Between deciphering tongue-twisting scientific ingredients and interpreting concentration percentages, reading a skincare product label is intimidating enough to make you panic-buy whichever product is currently at the top of Sephora's best-seller list. If just the idea of examining the back of your moisturizer is giving you anxiety right now, we're here to assure you that it's not completely impossible to figure out what it is that you're putting on your face.
Take niacinamide, for example. To get the lowdown on one of skincare's more common ingredients, we asked dermatologist Jennifer Herrmann, MD, FAAD, all our burning questions. Here, a dermatologist breaks down everything you need to know about niacinamide creams, including a $16 drugstore cream that's perfect for sensitive, acne-prone skin.
Meet the Expert
Jennifer Herrmann, MD, FAAD, is a Los Angeles-based dermatologist and dermatologic surgeon. Dr. Herrmann graduated summa cum laude from Princeton University and earned her medical degree from Harvard University.
What Is Niacinamide?
First of all, what is niacinamide exactly? According to Herrmann, this vitamin is a multi-tasker, and when used topically, may help alleviate skin sensitivities, builds healthy skin cells, and help skin retain moisture. "Niacinamide is a water-soluble form of vitamin B3 that's is used in dermatology for everything from helping to prevent skin cancer to decreasing redness associated with inflammatory conditions like rosacea and acne," she explains.
What Are the Benefits of Incorporating Niacinamide into My Skincare Routine?
The benefits depend on the form of niacinamide you decide to add to your skincare regimen, explains Herrmann: "Orally, this very safe and well-tolerated vitamin has been shown to significantly decrease the incidence of both basal and squamous cell skin cancers by boosting DNA repair, finally giving us an option for skin cancer prevention beyond sunscreen and sun protective clothing."
"Topically, niacinamide helps clear acne, fade discoloration, and prevent aging and skin water loss," she explains. If your skincare concern is acne, niacinamide's anti-inflammatory and anti-sebum production properties are key. If you're looking to remedy discoloration, Herrmann says it helps prevent the transfer of pigment within the skin, which helps fade brown spots. And for anti-aging, some studies have shown it to be helpful in reducing fine lines and blotchy skin irregularities, she adds.
Which Niacinamide Product Is Right for Me?
"Both the oral and topical forms of niacinamide are quite safe," Herrmann notes. When shopping for niacinamide creams, she advises examining product labels closely to ensure your skin won't react to any additional ingredients. "If you have sensitive or oily skin, it's important to look at what other ingredients are added to niacinamide products," she explains. "For instance, excess oil can aggravate acne, while alcohol can irritate sensitive skin."
Dermatologist Approved Niacinamide Products
Below, Herrmann shares her go-to niacinamide products, ranging from an affordable drugstore option to a splurge-worthy serum that promises to deliver serious results.
DNA Renewal Skincare Remedy Blend
"This morning supplement helps kick-start your DNA-repair process to significantly combat sun and environmental damage and promote anti-inflammatory and antioxidant responses," explains Herrmann. "It's formulated with turmeric, folic acid, astragalus, mustard seed extract and milk thistle extract and polypodium leucotomos (a natural oral sunscreen)."
SkinMedica Lytera 2.0 Pigment Correcting Serum
"This is my go-to recommendation for if you want to fade unwanted pigmentation," says Herrmann. "Although it's pricey, it's made with tranexamic acid, resorcinol, and marine extracts that work synergistically to help lighten skin."
CeraVe Facial Moisturizing Lotion PM
"This one is super economical and perfect for sensitive and acne-prone skin," says Herrmann. "Its hyaluronic acid and ceramides help repair the skin barrier while providing hydration."
100% Pure Multi-Vitamin + Antioxidants Potent PM Serum
"This is excellent for anti-aging and skin brightening as it combines niacinamide with vitamins C, E, retinol, and CoQ10," recommends Herrmann.
DNA Renewal Skincare Nox Blend
"This nighttime supplement boosts your beauty sleep with the perfect combination of melatonin, valerian root, and lemon balm extract to repair your skin from the inside-out while you sleep without causing you to feel groggy or foggy the next day," says Herrmann.