When it comes to beauty life goals, it seems that finding the perfect red lipstick or mastering beach waves pales in comparison to the importance of achieving flawless skin. I spoke with Dr. Frauke Neuser, P&G principal scientist, global skin and personal care, and asked her what the scientific equation was for complexion perfection.
“It’s never just about sleeping eight hours, using a product, or having the right genes — life is more complex than that,” Frauke explained. “Despite this caveat, there are definitely a couple of really great skin care ingredients. If you use them and you do everything else right, you will have fantastic skin.” So, you know that you should be wearing sunscreen and never smoke, but what ingredients are going to give you model-worthy skin? Don’t look to retinol.
While many dermatologists would say that it’s the top antiaging ingredient, Frauke is not convinced. “I’m not a big fan. There are people that we call ‘retinol nonresponders,’ who get zero benefit.” While getting no rewards out of using your skin care, it could be worse: she said that other people have really bad reactions to it, like serious breakouts, itching, and redness. Instead, Frauke suggested an ingredient you aren’t using to get brighter, more beautiful skin.
The magic ingredient is niacinamide, also known as vitamin B3 and nicotinic acid. If you’re not sure if it’s right for you, trust us — it’s a total powerhouse. It brightens skin tone, fades discoloration, and improves elasticity. It even fades those red marks left behind by a bad breakout. “There is a lot of research that says it’s good for overall aging,” explained Frauke, adding that their niacinamide researcher faithfully takes supplements of the ingredient because of its powerful benefits.
To B or not to B… Niacinamide is the question. This fancy form of vitamin B3 crops up in many heavy-hitting anti-aging ingredients. Yet rarely, except in the case of brands such as NIA-24 or Olay Pro-X, does it take center stage. So I got to wondering if it is indispensable or merely somewhat useful as part of our anti-aging arsenals.
Niacin, vitamin B3, is in beets, leafy vegetables, eggs, poultry and tuna. Once in the body, it converts to niacinamide. There, it becomes a precurser of the co-enzymes NADH and NADPH. These enzymes are essential for cell-energy production and lipid synthesis. Unfortunately, levels decline with age. Fortunately, niancinamide is proven to reverse that decline. The nomenclature can get a bit confusing. Niacinamide is also known as nicotinamide, and niacin is also known as nicotinic acid. Nia-24, an anti-aging skincare range, majors on a proprietary form of niacin called Pro-Niacin. Still, it all boils down to
So what’s so good about it? Actually a lot. Niancinamide is a Herculean multitasker that tackles wrinkles, uneven skin tone, acne, melasma and hyperpigmentation. And there’s a ton of research to back up claims.
Niacinamide for Wrinkles
According to the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, niacinamide leads to an increase in protein synthesis (e.g. keratin), has a stimulating effect on ceramide synthesis and on aging skin, improves the surface structure, smooths out wrinkles and inhibits photocarcinogenesis. A 2003 study on 50 women aged 40 to 60 added niacinamide at 5% to a moisturizer and found “significant improvements” to fine lines, wrinkles, hyperpigmentation spots, texture, and red blotchiness.
Niacinamide for Acne
If you suffer from adult acne and are also concerned about aging skin, then niacinamide is an ingredient that could be your new best friend. One study has shown that niacinamide at a 4% concentration can reduce that severity of moderate inflammatory acne. However, MedLine Plus (a service of the US National Library of Medicine) says that there is “insufficient evidence to rate its effectiveness.” This seems a little unfair since a Turkish study also got good results, and in North Carolina researchers found that niacinamide may modulate the production of sebum. The same team also found that it helped with rosacea.