tasker, niacinamide comes in all types of face serums. For example, when you see a vitamin C serum, you know that it’s a brightening one. But you’ll see that there are oil control niacinamide serums and brightening niacinamide serums. And that’s exactly how you choose your serum; by paying attention to its function.
If you’re looking for a niacinamide serum to tackle dark spots, look for brightening options and other ingredients like vitamin C in your serum. Similarly, if you need a niacinamide serum because you’re dealing with acne, look for those blemish serums and make sure they have other anti-acne ingredients and anti-inflammatories too.
The Best Niacinamide Serums
So considering all the information above, what is the best niacinamide serum? Find below our round-up of the best niacinamide serums depending on your skin type and issues.
1. Alpha-H Vitamin B Serum
This is my personal recommendation if you’re looking for an overall great niacinamide serum. I have rosacea. If a serum works on rosacea skin, it’s safe to assume it’ll work for most skin types. So right off the bat, it’s super gentle. It’s made with niacinamide and panthenol (vitamin B5) with a total concentration of 5%. In case you’re not familiar, vitamin B5 is an amazing humectant that draws water from the air into the skin and also has skin-calming benefits.
And speaking of humectants, the formula has two forms of hyaluronic acid as well as glycerin and sodium PCA. The serum hydrates the skin, improves radiance, and packs copper peptides and ferulic acid for antioxidant benefits too. It absorbs fast, reduces redness, and plumps up the skin instantly. So whether you have sensitive skin, rosacea, or dry skin, this is a great niacinamide serum that will not disappoint.
Key Ingredients: 5% niacinamide, vitamin B5, hyaluronic acid, ferulic acid
Key Benefits: Hydrates, calms, evens skin tone
Size: 0.85 oz/25 ml
Good To Know: Vegan, cruelty-free
2. SkinCeuticals Discoloration Defense
If your major concern is hyperpigmentation from sun damage, dark spots, or acne marks, or if you have mature skin, this is gold. Because it’s paired with other skin brighteners to help you get more out of your product. It has 5% niacinamide topped with powerful goodies to help you get rid of skin discolorations.
It has kojic acid as well as tranexamic acid, which is super powerful in preventing skin discolorations including melasma. The fragrance-free niacinamide serum also packs enzymes for superficial exfoliation, which contributes to fading dark posts too. So if hyperpigmentation is a concern, add this brightening niacinamide serum into your routine. And start using sunscreen!
Key Ingredients: 5% niacinamide, tranexamic acid, kojic acid
Key Benefits: Brightens skin, treats and prevents dark spots
Size: 1 oz/30 ml
Good To Know: Fragrance-free
3. Olay Tone Perfection Serum
There’s no skin that wouldn’t benefit from a vitamin C serum and its glow-boosting and wrinkle-reducing effects. Even more so when it contains vitamin B3. The affordable niacinamide serum hydrates and brightens the complexion for bouncy and soft skin.
And because it’s made with a vitamin C derivative as opposed to pure ascorbic acid, it’s suitable for all skin types. With its gentle form of vitamin C, the serum protects the skin against free radicals and helps restore your skin’s radiance.
Key Ingredients: Niacinamide, vitamin C, vitamin B5
Key Benefits: Brightens skin, eliminates dullness
Size: 1.3 oz
Good To Know: Fragrance-free
Related: The Best Drugstore Anti-Aging Serums
4. Paula’s Choice 10% Niacinamide Booster
With a rare concentration of 10% niacinamide, the booster serum has the ability to turn a regular moisturizer into a super targeted one. Even the most boring product can turn into a glow-boosting one with this serum. Also, you can use it alone to get smooth and radiant skin if you don’t want to mix it with your products.
The booster is as anti-aging as it is anti-acne. Because it’s packed with antioxidants like coenzyme Q10, green tea polyphenols, and licorice extract. And these all have anti-inflammatory benefits too. So while you manage enlarged pores with niacinamide, you can target uneven skin tone and acne marks too.
Key Ingredients: 10% niacinamide, vitamin C, green tea, coenzyme Q10
Key Benefits: Minimizes pores, reduces hyperpigmentation
Size: 0.67 oz/20 ml
Good To Know: Fragrance-free, oil-free, cruelty-free
5. The Inkey List Niacinamide Oil Control Serum
Formulated with 10% niacinamide plus 1% hyaluronic acid, this is one of the best budget-friendly niacinamide serums on the market and an amazing option for oily and acne-prone skin. It reduces excess oil production, and acne while also replenishing dehydrated oily skin.
The added hyaluronic acid, panthenol, and squalane allow you to hydrate without clogging pores. It has a very light base and layers easily with your products. If you’re dealing with blemishes, and enlarged pores due to dehydration, you can hit two birds with this stone.
Key Ingredients: 10% niacinamide, 1% hyaluronic acid, vitamin B5
Key Benefits: Softens the appearance of pores, plumps skin
Size: 1 oz/30 ml
Good To Know: Cruelty-free
6. The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1% Oil Control Serum
Similarly, this is another niacinamide serum for acne. Because in addition to niacinamide, it packs zinc PCA. Zinc is another anti-acne ingredient that reduces oil production and prevents acne. So the serum comes at those breakouts from all possible angles.
The formula is oil-free and fragrance-free and overall great for people who want to minimize greasiness, fade acne and acne marks and reduce pore size. One thing I’d like to add here is that I had to stop using this one because it consistently gave me redness. So I don’t think this is suitable for people with very sensitive skin.
Key Ingredients: 10% niacinamide, 1% zinc
Key Benefits: Balances oil production, prevents blemishes, minimizes pores
Size: 1 oz/30 ml
Good To Know: Oil-free, fragrance-free
7. First Aid Beauty Facial Radiance Niacinamide Dark Spot Serum
Again, unless you have very sensitive skin, niacinamide is pretty easy to tolerate for the skin. But in case you do have sensitive skin, this is the best niacinamide serum for you. Both ingredient-wise and formulation-wise, it’s as gentle as they come. The serum pairs niacinamide with licorice extract and green tea.
And both of these are helpful in brightening the skin tone and reducing inflammation and redness. So you don’t need to worry about irritation. The serum reduces dark spots, brightens your skin, decreases excess oil, and fades acne. The fragrance-free formula also soothes with panthenol and allantoin.
Key Ingredients: Niacinamide, licorice extract, green tea
Key Benefits: Fades dark spots and acne marks
Size: 1 oz/30 ml
Good To Know: Fragrance-free, vegan, cruelty-free
8. Dennis Gross Skincare Stress Rescue Super Serum
This one is formulated with adaptogens as well as antioxidants. It addresses the effects of oxidative stress and neutralizes free radical damage with antioxidant botanicals. With the help of niacinamide and adaptogens, it reduces redness and irritation.
The vegan serum promotes a healthier complexion with an even skin tone. It can help manage and calm sensitized, reactive skin. Plus, it’s packed with superfoods like acai and goji berries. And because it’s packed with such skin soothers, you can use this niacinamide serum to restore your skin when it’s irritated from over-exfoliation or retinol.
Key Ingredients: Niacinamide, goji extract, acai extract, ashwagandha
Key Benefits: Calms, replenishes dry skin, provides antioxidants
Size: 1 oz/30 ml
Good To Know: Cruelty-free, vegan
9. Glow Recipe Watermelon Glow Niacinamide Dew Drops
If there’s any skin type that could use the barrier-improving benefits of niacinamide, it’s dry skin. Even better if you get instantly luminous skin too. In case you haven’t noticed, most niacinamide serums are usually super lightweight. Serums are supposed to be that way. However, this one is pretty unique in that it’s a tad bit goopy and super moisturizing for the skin.
In addition to niacinamide, it has hyaluronic acid, mineral-rich watermelon extract, and moisture-boosting moringa oil. That’s why it’s so replenishing for dry skin. But this particular serum helps your makeup too. Because it leaves a dewy finish on the skin to give you what they call “glass skin”. So you can practically use this as a skin luminizer, illuminating primer, or a liquid highlighter. In that sense, it brightens your skin both instantly and in the long run.
Key Ingredients: Niacinamide, hyaluronic acid, moringa oil
Key Benefits: Boosts moisture, illuminates
Size: 1.35 oz/40 ml
Good To Know: Cruelty-free, vegan
10. La Roche Posay Retinol Face Serum With Vitamin B3
Well, it doesn’t get any more anti-aging than retinol. It’s the ultimate ingredient to tackle wrinkles and fine lines head-on. The anti-aging serum utilizes encapsulated retinol to avoid irritating your skin. Retinol boosts skin turnover and stimulates collagen production while niacinamide ensures brighter skin and an intact skin barrier resistant to retinol’s drying effects.
So if your skin is familiar with retinol or if you have mature, aging skin and you’re looking for a niacinamide serum for wrinkles, you can try this multi-tasker. The oil-free, non-comedogenic formula also contains hyaluronic acid to hydrate.
Key Ingredients: Niacinamide, retinol, hyaluronic acid
Key Benefits: Encourages skin turnover, softens wrinkles, reduces hyperpigmentation
Size: 1 oz/30 ml
Good To Know: Oil-free
So these are some of the best niacinamide serums out there. Niacinamide is a skin-friendly ingredient that effectively penetrates the skin without causing irritation. So you can enjoy glowing skin! If you want to try niacinamide but serums sound too much, try niacinamide creams for an even gentler approach.
- Wohlrab, J., & Kreft, D. (2014). Niacinamide – mechanisms of action and its topical use in dermatology. Skin pharmacology and physiology, 27(6), 311–315. https://doi.org/10.1159/000359974
- Gehring, W. (2004), Nicotinic acid/niacinamide and the skin. Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, 3: 88-93. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1473-2130.2004.00115.x
- Draelos, Z. D. (2015). Chapter 39: Topical vitamins: Vitamin B3 [E-book]. In Cosmetic Dermatology: Products and Procedures (2nd ed., p. 321). Wiley-Blackwell. https://doi.org/10.1002/9781118655566
- Hakozaki, T., Minwalla, L., Zhuang, J., Chhoa, M., Matsubara, A., Miyamoto, K., Greatens, A., Hillebrand, G., Bissett, D. and Boissy, R. (2002), The effect of niacinamide on reducing cutaneous pigmentation and suppression of melanosome transfer. British Journal of Dermatology, 147: 20-31. https://doi.org/10.1046/j.1365-2133.2002.04834.x
- Bissett, D.L., Miyamoto, K., Sun, P., Li, J. and Berge, C.A. (2004), Topical niacinamide reduces yellowing, wrinkling, red blotchiness, and hyperpigmented spots in aging facial skin. International Journal of Cosmetic Science, 26: 231-238. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-2494.2004.00228.x
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