Niacinamide, a form of vitamin B3, can stand on its own in your serums and creams, but it’s even better when combined with other skin-boosting ingredients. “B3 is an essential nutrient the body needs,” says Purvisha Patel, M.D., board- certified dermatologist and founder of Visha Skincare. You’ll find it added to skincare products because it helps balance oil production, reduces water loss in skin, and lessens inflammation, she explains.
Niacinamide also has a big brightening benefit, as it affects melanocytes, cells that play a role in pigment formation in the skin. For that reason, says Dr. Patel, you’ll find the ingredient in products designed to fight discoloration, lessen red marks leftover from acne, and promote a more even skin tone. What’s more, because niacinamide reduces irritation, it can temper the effects of other anti-aging ingredients that can cause skin to act up, like wrinkle-smoothing retinol or exfoliating alpha hydroxy acids, she adds.
Serums are actually one of the best vehicles for niacinamide. “The vitamin is water soluble and will most effectively absorb into skin in a serum,” says Dr. Patel.
How to choose and use the best niacinamide serum
Look for the right dose: An effective product should have 2 to 10% niacinamide, says Annie Gonzalez, M.D., board certified dermatologist at Riverchase Dermatology in Miami.
Read the label: Despite what the packaging says, scan the ingredients and look for “niacinamide”—not nicotinic acid. “It’s thought that nicotinic acid converts into niacinamide, but nicotinic acid can cause flushing and redness of the skin,” says Dr. Patel.
Layer it on correctly: As with any serum, make sure you layer it on after cleansing your skin (to remove makeup, dirt, and oil) and before moisturizer (so it can penetrate the skin more easily.) Serums should also be applied before your SPF in the morning, to ensure the sunscreen can do its job effectively. Now that you have the basics down, you can give your skin the glow it deserves. Here are the best niacinamide serums you can try, according to dermatologists:
1 BEST OVERALL Regenerist MAX Tone Serum
This delightfully creamy serum combines the antioxidant powers of vitamin C and niacinamide to give skin a visible boost in hydration and brightness. The fast-absorbing formula almost feels like a lightweight lotion, but never leaves behind that sticky or tacky feeling. It layers wonderfully underneath heavier creams or SPF and has no fragrance, so even those with sensitive skin can enjoy it.
2 BEST VALUE Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%
Consider this one of the best affordable buys you can find for a niacinamide serum. Angela Lamb, M.D., associate professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai in New York City likes this one, as it’s potent with 10% niacinamide plus zinc to help control skin’s oil production, keep pores clear, and reduce the risk of breakouts. Of course, niacinamide also boosts brightness, so it can tone down the red and pink marks left behind from acne.
3 RAVE REVIEWS Resurfacing Retinol Serum
Retinol stimulates skin cell turnover to reveal fresh skin underneath, helping to fade dark and red marks. The addition of niacinamide brightens and guards against the potential irritating effects of retinol. Testers love the silky texture and credit it for reducing the appearance of acne scars and melasma.
4 PRO Strength Niacinamide Discoloration Treatment
When your focus is on revving skin’s radiance and chasing away discoloration, this niacinamide complex contains a bevy of brighteners. Along with niacinamide, there’s tranexamic and kojic acids to tackle discolorations, says Dr. Patel. The overwhelmingly positive reviews say that this product has helped lighten scars, acne marks, and hyperpigmentation while improving the texture of skin.
5 Daily Dose Vitamin C + Multivitamin Defense Serum
Dr. Lamb recommends this multivitamin serum, which combines a cocktail of antioxidants: vitamin C with vitamins E, B5, and niacinamide. Apply it in the morning to protect skin against free radical damage (a.k.a. unstable molecules that wreak havoc on your complexion). Hyaluronic acid attracts water to keep skin hydrated throughout the day.
6 Niacinamide Oil Control Serum
With 10% niacinamide, this well-priced and potent serum is a fan favorite. Not only is niacinamide added to reduce oil production to fight blemishes, but it also the relieves redness that comes with acne. Hyaluronic acid hydrates without contributing to greasiness.
7 10% Niacinamide Booster
This booster packs in 10% niacinamide to tackle uneven skin tone. (It also helps cinch pores while it’s at it, refining texture.) Licorice extract tackles redness, while vitamin C provides another boost of brightness. Add two to three drops of this silky serum to your moisturizer (or dab on skin alone) at night and during the day.
8 Barrier Renewal Complex
If your skin is feeling in need of a drink of water with the cooler weather, this complex combines hydrating ceramides, silicones, vitamin E, hyaluronic acid, and protective antioxidants to fortify skin’s barrier, seal in hydration, and keep your face smooth.
9 Advanced Correcting Serum with Illuminotex
Dr. Patel’s formulated niacinamide into her own product for a reason: to promote exfoliation, improve skin’s barrier, and even out skin tone. It’s also packed with other agents that target discoloration, including kojic acid and licorice extract, as well as retinol to promote collagen formation and smooth fine lines.
10 NIA 10 Calming Serum
The cruelty-free and vegan brand has 10% niacinamide in their serum, designed to tone down touchiness, reinforce skin’s barrier, and correct and prevent redness caused by acne or rosacea. Users say that this product has made their make-up- free faces look more even toned and textured.
11 Metacell Renewal B3
With 5% niacinamide to tackle spots on skin, peptides that plump, and hydrating- but-not-greasy glycerin, this product (a cross between a lotion and serum) makes skin look and feel renewed the second you smooth it on. Suitable for all skin types, the moisturizer is also sulfate-, paraben-, fragrance-, and phthalate- free.
12 Super Pure
So lightweight you can barely feel it on your skin, the 5% niacinamide and zinc PCA in this serum are an ideal duo for balancing oil production to keep pores clear while maintaining needed moisture. Fragrance-free, it won’t cause irritation.