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Everything you need to know about niacinamide as told by a scientist

The latest active ingredient heralded by the skincare industry is niacinamide. And if you've read anything so far, you'll know that this particular ingredient is getting rave reviews. It's been attributed to reduced oiliness, smaller pore size and brighter more vibrant skin. But are these claims factual?

Before jumping into the waters of a new skincare product or active ingredient, it's important to know if this will actually work for you. And, if it will actually work at all. For example, Vitamin C is an ingredient that is highly unstable, so although the benefits are proven, it doesn't work when combined with certain other actives.

Here at RUSSH we love the science of skincare and we like to know exactly what we're jumping into before exploring a new routine. So, we spoke to a scientist.

Joao Paulino is a senior product developer at Swisse. Joao has a background in Pharmaceutical Sciences and has been working in the Pharmaceutical, Wellness and Beauty industries for eight years. And he, along with Marian Jayalath Swisse's science communication lead, was kind enough to answer all our questions on niacinamide and exactly how it works.


What does niacinamide do to the skin?

Research suggests niacinamide has several topical benefits.

To improve the appearance of dark spots;

  • A study by Hakozaki et al. 2002 found topical niacinamide reduced dark spots in 4-8 weeks.

To improve hydration of the skin;

  • Ceramides are known to play a role in maintaining skin barrier function, therefore a decrease in ceramide function can affect skin integrity. In human cell studies it has been shown niacinamide can induce ceramide synthesis.
  • Tanno et al. 2000 observed in humans topical niacinamide was able to reduce water loss from the skin and improve skin barrier function.

To improve the appearance of ageing skin;

  • In addition to hydrating the skin, a study by Bissett et al. 2005 saw over 12 weeks topical niacinamide used on ageing skin was able to improve clinical signs of photoaging including the appearance of skin wrinkles and elasticity.


Who should be using niacinamide? Mature skin? Young skin?

Research suggests that niacinamide used in ageing skin may have improved outcomes. However, with its vast topical benefits incorporating niacinamide in your skincare regimen early is a good strategy to help improve premature signs of skin ageing, provided with adequate sun protection as well.


What's the best way to incorporate niacinamide into your routine? 

Niacinamide is generally quite stable and can be incorporated into multiple different formats for topical use (creams, lotions, serums, toners, even SPF) – A good way to use would be in a daily moisturiser, for instance, such as the Swisse Vitamin B3 Blemish Controlling Moisturiser.


Is it best to use in the morning? Or the evening?

You’ll still enjoy the many benefits of niacinamide regardless of what time of day you use it. In fact, most skin types are quite tolerant to this ingredient which means you can even get away with using it twice a day.


Are there any other products that are great to pair with niacinamide?

Living in a climate with exposure to strong UV rays like in Australia, using an SPF daily along with niacinamide containing products will further support its proposed skin benefits. Also look out for niacinamide combined with ingredients like glycerine for it hydrating properties and Salicylic acid for its proven benefits to prevent skin blemishes.


Are there any actives you should avoid pairing it with?

Niacinamide is generally regarded as a highly stable and compatible ingredient, which means combining it with other actives isn’t usually an issue. It is known, however that when together, Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid) and niacinamide can form a complex called niacinamide Ascorbate – which has a noticeable yellow colour. This shouldn’t be a cause of concern for skincare users considering this complex is still efficacious and easily reversible. It’s also very important for skincare brands (and manufacturers) to be mindful of the pH of the overall formulation when combining them, to ensure you’re getting the best out of these two superstar ingredients.


So, with all that in mind, what is niacinamide?

Niacinamide, also known as Nicotinamide, is the physiologically active form of niacin or Vitamin B3. It is a water-soluble vitamin that is not stored in the body. The main source of Vitamin B3 in the diet is in the form of nicotinamide, nicotinic acid, and tryptophan.

Meat, fish and wheat are particularly rich sources of nicotinamide (Rolfe 2014), with the recommended daily intake of Vitamin B3 in niacin equivalent to 16mg/day in Men and 14mg/day in Women1 . niacinamide is essential to the co-enzymes NADH and NADPH, which are involved in over 200 enzymatic reaction in the body (Rolfe 2014).

Niacinamide is mainly involved in the cellular energy metabolism and DNA repair (Bains et al. 2018). From this understanding of its role, it has been suggested that topical application of niacinamide can promote a broad spectrum of activity to balance skin homeostasis (the state of steady internal, physical, and chemical conditions maintained by living systems).

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Written by: Marian Jayalath – Swisse Science Communications

Joao Paulino – Swisse Senior Product Development


1. Australian Government National Health and Medical Research Council 2014, Nutrient Reference Value for Australia and New Zealand - Niacin, Australian Government National Health and Medical Research Council, retrieved 16 June 2020, <>

2. Rolfe, HM 2014, ‘A review of nicotinamide: treatment of skin diseases and potential side effects’, Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, vol. 12, pp. 324-328, doi:

3. Bains, P, Kaur, M, Kuar, J and Sharma, S 2018, ‘Nicotinamide: Mechanism of action and indications in dermatology’, Indian Journal of Dermatology, vol. 84, no. 2, pp 234-237, DOI: 10.4103/ijdvl.IJDVL_286_17

4. Hakozaki, T, Minwalla, L, Zhuang, J, Chhloa, M, Matsubara, A, Miyamoto, K, Greatens, A, Hillebrand, GG, Bissett, DL & Boissy, RE 2002, ‘The Effect of Niacinamide on Reducing Cutaneous Pigmentation and Suppression of Melanosome Transfer’, Br J Dermatol, vol. 147, no. 1, pp. 20-32, doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2133.2002.04834.x.

5. Tanno, O, Ota, Y, Kitamura, N, Katsube, T, Inoue, S 2000, ‘Nicotinamide increases biosynthesis of ceramides as well as other stratum corneum lipids to improve the epidermal permeability barrier’, Br J Dermatol, vol. 143, no. 3, pp. 524-531, doi:10.1111/j.1365- 2133.2000.03705.x

6. Bissett, DL, Oblong, JE, Berge, CA 2005, ‘Niacinamide: A B vitamin that improves aging facial skin appearance’, Dermatol Surg, vol. 31, pp. 860-865, doi:10.1111/j.1524-4725.2005.31732