Niacinamide is one of those skincare ingredients that seems to do just about everything and suits every skin type. It’s a great addition to any skincare routine whether your concern is pigmentation, rosacea, or anti-aging. But is niacinamide good for acne?
Yes, it absolutely is and here’s why…
What Is Niacinamide?
Niacinamide is a water-soluble form of vitamin B3 that acts as an antioxidant and has a wide-range of benefits for your skin, including:
- Reducing the appearance of enlarged pores
- Controlling oil production
- Reducing hyperpigmentation (dark marks, age spots, melasma, etc.)
- Brightening skin
- Reducing inflammation and redness
- Improving skin barrier strength by encouraging the natural production of ceramides.
- Boosting collagen production to improve fine lines and wrinkles
- Helping to protect skin from sun damage and skin cancer
What Causes Acne?
Acne is caused by multiple overlapping factors:
- Your hormones cause your oil glands to produce too much oil
- Your skin doesn’t exfoliate itself as well as it should do so you get a build up of dead skin cells on the surface of your skin which can clog your pores.
- A specific type of bacteria that lives within your pores (c.acnes – previously p.acnes) feeds off of your oil and, when there is a lot of oil, can multiply rapidly.
- The increase in bacteria causes inflammation which your body senses and sends in white blood cells to kill the bacteria.
Once the white blood cells have killed the bacteria they die and leave behind pus (pus is literally just dead white blood cells). Eventually your body absorbs this pus and the healing process begins.
There are different types of acne that can be classified as either inflammatory or non-inflammatory.
Non-inflammatory acne includes whiteheads and blackheads which form as a result of your pores becoming blocked. If the blockage is exposed to air, it oxidizes and turns a brown/black colour (blackhead) but if it’s not exposed to air then it just appears as a flesh-coloured bump (whitehead).
Inflammatory acne includes papules (red bumps), pustules (red bumps with visible pus), nodules (larger and deeper bumps that may be red or purple), and cysts (larger and deeper red bumps filled with pus). If you have a lot of nodules and cysts, over-the-counter (OTC) skincare may not be enough for you and you may need to see a dermatologist for prescription treatments instead. However, papules and pustules can often be treated effectively with OTC skincare products.
Is Niacinamide Good For Acne?
Niacinamide is a great skincare ingredient for treating acne as it targets three of the four main causes of acne – oiliness, bacteria, and inflammation. The only thing it doesn’t do is increase skin cell turnover.
Research has shown that niacinamide can significantly reduce the number of inflammatory and non-inflammatory spots and pimples when used over an eight-week period. It’s also more effective at treating acne than a commonly used topical antibiotic (clindamycin).
Niacinamide at strengths as low as 2% can reduce oiliness in as little as two-weeks of use.
It can also target indirect causes of acne.
For example, acne is associated with skin barrier damage and reduced ceramide levels. Niacinamide can strengthen your skin’s barrier by encouraging the natural production of ceramides, cholesterol, and fatty acids.
It also pairs really well with a number of other beneficial skincare ingredients, including:
- Hyaluronic acid
- Salicylic acid
- Glycolic acid
- Azelaic acid
- N-acetyl glucosamine (NAG)
In fact, it pairs pretty well with most skincare ingredients.
How To Use Niacinamide For Acne
Niacinamide can be used 1-2x daily and is ideally used at strengths of 2-5%. It’s available as a prescription treatment as well.
In order to target all four causes of acne, niacinamide should, ideally, be paired with an ingredient that increases skin cell turnover (e.g. retinol or salicylic acid).
Here’s how an acne routine containing niacinamide could look:
- Cleanse, niacinamide serum, retinol moisturizer (PM), (sunscreen if AM)
- Salicylic acid cleanser, niacinamide serum, moisturizer, (sunscreen if AM)
- Cleanser, salicylic acid serum, niacinamide moisturizer, (sunscreen if AM)
- Cleanser, niacinamide serum, azelaic acid serum, moisturizer, (sunscreen if AM)
However, there are plenty of other ways that you can incorporate niacinamide into an acne skincare regime.
Summary – Is Niacinamide Good For Acne?
Niacinamide is an excellent skincare ingredient for acne and targets three of the main four causes. It can also help strengthen your skin barrier which is often damaged in acne-prone skin. You can get the most out of using niacinamide for acne by combining it with a chemical exfoliant or retinoid.