Topical Niacinamide (Vitamin B3) acne treatment

The amide form of Vitamin B3 (Niacin/Nicotinic Acid/Vitamin PP). The derivatives of Vitamin B3 such as NAD and NADP plays an important role in energy metabolism of living cells. Systemic niacinamide is also known for its ability to block the inflammatory action of Iodides which makes acne worst. Topical versions of niacinamide comes in gel or hydroalcoholic base. It is readily soluble in both water and ethanol.

II. How does topical Niacinamide work on acne?

The main action of niacinamide on acne is that it provides anti-inflammatory action. The anti-inflammatory action of niacinamide reduces the redness, dryness and irritation caused by the bacteria that live in clogged pores or pimples. In one study, Niacinamide is also able to reduce the sebum excretion rate (SER) or the amount of oil that the glands pump out. The reduction in the sebum excretion rate also reduces the formation of clogged pores which causes blackheads and whiteheads. It also keeps the skin hydrated by preventing water loss thus niacinamide also acts like a moisturizer. Niacinamide is also a mild keratolytic agent which means that it also promotes mild shedding of the skin that prevents pore blockage.


Niacinamide is a very stable product. Unlike L-Ascorbic acid solutions, topical niacinamide dissolved in water does not degrade in the presence of heat, light and oxygen in air. The effectiveness of this product last for a very long time even without preservatives.


Although topical niacinamide is just as effective as an antibiotic in reducing acne, this product does not kill the bacteria that causes acne but only reduces the inflammation associated with acne.


5% Topical niacinamide reduces yellowing, wrinkling, red blotchiness, and hyperpigmented spots in aging facial skin.
( Source: International Journal of Cosmetic Science, Volume 26, Number 5, October 2004 , pp. 231-238 Authors: Bissett, D. L.; Miyamoto, K.; Sun, P.; Li, J.; Berge, C. A.)

Topical application of niacinamide increases ceramide and free fatty acid levels in the skin, it prevent the skin from losing water content and it stimulates micro-circulation in the dermis.
( Source: British Journal of Dermatology, September 2000, pages 524?531; and Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, April 2004, page 88)

2% niacinamide was shown in one small study to be more effective than petrolatum (Vaseline) for reducing water loss from skin and increasing its hydration levels.
( Source: International Journal of Dermatology, March 2005, pages 197-202)

Data demonstrate that 4% nicotinamide gel is of comparable efficacy to 1% clindamycin gel in the treatment of acne vulgaris. Because topical clindamycin, like other antimicrobials, is associated with emergence of resistant microorganisms, nicotinamide gel is a desirable alternative treatment for acne vulgaris.
( Source: Shalita AR, Smith JG, Parish LC, Sofman MS, Chalker DK.Department of Dermatology, State University of New York, College of Medicine, Brooklyn, USA.)

Fifty subjects applied the 2% niacinamide moisturizer to the face for 4 weeks and 50 subjects used a placebo moisturizer for 4 weeks, with sebum excretion rate (SER) measurements taken at baseline, week 2, and week 4. In addition, 30 Caucasian subjects were enrolled in a randomized split-face study for 6 weeks with SER and casual sebum levels (CSL) measured at baseline, week 3, and week 6. Results : The results of the Japanese study demonstrated that the SER of the two groups was not significantly different at baseline, but the 2% niacinamide treated group demonstrated significantly lowered SER after 2 and 4 weeks of application. The results were somewhat different in the Caucasian study. After 6 weeks of treatment, the CSL was significantly reduced, but the SER was not significantly reduced. Conclusions : Topical 2% niacinamide may be effective in lowering the SER in Japanese individuals and CSL in Caucasian individuals.
( Source: Journal of Cosmetic and Laser Therapy, Volume 8, Number 2, June 2006 , pp. 96-101(6) The effect of 2% niacinamide on facial sebum production,Authors: Draelos, Zoe Diana1; Matsubara, Akira2; Smiles, Kenneth3)

Topical application of niacinamide has a stabilizing effect on epidermal barrier function, seen as a reduction in transepidermal water loss and an improvement in the moisture content of the horny layer. Niacinamide leads to an increase in protein synthesis (e.g. keratin), has a stimulating effect on ceramide synthesis, speeds up the differentiation of keratinocytes, and raises intracellular NADP levels. In ageing skin, topical application of niacinamide improves the surface structure, smoothes out wrinkles and inhibits photocarcinogenesis.
( Source: W Gehring (2004) Nicotinic acid/niacinamide and the skin Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology 3 (2), 88–93. )

III. Forms, Dosage and Administration

Topical solutions and gel. Concentration is usually 2% to 5%.

IV. Precautions

Do not use this treatment if you are allergic to niacinamide.

V. Side Effects

Mild skin rash for sensitive persons. Mild exfoliation

Brand Names



Sorg O, Antille C, Saurat JH. Retinoids, other topical vitamins, and antioxidants. Photoaging. Marcel Dekker, 2004: 89-115.

Chiu A, Kimball AB. Topical vitamins, minerals and botanical ingredients as modulators of environmental and chronological skin damage. Br J Dermatol 2003; 149(4): 681-691.

Lupo MP. Antioxidants and vitamins in cosmetics. Clinics in Dermatology 2001; 19:467-473.

Using Aldara, copper peptide, and niacinamide for skin care. Aesthetic Surgery Journal, Volume 24, Issue 1, Pages 83-84
J. Carraway

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