The Miracle Skin Care Vitamin You’re Probably Not Using

Niacinamide: It’s an ingredient that you’ve probably seen lurking around many of product labels. And, while it may sound like chemistry soup, according to Dr. Diana Howard, vice president of research and development and global education for Dermalogica, this is the next big ingredient. “It is a vitamin that has excellent clinicals to substantiate its benefit in almost every skin condition,” she says. Here’s what you need to know to get the most out of it.

The Benefits
For starters, niacinamide offers major barrier protection to the skin. “Ceramides are important lipids found in the stratum corneum (outermost layer of skin). They are crucial to skin health because they are the ‘glue’ that hold skin cells together,” explains New York dermatologist Dennis Gross, MD. “The skin’s barrier serves to keep water in the skin and keep harmful environmental elements out of it. As we age, we lose moisture and the skin barrier can become compromised. Niacinamide improves ceramide synthesis, which strengthens the barrier function and prevents transepidermal water loss.

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Beyond that, studies have shown niacinamide to be soothing and an anti-inflammatory, proving beneficial in the treatment of rosacea. “It also has anti-acne benefits and studies have shown it actually outperforms some prescription acne treatments,” Dr. Gross says, adding that it also has the ability to reduce hyperpigmentation, because it inhibits melanosome transfer from melanocytes to keratinocytes. “In regards to acne, it actually can control the sebum production in skin,” Dr. Howard says. “It’s also been studied quite extensively for its impact on treating wrinkles and skin aging.”

What to Look For
Vitamin B, vitamin B3, niacin and niacinamide are often used interchangeably, and, while they are related, they still perform differently. “Vitamin B is a class of eight vitamins, niacin is vitamin B3 and niacinamide is the biologically active form of niacin,” Dr. Gross says. “Vitamin B is a coenzyme of vitamin A and helps in cell metabolism, so there is a strong synergy between retinol and niacinamide.”

Why It Works
According to Dr. Gross, niacinamide is one of the best-studied anti-aging ingredients with a strong safety profile. An added bonus: Because it has anti-inflammatory properties, as well as its barrier-strengthening properties, it is fairly tolerable in all skin types. So what’s next? “We’re going to see more and more of it popping up in skin care,” Dr. Howard says.