Niacin vs. Niacinamide — Which Is Better For Your Skin?

They both fall under the umbrella of vitamin B3.

Photo: Mattia Pelizzari/Stocksy

Just when you think you've memorized the entire glossary of skincare ingredients, some more decide to pop up. Case in point: niacinamide and niacin.

While they may have been flying under your radar up until now, they both have very interesting benefits.

Niacinamide and niacin are multitasking ingredients that fall under the umbrella vitamin B3. In medical circles, niacinamide is known for being extremely effective when it comes to treating acne, redness, hyperpigmentation, and signs of aging — plus it's compatible with all skin types. Niacin, on the other hand, is more popularly known in the wellness world for supporting cardiovascular health.

Since they're so similar in name and both derive from vitamin B3, it can be confusing to tell them apart. So, we turned to two skin experts to get all the answers to our questions and really break down the differences when it comes to niacin vs niacinamide.

What Is Niacinamide?

Niacinaminde is one of two forms of vitamin B3. It's a water-soluble nutrient, which means that works in conjunction with the natural substances in your skin, making it an extremely effective ingredient in skincare products for treating a number of conditions, such as eczema and rosacea.

"It's a super vitamin in the vitamin B family because it's multi-dimensional in terms of how it can support the skin," says Dr. Ava Shamban, a Los Angeles-based board-certified dermatologist and founder of SKIN FIVE Cosmetics and AVA MD Clinics.

What Is Niacin?

Niacin is the second form of vitamin B3 — the simplest form of it. Also known as nicotinic acid, it's also a water-soluble nutrient that works to boost the growth and development of the human body by converting food into energy, which then specifically improves circulation and reduces inflammation.

What Does Niacinamide Do for Your Skin?

This ingredient is unique because it's plays both offense and defense. "Niacinamide can help fight off environmental factors and and repair damages, plus fight back to reduce visible signs of aging," explains Dr. Shamban.

She adds that vitamin B3 works for a number of skincare concerns including large pores, uneven skin texture, fine lines, wrinkles, and hyperpigmentation.

Niacinamide also works wonders for extremely dry skin because it helps restore moisture loss and dehydration on the skin's surface. "The topical application of niacinamide has been shown to boost the hydrating ability of moisturizers and support retention capacity so the skin surface can better resist TEWL (transepidermal water loss)," says Dr. Shamban.

What Does Niacin Do For Your Skin?

When taken orally, niacin helps with cell energy and DNA repair. And, while it's less common that niacinamide, it can also benefit the skin when applied topically. Francine Krenicki, the head of R&D at StriVectin, shares that the brand has the only oil-soluble version of niacin on the market.

"Its origins were discovered by two skin cancer research scientists who saw the benefits of niacin and its effects on skin health," he says, going on to explain that their proprietary blend strengthens the skin barrier. "It also supercharges all of the other skincare actives in every formula it's in and has been shown to limit sensitivity common to retinol," he adds.

Considering how well niacin is at helping the body grow and repair itself, in skincare, it's a great ingredient to use post-sunburn or irritation.

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Who Should Use Niacin and Niacinamide?

Vitamin B3 is safe for all skin types and all ages — even those who suffer from inflammatory conditions like rosacea — due to its calming properties.

Dr. Shamban says you won't see instant results from using niacinamide, but typically, she finds that patients see a difference in their skin within 30 days or less. The same goes for niacin. (Hey, we're playing the long game here.)

How Do You Use Niacin and Niacinamide?

You can find niacinamide in a number of products from cleansers and toners to serums and moisturizers. Dr. Shamban recommends looking for formulations that also contain hyaluronic acid or squalane to get the benefits of vitamin B3 plus a boost of hydration.

"Without any contraindications, you can use multiple niacinamide products in any regimen — and everyday," explains the derm. "Niacinimide is like your super social friend, fun to add to any party and who gets along with everyone!" Just try The Ordinary's Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1% Oil Control Serum to see what the hype is about without breaking the bank.

If you're looking to lean into niacin, look no further than StriVectin's collection, notably the Peptight Tightening Neck Serum Roller and Super-C Retinol Brighten & Correct Vitamin C Serum. If you want a luxuriously moisturizing face cream, Crème de la Mer features niacin as one of its star ingredients.

Are There Any Skincare Ingredients to Avoid While Using Niacin or Niacinamide?

Thankfully, vitamin B3 is uniquely compatible with almost every skincare ingredient. "[They're] a great booster in that it supports tour products — therefore they'll work in tandem with advanced care products including those that contain retinol, peptides, any of the acids (hyaluronic acid, AHAs PHA's and BHA's), and other types of antioxidants," says Dr. Shamban.

While these may be the best ingredient missing from your current skincare routine, it's always best to consult your dermatologist if you're experiencing irritation from using them, or you're unsure of introducing new products into your routine.

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