What if we told you there was a single skincare ingredient that could do everything from boost collagen production to smooth fine lines to fight acne, soothe inflammation, minimize redness, shrink pores, keep oil under control, tackle dark spots and repair sun damage? Well, there is, and it’s called niacinamide, aka vitamin B3. That’s why you’ll want to add a niacinamide serum to your skincare routine to reap all the benefits. Before you start slathering one on, read up on what Suneel Chilukuri, M.D., Cosmetic Dermatologist and Founder of Refresh Dermatology in Houston, Texas, has to say on exactly what niacinamide is, the best niacinamide serums, and the best way to apply them.
What is niacinamide and what are its skincare benefits?
“Niacinamide plays many roles in the body and is highly involved in healthy skin function,” Dr. Chilukuri says. “It is an antioxidant, it reduces transepidermal water loss (TEWL) and improves the skin’s barrier function. It helps to brighten skin and reduce inflammation in the skin. It can also help to increase collagen synthesis to strengthen skin. Furthermore, it inhibits glycation, which is a non-enzymatic reaction between sugars and proteins leading to the formation of advanced glycation end products, or AGE. Glycation is implicated in many age-related breakdowns and diseases, including yellowing of the skin and collagen breakdown. Topical supplementation with niacinamide is highly beneficial to healthy youthful-looking skin.”
Why is niacinamide extra potent in a serum?
“The base of a formulation does not change the ‘potency’ of an ingredient, but can increase the efficacy,” Dr. Chilukuri says. “Serums tend to penetrate more readily into the skin. My favorite niacinamide serum is the highly effective PCA SKIN Vitamin B3 Brightening Serum. That said, a well-formulated cream-based product can also effectively deliver niacinamide into the skin.”
What should you look for in a niacinamide serum?
“Niacinamide can be used at differing percentages,” Dr. Chilukuri says. “Between four and six percent is usually what I look for therapeutic treatment. If it is quite low it can still have benefits, but not as many as you will see from a therapeutic level. Cosmetic elegance is also important; if something doesn’t feel good on your skin, compliance with usage is lower so you will not see as dramatic results.”
How often do you have to apply niacinamide serums to see results?
“At least once daily is essential,” Dr. Chilukuri says. “For example, retinol products containing niacinamide are applied only at night. Serums like PCA SKIN Vitamin B3 Brightening Serum are applied in both your morning and evening regimens.”
What is the best way to apply them?
“Serums are best applied to freshly cleansed skin,” Dr. Chilukuri says. “In the morning it should be followed by sunscreen and in the evening followed by a nighttime moisturizer.”
Ready to dive in? Check out our round-up of the best niacinamide serums below!
1. PCA SKIN Vitamin B3 Brightening Serum
This is Dr. Chilukuri’s personal go-to pick for the best niacinamide serum. “A common theme in men’s skincare is that most men do not like having heavy or shiny products on their skin,” he says. “PCA SKIN’s Vitamin B3 Brightening Serum is hydrating, but not shiny or heavy, making it a good choice for improving men’s skin. In fact, this is the product I use daily after shaving.” And while this product is on the pricier side, it’s hard to argue with the solid Amazon rating (not to mention the doctor’s personal recommendation).
PCA SKIN Vitamin B3 Brightening Serum
2. Paula’s Choice BOOST 10% Niacinamide Booster
With an impressive 10% niacinamide, this booster puts the ingredient front and center. You can apply the booster solo or mix it into your moisturizer. Either way, it will visibly shrink pores and fine lines and even out texture and discoloration. The powerhouse niacinamide serum also contains vitamin C to brighten and licorice extract to ease redness.
Paula's Choice BOOST 10% Niacinamide Booster
3. The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%
One of the best niacinamide serums on a budget, The Ordinary is known for delivering potent formulas without breaking the bank. Their niacinamide serum contains 10% of the multitasking ingredient to regulate sebum, minimize pores and fight acne. Since niacinamide also works to brighten skin, it’s great at tackling the marks that old breakouts can leave behind. You can thank the 1% zinc for its acne-fighting powers.
The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%
4. Dermalogy by NEOGENLAB Serum Spray
A spray niacinamide serum is pretty genius. No muss, no fuss! Spritz it on to get a blast of its plethora of benefits, including hydration, stronger skin, calming, refining and a boost to the skin’s natural protective barrier. The formula also contains Centella Asiatica and vitamin C to help speed up collagen turnover, leaving skin looking younger and glowing.
Dermalogy by NEOGENLAB Serum Spray
5. Bliss Glow & Hydrate Day Serum
Slather this on in the morning to get your daily dose of skin vitamins for a skin health boost. This niacinamide serum has a special grade of the ingredient that’s even more potent, along with vitamin E and hyaluronic acid. That blend of antioxidants fights off free radical damage, diminishes breakouts and pores, rebalances the skin and leaves it moisturized and refreshed. Since the formula is light as a feather, it absorbs in a jiffy and never feels heavy or greasy.
Bliss Glow & Hydrate Day Serum
6. First Aid Beauty Facial Radiance Niacinamide Dark Spot Serum
If dark spots are getting you down, then this is the niacinamide serum for you. Vitamin B3 is known for being a brightening booster, which is why it’s great for tackling hyperpigmentation, sun spots, acne scars and any other discoloration. In addition to niacinamide, this serum is also laced with licorice root, golden kiwifruit and undecylenoyl phenylalanine to lighten up your complexion. It only takes four weeks of use to see a more even and healthier skin tone.
First Aid Beauty Facial Radiance Niacinamide Dark Spot Serum
7. Tru Alchemy Vitamin C Glow Serum
This vitamin C serum does it all. It taps vitamin C and niacinamide to brighten and nurture, while the combination of glycolic, lactic and phytic acids gently exfoliate. It’s also spiked with bakuchiol, nature’s answer to retinol. All together, the carefully curated ingredients work as a dark spot corrector, smooth fine lines and wrinkles and clarify. Finally, it has Zero Gravity Stem Cell Technology that was created with NASA’s zero-gravity technology, which works to rejuvenate the skin.
Tru Alchemy Vitamin C Glow Serum
8. I DEW CARE Bright Side Up Brightening Vitamin C Serum
Your skin will definitely be looking on the bright side after adding I DEW CARE Bright Side Up Brightening Vitamin C Serum into your routine. Dull skin will be a thing of the past thanks to the blend of brightening ingredients from this beloved K-beauty brand. Niacinamide helps improve skin texture, antioxidant-packed grapefruit extract prevents the signs of premature aging, glycerin plumps and hydrates skin, and vitamins E and B5 moisturize and replenish skin. Its jelly formula, which is still lightweight, is a nice textural touch and feels great on skin.