Niacinamide is a medication that’s available in both oral (tablet) and topical (cream, serum, or gel) forms. You might have heard of it referred to as nicotinamide or nicotinic acid amide, but when used in skincare it’s most commonly referred to as niacinamide .
This ingredient has an excellent reputation within skincare and for good reason: it can do almost anything. It’s often used to combat the signs of ageing, as it can increase skin brightness and elasticity while reducing fine lines and wrinkles, but it has also been used to fight everything from acne to eczema.
Here's everything you need to know about niacinamide and what it can do for your skin.
The benefits of niacinamide for skin
Exactly how niacinamide works its magic is something that scientists are still trying to figure out.
One major theory is that niacinamide can stop — and even repair — damage done to the skin by free radicals, which are atoms or molecules that have an uneven number of electrons .
Electrons normally like to exist in pairs, so when a free radical emerges, it will seek out other atoms and molecules to steal an electron from so it can even itself out.
Free radicals are sometimes created by the body as it goes through its normal metabolic processes, but they can also be generated in larger amounts by outside sources like cigarette smoke, pollution, chemicals, and the sun.
When we have an excess of free radicals, our skin can experience oxidative stress, which occurs when the free radicals start taking electrons from our cells to restore their balance .
This damages healthy skin cells and speeds up the ageing process exponentially . It has been suggested that part of the reason niacinamide is so effective at reducing the appearance of aged skin is that it’s an antioxidant: that is, a chemical that can donate an extra electron to free radicals without becoming a free radical itself .
That’s not all niacinamide can do, though. It can also:
- Boost the outermost, protective layer of our skin by increasing the production of ceramides and lipids
- Improve skin texture and elasticity, as well as reduce fine lines and wrinkles by increasing collagen production
- Decrease blotchiness, hyperpigmentation, redness, and sallowness of the skin
- Help treat acne by reducing sebum production and retaining skin moisture while reducing oiliness
No wonder it has such a good reputation!
Who is it right for?
Niacinamide is right for anyone who has acne, ageing skin, dull skin, dry skin, or oily skin  . So, basically everyone.
As a gentle skincare ingredient, topical niacinamide has very few side effects and skin irritation after usage is rare, which means it’s an excellent choice for people who have sensitive skin. It’s also highly compatible with many other medications, ingredients, and skincare products.
Niacinamide can be a great bacterial acne treatment for people who are unable to take antibiotics like clindamycin. One study showed that applying a moisturiser containing this powerful ingredient prior to treating skin with topical retinoids reduced irritation (when compared to a moisturiser without it) .
Of course, as with every medication and skincare ingredient, negative reactions are possible — but in the case of niacinamide, very unlikely.
If you have particularly sensitive skin you can try using this ingredient every other day and building up to daily usage. Alternatively, you can opt for a product with a lower concentration of niacinamide: some products have up to 10% niacinamide, but 2-5% will also be effective .
Software's prescription treatments often include niacinamide, for all the benefits we listed before. If you're looking to treat skin concerns like ageing, acne or pigmentation, you can simply fill out our text-based questionnaire and find out if niacinamide is right for you.
Can you use it with other active ingredients?
Yes, niacinamide works wonders when paired with certain active ingredients. However, there are also combinations that you should avoid.
Starting with the derm-approved pairings, you can use niacinamide with:
- Azelaic acid: This helps brighten up the skin and reduce redness and inflammation. These ingredients are so compatible that they’re regularly combined in over-the-counter products
- Retinol: Cares for mature skin, minimises irritation, and restores an uneven skin tone 
- Hyaluronic acid: To maintain skin barrier function and promote hydrated skin
- Salicylic acid: To deal with increased oil production and decreased collagen production
- Vitamin C: To brighten up the skin and improve overall skin health
As for what not to use with niacinamide:
When combined with these acids, niacinamide can lead to a chemical reaction that includes redness and flushing.
How to use niacinamide for skin
Topical niacinamide is applied to the face the same way you’d apply any other lotion.
While it’s true that niacinamide can decrease things like oiliness and dryness while increasing skin moisture, you’ll still want to make it a part of your skincare routine (rather than the only step):
- Start by washing your hands to avoid scrubbing bacteria into your skin
- Apply a cleanser, followed by a toner. Hypo-allergenic, non-comedogenic, and oil-free products are best, as they will reduce the chance of a negative reaction with your skin, help prevent comedones (clogged pores), and won’t add any oil to your face
- Apply the niacinamide. You won’t need heaps — a dollop of product about the size of a 5-cent piece should be plenty unless you’ve been recommended otherwise by your health practitioner or dermatologist. Note that you should apply niacinamide to your entire face, not just where you notice acne or fine wrinkles. Just make sure you avoid the sensitive skin of your eyelids and lips
- Finish off with a moisturiser for extra skin hydration. Software's Ceramide Repair Balm is suitable for all skin types, and it promises to replenish the skin barrier, reduce redness and irritation, and protect against free radicals
If it’s the beginning of the day, don’t forget to top all of this off with sunscreen that provides at least SPF30+ protection. Software's Daily Sun Defence SPF50+ is an excellent choice for everyday wear, filtering out 98% of UV rays.
As for oral niacinamide, it is taken in tablet form. Keep in mind that taking niacinamide more often won’t accelerate its effects, so you should always follow the instructions given by your doctor or dermatologist about how frequently to take these tablets.
What can I expect?
Niacinamide takes between 8-12 weeks to really show an effect, but you might start to see changes in your skin within a week or 2 of beginning treatment.
Over time, you may notice a decrease in sebum production, which can help reduce acne, a decrease in the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, an increase in skin brightness, some pore shrinkage, and a reduction in skin redness and sallowness.
Niacinamide can do a lot for your skin, but it’s not a ‘set and forget’ ingredient. It needs to be used regularly to make sure you can achieve and maintain the kind of skin you want.
So, once you start to notice the results, take it as confirmation that it works and keep using it. You might also choose to keep using niacinamide, in a lower concentration, once your desired skin effect is achieved.
There’s no limit on how long you can keep using niacinamide — this is an ingredient you can plan to keep in your skincare routine for months and even years. Just make sure to keep up regular usage, and watch your skin shine!