What is niacinamide (aka vitamin B3) and how does it work?

Niacinamide is a beauty buzzword—find out why it's a skincare hero

Hands holding beauty serum against pink background
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Niacinamide, also called vitamin B3, has become something of a beauty buzzword in recent years. Why? Well, it's reportedly good for almost all skin types, has amazing versatility and despite being a relative newbie in the skincare market, has already been included in many skin creams and ointments.

This guide will tell you all about niacinamide, what it is, the benefits how to use it, and what to look for when buying products containing it as an active ingredient. Niacinamide is a vitamin that is not naturally produced by your body, but you still should always be careful with any new product and ensure you are using it correctly.

What is niacinamide?

Board-certified dermatologist and dermatological surgeon Jennifer Herrmann, MD, advocates its use to her patients "When we think about skin benefits and vitamin B3, we're referring to a specific form of B3 (an amide) called nicotinamide [also known as niacinamide]. Nicotinamide is an essential water-soluble vitamin, which is not synthesized in the body, meaning we have to eat it to receive its benefits," says Herrmann. 

This is why you find niacinamide in skincare products since our body doesn't produce it independently. The only way to reap the benefits of this vitamin is to take it as a supplement or use it as part of a toning cream or ointment.

What are the benefits of niacinamide?

Debra Jaliman, MD. touts the many benefits of niacinamide. The vitamin works with the natural substances in your skin to help make enlarged pores smaller, tighten slack pores, make uneven skin tones less visible, erase fine lines and wrinkles, and get your skin looking vibrant all over. Environmental damage to our skin is a constant threat. Niacinamide lessens this problem by improving the skin's natural defenses and assisting it in repairing past damage.

Niacinamide has other benefits, including:

  • It's mild and can be used by people with sensitive or rosacea-prone skin.
  • It enables the skin to produce ceramides, a natural skin-strengthening chemical that depletes over time.
  • Niacinamide naturally boosts other moisturizers causing them to work better and last longer.
  • It uses the body's defenses to regulate pores, preventing your pores from getting clogged and producing pimples.
  • Niacinamide stops melanin from gathering on your skin's surface. Not only does this ensure that dark blotches don't show up on your skin, but it also breaks down discolorations that already may be there.

Does niacinamide have side effects?

Niacinamide is a powerful ingredient and should be used in low concentrations of one to two percent. Higher concentrations can irritate the skin leading to redness, rashes, and in the worst cases, dermatitis. Always use any product containing niacinamide as directed.

When do you use niacinamide?

Niacinamide has many properties that make it perfect for many applications, which is why it is showing up in more and more beauty products. Herrmann explains that it is excellent for people with enlarged pores or pores that are constantly getting infected. It naturally regulates pore size, allowing your body to shrink your pores back to normal.

UV rays damage the skin, but niacinamide works with the skin's natural defenses to lessen the impact of UV rays. That means the sun causes less damage and produces fewer wrinkles. This is why niacinamide is often found in sunblock. It also works to heal the damage that past exposure to the sun has already done to your skin.

Many dermatologists prescribe niacinamide to their patients with sensitive skin constantly turning red or patients with rosacea. Niacinamide is very mild and increases the effects of moisturizers keeping your skin from getting irritated and flaking.

As you get older, it becomes harder for your skin to produce ceramides, which naturally smooth your skin; niacinamide increases ceramide production, so your skin continues to look young. Uneven skin is also caused by aging, and niacinamide naturally lessens melanin production, evening out your skin and stopping age spots from forming. It can even dissolve age spots that have already formed, revitalizing your skin.

How do you use and apply niacinamide?

Our skin is naturally smart and doesn't easily allow creams and ointments to penetrate the dermis where it can begin to work, so you want to make sure that the beauty product you are using has the technology to get past the outer layer of your skin.

You want to look for products with scientific studies backing them up, so you know that they will penetrate your skin and contain proper substance concentrations. The best time to use niacinamide is in the morning, especially on sunny days due to its UV protection properties. The important thing is always to use the product as directed, or it could damage your skin.

Eunice Lucero-Lee
Eunice Lucero-Lee

Eunice Lucero-Lee is the Beauty Channel Editor for woman&home. A lifelong creative writer and beautyphile, she graduated from De La Salle University in 2002 and was hired a year later to front all beauty coverage for Pink Magazine, a teen lifestyle publication, after submitting a page-long thesis on why Stila was the best brand to come out of the Aughts. She was hired an hour later. 


Her writing—which has since then expanded to cover pop culture and astrology, both equal passions—led her to spearheading columns in Chalk Magazine, K-Mag, Metro Working Mom, and SugarSugar Magazine. Upon receiving her stripes at New York University’s Summer Publishing Institute in 2008 she was immediately headhunted to work as the Beauty Editor, thereafter Managing Editor of Stylebible.ph, the digital home of Preview, the Philippines’ best-selling fashion magazine, where she also did double-duty as Associate Editor of the print edition.


It was during this stint that the hallyu wave started taking hold and when she was tapped to co-found Sparkling, Asia’s first-ever English K-Pop print magazine. Originally planned as a one-off, the project became a runaway hit and saw her taking Korean classes on the weekends for three years, as she found herself frustrated by the lack of breadth translators provided for celebrity profile coverage. She was Editor-in-Chief until her move to New York in 2013. The now-iconic magazine has remained in publication since 2009 due to massive fan support.


A beauty, astrology, and pop culture obsessive and insider for over 18 years, Eunice is an internationally published editor (and now certified astrologer) whose work has been featured in publications such as Cosmopolitan, Esquire, and The Numinous, among many others. The former Editor-in-Chief of All Things Hair and a (very) proud cat mom, she spends her time in Manhattan figuring out the correct Pilates-to-sushi ratio, obsessing over celebrity natal charts, luxury skincare, and Scandi-noir crime procedurals, as well as finding the perfect K-Pop vid to save the day. She can still order drinks perfectly in Korean. Find her on Instagram @eunichiban.