The 6 best niacinamide serums to boost hydration and strengthen your skin's barrier - as tested by beauty experts

The best niacinamide serums to easily incorporate the versatile ingredient into your routine

A selection of the best niacinamide serums for La Roche-Posay, Beauty Pie, Clarins and Vichy/ in a pastel pink textured template
(Image credit: (L to R) La Roche-Posay, Beauty Pie, Clarins and Vichy)

Murmurings of the best niacinamide serums have likely reached your ears, but if you're unsure of what the ingredient does or even what brand to opt for, our beauty team is a fountain of knowledge...

If you were asked to name a powerhouse skincare ingredient, you’d probably say either retinol, vitamin C or possibly hyaluronic acid (with the best hyaluronic acid serums likely already featuring in your routine) - all of which do a brilliant job at targeting specific skin concerns. However, there's another, lesser talked about luminary that does just about anything and everything we’d look for in a skincare product; niacinamide. Let’s think of it as the winner of the best supporting actor role; it's not extrovert or desperate for the limelight, instead it’s quietly doing an incredible job at transforming our skin without any fuss or aggravation.

So, with the help of some skincare experts, we delve deeper into the what, the how and the why behind the best niacinamide serums - and which formulas specifically, are worth investing in...

The 6 best niacinamide serums to add to your stash, vetted by beauty experts

Why you can trust Woman & Home Our expert reviewers spend hours testing and comparing products and services so you can choose the best for you. Find out more about how we test.

How we tested the best niacinamide serums

To edit down our recommendations for niacinamide serums (and one cream!) we looked for products with a range of concentrations from 2% up to 12% - this allowed us to see the results of varying percentages. Added humectants, like hyaluronic acid and vitamin E, are positive additions to niacinamide serums, too. Those with low synthetic fragrance and low in silicone were favoured as well.

Meet the testers
Charley Williams-Howitt
Meet the testers
Charley Williams-Howitt

Charley Williams-Howitt is a beauty editor with over 20 years of experience. Like a lot of people, she is a recent convert to niacinamide. Since turning forty, she has noticed a lot more redness and pigmentation on certain parts of her face, as well as dryness that hasn’t been shown itself previously. She is always on the lookout for super hydrating products that go the extra mile.

What is niacinamide?

To avoid any classic niacinamide mistakes, it's important to know exactly what the ingredient is and equally, what it does.

“Niacinamide is a form of Vitamin B3,” explains Dr. Cunningham, Consultant Dermatologist at Skin + Me. “It’s a vitamin that’s beneficial for our bodies inside as part of a healthy diet (niacin is found in foods such as grains, fish, meat and beans and converts to niacinamide when eaten) and keeps our skin healthy on the outside when applied topically.”

It does this, according to Dr Ahmed El Muntasar, a GP and award-winning aesthetician, “by helping build up some proteins, useful proteins in the skin, plus, it helps maintain hydration and it protects your skin from the environment that we're in, including the damaging effects of pollution and the sun.”

Why is niacinamide so popular?

Niacinamide has a throng of skincare benefits, such as soothing fine lines and wrinkles, boosting skin’s elasticity and reducing signs of environmental damage.

“It's an all-round crowd-pleaser,” says Dr. Sam Bunting. “Versatile, well-tolerated and it’s actually a dream to formulate as it doesn't need any special treatment.”

The popularity of niacinamide could also be due to the fact that now, we are much more aware of the importance of supporting our skin barrier. Not only does niacinamide help to strengthen this barrier, but because it gets along with other actives, such as retinol and alpha hydroxy acids, it allows our skin to tolerate these ingredients better.

What are the benefits of niacinamide?

How long have you got?! If ever there was an ingredient all-rounder, this is it. “From improving skin texture and tone to enhancing the skin barrier function to diminishing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles,” enthuses Dr. Cunningham.

It can also help with increasing skin’s tolerance to topical retinoids, according to Dr. Bunting, and she suggests using niacinamide before starting a retinoid if you have sensitive skin. Plus, she adds. “This is a great way to help improve compliance with retinoids in acne sufferers who also have a tendency to dry, sensitive skin.”

Who can use niacinamide?

Niacinamide has extensive advantages and is just about universally effective for every skin type. “It’s suitable for all ages – from teens through to those with mature skin,” agrees Dr. Bunting. “It’s a fantastic all-rounder that’s brilliantly well-tolerated so most people can benefit from it.”

Plus, adds Dr. Cunningham, “it is more gentle than retinol and retinoids in terms of its skin-ageing benefits and is safe to use during pregnancy.”

How much niacinamide do we need?

According to Clarins, while niacinamide is highly tolerated and best for all skin types, it can be found in varying concentrations, with 10% being the highest. As a result, it may lead some to skin irritations, while a concentration that is too low will have minimal effect.

Dermatologists recommend starting at around 2-3% and working up to a maximum of 10% depending on how your skin reacts to it. In regards to when to apply, Dr. Bunting says that, “niacinamide can be used at any time of day. It can be built into sunscreen in the morning and it can be used in a serum format at night.”

Any precautions before using niacinamide?

Niacinamide is generally quite a good ingredient for your skin. However, Dr Ahmed El Muntasar advises to be careful not to over-hydrate your skin.

“Sometimes people can use niacinamide, hyaluronic acid, ceramides and all these different hydration products, thinking that ‘hydration, hydration’ is always a good thing. “However, if you're acne -prone, that could be quite bad because that can actually break you out. So too much of a good thing, could be a bad thing.”

Charley Williams-Howitt

Charley Williams-Howitt has over 20 years of experience working in the beauty industry. As well as previously writing for lifestyle titles, such as woman&home, Woman and Woman's Weekly, Charley has worked for British institutions like Marks and Spencer, John Lewis, and Superdrug creating visual and editorial content cross-platform. Starting her career in the fashion cupboard at Cosmopolitan magazine, she eventually escaped the piles of clothes to discover a world of makeup, moisturizers, and models.