Meet your skin barrier's new best friend, niacinamide

Mar. 19—You've probably heard of retinol and vitamin C, but there's another skincare ingredient that you should make a staple of your routine.

Niacinamide can help transform your skin, thanks to its versatility for tackling almost any skincare concern and skin type.

Before we talk about what niacinamide does for our skin, we need to understand how skin functions.

Skin is truly amazing. The skin barrier is the outermost layer and works as our first line of defense against the outside world, including protecting us from pollution, UV rays and bacteria. Soft, plump, firm, hydrated skin is the sign of a proper barrier function.

It's incredibly easy to throw off your skin's barrier function, however, including by overexposure to the sun, over-exfoliation, daily environmental stress or using harsh, drying ingredients. You'll know if your barrier is compromised because your skin will feel dry, rough and sensitized. In this state, your skin also is more susceptible to irritation, breakouts and signs of aging.

Thankfully, niacinamide is your skin barrier's best friend.

Another name for vitamin B3, niacinamide boosts ceramide production, which supports the skin barrier. I've heard ceramides compared to cement between bricks (or skin cells), keeping everything sealed together. Niacinamide also has been shown to increase production of collagen, a protein that acts like the scaffolding of your skin and gives it its structure.

Through kick-starting both collagen and ceramide production, niacinamide creates a strong barrier which leads to improved elasticity. You also can use multiple products in your routine that contain niacinamide, and it shouldn't irritate or sensitize your skin at all. It's even safe for sensitive or rosacea-prone skin. (Stranger things have happened, so always do a patch test first.)

If you check your ingredient lists, you may already be using products that contain niacinamide. It's a great addition to any skincare routine and, with its host of uses, there's definitely a niacinamide product that's right for you. These are some concerns niacinamide can help with and some products to check out.

For fading dark spots

Free radicals and environmental damage can hurt the skin, make it appear dull over time and expedite the appearance of lines and wrinkles. Because of its ability to improve the skin's barrier, niacinamide reduces the impact of free radicals for a healthy, fresh complexion and has been shown to fade dark spots. Fenty Skin Watch Ya Tone Niacinamide Dark Spot Serum contains a cocktail of niacinamide, vitamin C, licorice root extract and Barbados cherry to reduce the look of dark spots and hyperpigmentation left behind by blemishes, sun damage and aging as well as uneven skin tone. If you're looking for something stronger, SkinCeuticals Discoloration Defense Corrective Serum contains 5% niacinamide for brightening and minimizing pores, but it also has 8% tranexamic acid which is known to interfere with the interaction of pigment-producing cells in your skin and also decrease inflammation.

For breakouts

Since niacinamide is known for its anti-inflammatory properties, this makes it useful in treating acne. Glossier Super Pure Serum blends 5% niacinamide with zinc PCA to balance complexion, smooth texture and help reduce congestion in pores without irritation. The Inkey List Niacinamide helps regulate skin's sebum production, which can lead to fewer blackheads and breakouts.

For undereyes

It's wise to be careful when using skincare products around your eyes since the skin here is more delicate and prone to irritation. Thankfully, niacinamide is completely safe to use on your undereyes. And given its benefits, it's one of the best ingredients to look for in an eye cream. First Aid Beauty Eye Duty Niacinamide Brightening Cream evens skin tone over time, adds hydration and strengthens skin while its subtle, light-reflecting tint instantly improves the look of dark circles. Paula's Choice Resist Anti-Aging Eye Gel uses niacinamide, hyaluronic acid and tons of peptides to brighten, hydrate, minimize fine lines and eliminate signs of fatigue.

For glowing skin

Niacinamide works great on its own, but one of the most unique things about niacinamide is its compatibility with other ingredients. By combining this skincare powerhouse with others, its turns the product into a one-stop-shop for glowy, healthy skin. A holy grail of mine, Peach & Lily Glass Skin Serum combines niacinamide, peptides, hyaluronic acid and extracts to create clear, smooth and translucent skin. And since it helps to shrink the appearance of enlarged pores, that leads to a more even skin tone overall. Glow Recipe Watermelon Glow Niacinamide Dew Drops use niacinamide along with water-retaining hyaluronic acid and watermelon, which is packed with amino acids, vitamins A and C and lycopene, to moisturize, plump, soothe and treat the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. A skincare-makeup hybrid, this serum always makes my makeup look better while enhancing my complexion underneath.

Gia Mazur merwine is a staff writer for the Lifestyles Department of The Times-Tribune. Contact her at, 570-348-9127 or @gmazurTT on Twitter.

Contact the writer:; 570-348-9127; @gmazurTT on Twitter