My skin is very sensitive. Like, the 'breaks out in hives on a monthly basis, can't tolerate retinols, would cry over the new Adele single if that was possible' kind of sensitive. The problem is, it's also oily… and dry. If you're anything like me, you've done your research and may have found a regimen that manages your combination skin, but doesn't address tricky problems such as enlarged pores, dullness, and acne scars.
For years, I struggled to find a serum that faded the hyperpigmentation on my cheeks without inciting a blotchy, red freak-out –– until I stumbled across the Paula's Choice 10% Niacinamide Booster (Buy It, from $44, amazon.com). After seeing the product pop up across skin-care videos on Youtube and Tiktok (thank you, Dr. Dray), I dove into research and found that the serum's combination of niacinamide and anti-inflammatory licorice root was exactly what I'd been searching for. (Related: The Best Moisturizer For Every Skin Type)
Within one week of receiving my first bottle, I saw a difference in the depth and size of my pores. The red patches on my nose and cheeks faded, and I noticed that midday flare-ups could be quickly soothed by a few drops of the serum. I was ecstatic. Not only had I discovered a product that brightened and soothed my combination skin, I'd also found a solution to a simple skin-care routine — one that allowed me to replace dozens of soothing balms and exfoliants (that never really worked) with one super-effective serum.
Niacinamide, a derivative of Vitamin B, is "a precursor to molecules that allow all cells, including skin cells, to repair damage and neutralize free radicals that can cause skin cancer and the breakdown of collagen and elastin," New York-based dermatologist Marnie Nussbaum, M.D., previously told Shape. In addition to protecting the skin barrier, it prevents the transfer of pigment to cells, reducing the appearance of sun damage and acne scars.
But, best of all? Niacinamide is widely considered non-irritating to facial skin. "Niacinamide is both an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory," Lauren Boudreaux, D.O., previously said in an interview. "It neutralizes and calms the skin's inflammatory responses to things like UV radiation and cell turnover. And it's a gentler and more stable antioxidant than vitamin C, another hardworking ingredient, making it ideal for sensitive skin," she added. (Related: Shoppers Say This $14 Retinol-Infused Night Cream Minimizes Wrinkles in Only 3 Days)
I'm not the only person with sensitive skin that has found this formula to be a holy grail. While some Amazon shoppers noted the experienced irritation with other Niacinamide serums, most reported that the Paula's Choice 10% Niacinamide Booster fit seamlessly into their skin-care routine. "I have never had a product work so quickly before," wrote one user. "I love that it targets my skin's issues, without any irritation… My blackheads and enlarged pores are way less visible... Just WOW!"
In less than a month, my skin was noticeably clearer, softer, and dewier. For the first time in years, my beauty routine pared down to a light tinted moisturizer and a few dabs of concealer… more often I feel completely confident wearing no makeup at all. From calming my skin to eliminating my acne scars to making my pores appear visibly smaller, this serum does it all. If you have combination skin, are sensitive to most skin-care products, or simply want to cut down your skin-care routine (and get some miraculous results while doing it!), Paula's Choice 10% Niacinamide Booster is worth checking out.