Niacinamide is a form of vitamin B3 that can treat pellagra, boost skin health, smooth out wrinkles, and prevent skin cancer. But how much is it too much? Keep reading to find out how to safely use this vitamin.
What is Niacinamide?
A Variation of Vitamin B3
This article will only cover niacinamide.
How It Works
Niacinamide is a water-soluble vitamin that can be found in animal products (such as meat and poultry) and raw cereals (not processed), but it is also available as a supplement .
Main food sources of niacinamide :
|Food source||Niacinamide content (mg/100 gr)|
|Beans, rice, potatoes||10|
Relevance for Health
A vitamin B3 deficiency can lead to pellagra, which can cause 4 “Ds”: diarrhea, dermatitis, dementia, and death. Niacinamide is the preferred option for treating pellagra as it does not cause skin flushing, a common adverse effect of niacin [5, 6].
The benefits of niacinamide are not limited to the skin. This vitamin also lowers high phosphate levels and delays the progression of type 1 diabetes. Lastly, it may help relieve anxiety and improve joint health in people with arthritis [9, 10, 11, 12, 13].
- Fights skin inflammation, acne, rosacea, and psoriasis
- Reduces dark spots (skin hyperpigmentation)
- Delays skin aging
- May prevent skin cancer
- May prevent the worsening of diabetes
- Lowers high phosphate levels
- May protect the brain
- May improve arthritis
- Mild skin adverse effects (itching)
- Mild oral adverse effects (nausea)
- May lower platelets
1) Fights Skin Inflammation & Acne
Niacinamide helps with a range of skin conditions. Based on cellular studies, it might soothe irritated and inflamed skin by lowering inflammatory compounds (including NF-kB, IL-1, IL-6, TNF-a, and IL-12) [6, 15].
One of the causes of acne is excess sebum production, which makes skin oily. Topical niacinamide lowered skin oil production in 50 Japanese people and decreased skin sebum levels in 50 Caucasian people [17, 18, 19].
On the other hand, some people with acne struggle with dry, damaged skin. Topical niacinamide increases beneficial skin lipids called ceramides. In turn, it strengthens the skin barrier, moisturizes the skin, and reduces water loss [20, 21, 22, 23, 24].
In a clinical study on 28 people with dry skin, niacinamide cream decreased water loss and increased hydration in the outer skin layer (stratum corneum) better than white petrolatum [20, 21, 22, 23, 24].
Oral niacinamide combined with zinc, copper, azelaic acid, pyridoxine, and folic acid also reduced acne severity and improved overall skin appearance in a clinical study on 235 people. The same product improved both acne and rosacea in another clinical study on 198 people [28, 29].
A topical gel containing niacinamide reduced skin peeling, redness, lesions, and irritation while increasing hydration and the skin barrier health in clinical studies of over 75 people with rosacea [33, 34].
Topical niacinamide together with a synthetic form of vitamin D (calcipotriol) improved psoriasis in 50% of the cases in a clinical study on 66 people, compared to a 19% response with placebo .
2) Improves Dark Skin Patches
Melanocytes, cells that produce the skin pigment melanin, work in the deep layers of the skin. They store melanin in so-called melanosomes to transfer it to the outer skin cells (keratinocytes), which gives skin its color. Melanin build-up in the skin causes dark spots or patches (hyperpigmentation) .
Two clinical studies support the use of niacinamide for skin lightening. In over 160 people with dark patches on the face, topical niacinamide reduced skin pigmentation, inflammation, and premature aging [41, 40].
In two other studies, researchers tested niacinamide in combination with other skin-lightening substances. It’s hard to tease apart its contribution.
In the first study, a serum containing 5% niacinamide and tranexamic acid (a synthetic derivative of the amino acid lysine) improved skin tone evenness and texture in clinical studies with over 97 women with hyperpigmentation [42, 43].
3) Delays Skin Aging
Niacinamide stimulates the production of collagen and protective proteins (keratin, filaggrin, and involucrin), which give structure and elasticity to the skin. It may help smooth out wrinkles and prevent premature skin aging from UV rays (photoaging) [45, 46, 47].
Topical creams with niacinamide and other herbs and vitamins (retinol, resveratrol, safflower, vitamin E, kinetin, and others) reduced the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines. This combination also improved skin clarity, evenness, radiance, and smoothness [53, 54, 55, 56].
4) May Prevent Skin Cancer
Nonmelanoma skin cancer is caused by UV radiation, which can damage the DNA in skin cells and reduce their immune function. The most aggressive forms include squamous cell carcinoma, and actinic keratoses [57, 58].
In a clinical study of 386 people at a high risk of skin cancer, oral niacinamide reduced the rate of nonmelanoma skin cancer by 23% compared to placebo after 12 months. It also decreased the rate of new squamous-cell carcinomas by 30% and actinic keratoses by 13% compared to placebo [59, 60].
In another clinical study of 74 people with skin cancer, oral niacinamide decreased actinic keratoses compared to placebo .
In both human cells and mice, topical and oral niacinamide enhanced DNA repair and prevented UV-triggered immune suppression. It also reduced the growth, spread, and survival of melanoma cancer cells [62, 63, 58, 64, 65, 66, 67, 68, 69].
5) Reduces High Phosphate Levels
In clinical studies with more than 450 adults and 60 children with kidney disease, oral niacinamide decreased high blood phosphate and increased the “good” HDL cholesterol without changing calcium levels [73, 74, 75, 76, 77, 78, 79, 72].
6) May Prevent Diabetes Progression
In clinical studies with over 343 adults and 300 children with type 1 diabetes, adding niacinamide to insulin therapy maintained normal C-peptide levels. It preserved the function of beta cells and helped delay disease progression [82, 13, 83, 84, 85].
Lastly, niacinamide also improved C-peptide and blood sugar levels in another small study of 18 people with type 2 diabetes .
7) May Protect the Brain
In rats, niacinamide reduced brain damage and improved recovery after stroke. In mice, it decreased the expression of a gene linked to Alzheimer’s disease (PSER1), while restoring cognition and improving memory [95, 96, 97, 98].
8) May Help with Osteoarthritis
In a clinical study on 72 people with osteoarthritis, niacinamide improved joint movement, lowered inflammation, and decreased the use of anti-inflammatory drugs compared to placebo .
9) May Improve Cancer Survival
In clinical studies with 446 people with cancer of the larynx and 333 people with bladder cancer, radiotherapy combined with niacinamide and carbogen improved survival rates and decreased cancer recurrence [104, 105, 106].
Since carbogen itself makes tumors more sensitive to radiotherapy, it’s unclear if niacinamide contributed to the effect .
Niacinamide Side Effects & Safety
- Skin redness
- Watery stools
Niacinamide Supplements & Creams
Dosage & How to Use
- Acne: Nicomide tablets (750 mg of niacinamide, zinc 25 mg, copper 1.5 mg, folic acid 500 mcg) once, twice or 3 times a day. Another option is NicAzel tablets (nicotinamide 600 mg, azelaic acid 5 mg, zinc 10 mg, pyridoxine 5 mg, copper 1.5 mg, and folic acid 500 mcg) up to 4 tablets daily .
- Pellagra: 300-500 mg niacinamide daily .
- Skin cancer prevention: 500 mg niacinamide tablets once or twice daily [61, 59].
- Diabetes: 25-50 mg/kg niacinamide tablets or capsules daily for delaying the progression of type 1 diabetes .
- Reducing high phosphate levels: 500 mg up to 1.75 gr daily niacinamide capsules for 8-24 weeks in people with kidney disease .
- Osteoarthritis: 3 g of niacinamide daily for up to 12 weeks .
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Niacinamide is a form of vitamin B3 that supports cell repair, immune function, and energy use in the body.
Taken orally, it supports skin health, slows the progression of diabetes, and may have benefits for mental health. Unlike regular vitamin B3, niacinamide doesn’t cause flushing. Avoid high doses, as they may damage the liver.
The most popular and well-researched use of niacin is for skin health. Niacinamide is formulated into serums, creams, and gels that improve acne, skin inflammation, dark spots, and wrinkles. If you want to give your skin a more healthy and youthful look, go for high-quality products that contain up to 5% niacinamide.