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Unlocking the potential of niacinamide: What percentage is effective for skin health?

This ingredient can have a powerful anti-aging effect on your skin—but you’ll want to make sure you’re using the right amount.

Curology Team Avatar
by Curology Team
Updated on Aug 31, 2023 • 8 min read
Medically reviewed by Laura Phelan, NP-C
Niacinamide
Curology Team Avatar
by Curology Team
Updated on Aug 31, 2023 • 8 min read
Medically reviewed by Laura Phelan, NP-C
We’re here to share what we know — but don’t take it as medical advice. Talk to your medical provider if you have questions.

Imagine niacinamide as a skillful fixer for your skin. When the damaging effects of UV rays and free radicals compromise your skin, this remarkable antioxidant steps in with precision to carry out repairs. Renowned as one of the most extensively researched anti-aging ingredients, niacinamide showcases its prowess in combating fine wrinkles, reducing redness, and fading dark spots.

But, because niacinamide is typically formulated in different concentrations, you may have a hard time figuring out how much you need to use to see its impact on your skin. So, we’re here to help. Allow Curology’s experts to share what you need to know about niacinamide and what percentage you might want to incorporate into your routine. 

What is niacinamide?

Niacinamide, also known as nicotinamide, is a form of vitamin B3.¹ It’s an essential water-soluble vitamin that plays a vital role in maintaining your skin health.² 

Because of its beneficial effects, niacinamide is used in a wide array of cosmetic formulations. You can find this ingredient in approximately 30 different product types, from hair care products like shampoos and hair serums to skincare items such as moisturizers and cleansing formulations.³

In skincare specifically, niacinamide is a popular ingredient revered for its versatility. 

The benefits of niacinamide 

Whether you've spent a bit too much time in the sun or are noticing signs of aging, niacinamide may be able to help. This ingredient provides an array of benefits, from repairing structural damage caused by UV rays and free radicals to treating hyperpigmentation.

Repairing and hydrating your skin

One of the main roles of niacinamide in skin care is to help improve the surface structure of your skin. It does this by stimulating the production of proteins, including keratin.⁴ Niacinamide also helps improve your skin's moisture barrier. By reinforcing this barrier, it also helps reduce transepidermal water loss, keeping your skin hydrated.⁵

Boosting skin elasticity

Niacinamide helps improve your skin elasticity.⁶ Just as a stretched-out t-shirt can lose its shape, skin can become saggy or wrinkled when it lacks elasticity. Niacinamide helps improve the surface structure of the skin,⁷ which may contribute to plumper, more supple appearing skin.

Smoothing wrinkles and anti-inflammatory benefits

This versatile ingredient is known to smooth wrinkles.⁸ And, its anti-inflammatory properties are another key benefit, providing relief from conditions like acne vulgaris. Research shows that a commercial 4% niacinamide gel has demonstrated potent anti-inflammatory activity in the treatment of this common skin concern.⁹

Treating hyperpigmentation

If you’re struggling with hyperpigmentation, niacinamide offers a potential solution. It has been shown to inhibit the transfer of melanosomes (pigment granules) to your skin's outer layer. One study showed a significant reduction of melanosome transfer with a 5% niacinamide moisturizer.¹⁰ This means that with consistent use, niacinamide may help in reducing discoloration and evening out your skin tone.

Niacinamide concentrations: Which is best? 

Are you wondering how much niacinamide you should use? Niacinamide is “relatively non-toxic”; clinical testing shows it’s not a significant skin irritant, so it’s safe to use at different concentrations.¹¹ Concentrations usually range from 0.0001% in night products to 3% in body creams, hand creams, lotions, sprays, and powders.¹² 

Determining the best concentration of niacinamide depends on the specific skin concern you’re addressing. Let’s take a look at what the latest research has to say about the optimal niacinamide concentrations to help you with your various skin concerns.

Niacinamide for acne: The power of 4% concentration in Curology’s products

A 4% concentration of niacinamide, as utilized in some of Curology’s prescription products, exhibits potent anti-inflammatory activity in the treatment of acne vulgaris. This concentration has demonstrated positive results in reducing inflammation associated with acne, making it a potential choice if you’re seeking effective acne management.¹³

Facial hyperpigmentation: Fading your marks with niacinamide concentrations of 2% and 5%

Niacinamide concentrations of 2% and 5%, when combined with sunscreen, can effectively reduce facial hyperpigmentation. Incorporating niacinamide into your skincare routine alongside sunscreen has the potential to address pigmentation concerns and promote a more even skin tone.¹⁴

Treating fine lines and wrinkles with 5% niacinamide

In research focused on hyperpigmentation, fine lines, and wrinkles, a 5% concentration of niacinamide has shown significant results. This concentration has been associated with a notable reduction in areas of hyperpigmentation and improvement in the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, making it a valuable option for you if you’re aiming to combat signs of sun damage and aging.¹⁵

Sebum regulation using 2% niacinamide

A 2% concentration of niacinamide was found to have an impact on sebum regulation, and was found to lower the sebum excretion rate among the subjects in the study.¹⁶ While larger studies may be needed, this concentration may benefit you if you have oily or combination skin types.

The best concentration of niacinamide for you depends on your specific skin concerns and how your skin tolerates the ingredient. As always, consult with a dermatology provider to determine the most effective and safe regimen for your skin type and needs.

Add niacinamide to your skincare routine with Curology 

Introducing niacinamide into your skincare routine can offer numerous benefits, especially if you're looking to address concerns like hyperpigmentation and acne. One convenient way to incorporate niacinamide into your routine may be through a personalized prescription formula from Curology.

Get your personalized skincare routine with Curology

Get your personalized skincare routine with Curology

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Curology is a personalized skincare brand that offers customized formulations tailored to your specific skin needs. Your dermatology provider may choose to include niacinamide, allowing you to harness the benefits of this ingredient for acne management and overall skin health.

By integrating niacinamide into your skincare routine, you can take advantage of the potential acne-fighting and skin-improving properties that this ingredient offers. 

Start your 30-day trial* today!

FAQs

Should I use 5% or 10% niacinamide?

The choice between a 5% and 10% niacinamide concentration depends on your specific skin needs and how your skin reacts to niacinamide. A 5% concentration of niacinamide has been shown to be effective in reducing hyperpigmentation and improving fine lines and wrinkles according to some studies.¹⁷ Additionally, a concentration of lower than 10% may be more suitable if you have sensitive skin or if you’re new to using niacinamide.

It's always a good idea to patch-test a new product to see how your skin responds before applying it to your entire face. If you're uncertain, starting with a lower concentration and gradually working up as your skin tolerates can be a safe approach. As always, it's advisable to consult with a dermatology provider to determine the most effective and safe regimen for you.

How much niacinamide is too much?

In skincare products, niacinamide is typically included at concentrations between 0.0001% and 3%.¹⁸ According to some studies, concentrations as low as 2% can be effective for skin benefits, while others show benefits with concentrations as high as 5%.

If you're using a product with a higher concentration of niacinamide and notice any signs of irritation, it's a good idea to reduce usage, switch to a product with a lower concentration, or discontinue use and consult with a dermatology provider if the irritation persists.

Niacinamide percentage for acne?

Niacinamide has shown promise in the treatment of acne due to its various beneficial properties. 

Studies show that a 4% niacinamide concentration can provide potent anti-inflammatory activity in the treatment of acne vulgaris. This concentration has demonstrated positive results in reducing inflammation and improving the overall appearance of acne-prone skin.¹⁹ It's always a good idea to consult with a dermatology provider to determine the most suitable concentration and treatment plan for your specific skin type and acne concerns.

• • •

P.S. We did the research so you don’t have to:

  1. Gehring, W. Nicotinic acid/niacinamide and the skin. Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology. (April 2004).

  2. Matts, P.J., et al. A Review of the Range of Effects of Niacinamide in Human Skin. International Federation of Societies of Cosmetic Chemists Magazine. (January 2002).

  3. American College of Toxicology. Final Report of the Safety Assessment of Niacinamide and Niacin. International Journal of Toxicology. International Journal of Toxicology. (September 2005).

  4. Gehring, W. Nicotinic acid/niacinamide and the skin. Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology. Ibid.

  5. Gehring, W. Nicotinic acid/niacinamide and the skin. Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology. Ibid.

  6. Bissett, D.L., et al. Niacinamide: A B vitamin that improves aging facial skin appearance. Dermatol Surg. (July 2005).

  7. Gehring, W. Nicotinic acid/niacinamide and the skin. Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology. Ibid.

  8. Gehring, W. Nicotinic acid/niacinamide and the skin. Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology. Ibid.

  9. Matts, P.J., et al. A Review of the Range of Effects of Niacinamide in Human Skin. International Federation of Societies of Cosmetic Chemists Magazine. Ibid.

  10. Levin, J. and Momin, S.B. How Much Do We Really Know About Our Favorite Cosmeceutical Ingredients? Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology. (February 2010).

  11. Cosmetic Ingredient Review Expert Panel (CIR). Final report of the safety assessment of niacinamide and niacin. International Journal of Toxicology. (2005, n.d.).

  12. Cosmetic Ingredient Review Expert Panel (CIR). Final report of the safety assessment of niacinamide and niacin. International Journal of Toxicology. Ibid.

  13. Matts, P.J., et al. A Review of the Range of Effects of Niacinamide in Human Skin. International Federation of Societies of Cosmetic Chemists Magazine. Ibid.

  14. Levin, J. and Momin, S.B. How Much Do We Really Know About Our Favorite Cosmeceutical Ingredients? Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology. Ibid.

  15. Levin, J. and Momin, S.B. How Much Do We Really Know About Our Favorite Cosmeceutical Ingredients? Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology. Ibid.

  16. Draelos, Z.D., et al. The effect of 2% niacinamide on facial sebum production. Journal of Cosmetic and Laser Therapy. (2009, July 12).

  17. Levin, J. and Momin, S.B. How Much Do We Really Know About Our Favorite Cosmeceutical Ingredients? Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology. Ibid.

  18. Cosmetic Ingredient Review Expert Panel (CIR). Final report of the safety assessment of niacinamide and niacin. International Journal of Toxicology. Ibid.

  19. Matts, P.J., et al. A Review of the Range of Effects of Niacinamide in Human Skin. International Federation of Societies of Cosmetic Chemists Magazine. Ibid.

Laura Phelan is a board-certified Family Nurse Practitioner at Curology. She earned her Masters of Science in Nursing at Benedictine University and went on to get her post-master’s certificate as a Family Nurse Practitioner at the University of Cincinnati.

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• • •
Our medical review process:We’re here to tell you what we know. That’s why our information is evidence-based and fact-checked by medical experts. Still, everyone’s skin is unique—the best way to get advice is to talk to your healthcare provider.
Our policy on product links:Empowering you with knowledge is our top priority. Our reviews of other brands’ products in this post are not paid endorsements—but they do meet our medically fact-checked standards for ingredients (at the time of publication).
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Curology Team

Image of Laura Phelan Nurse Practitioner

Laura Phelan, NP-C

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