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Today we're talking niacinamide. Which sounds like covering old ground, but what I really wanted to focus in on are products that aren't just your bog-standard single-active serums, but use niacinamide as the focal point of a formulation that does so much more!
Niacinamide is a form of Vitamin B (Vitamin B3, to be specific), so as with all skin vitamins, it has antioxidant benefits, protecting the skin against free radical damage from our environment. However, it's so much more than that; it has oil control properties for the skin, it can stop discolouration spreading through the skin (so a scar doesn't end up larger than the original spot that created it) and also helps strengthen the skin barrier by boosting up its production of fatty ceramides (guarding against dryness and irritation). With all of these benefits, it's no surprise niacinamide is super popular with skincare formulators, brands and now consumers.
For years, niacinamide was kind of an under-the-radar ingredient; it was included in a lot of moisturisers and toners, but it was never really the 'star of the show'. However, the Ordinary led the charge in flipping the script, launching a 10% niacinamide serum with a little zinc to add an anti-inflammatory benefit. It was a hit and launched a thousand imitations; to the point where almost every brand has to have Their Niacinamide Serum.
I personally got a little fed up for several reasons: a) it's still in so many formulas that don't necessarily advertise themselves as niacinamide-focused, b) its benefits have been studied at a concentration of around 5% yet this wave of new products are engaging in a one-upmanship to higher and higher percentage, and c) it's repetitive and boring to me (like brands are ticking off the 'beats' they're supposed to hit: single-ingredient hyaluronic acid - check - single-ingredient niacinamide - check...) Personally, I think this is more harmful than helpful because there's such a thing as too much niacinamide. It can irritate the skin without imparting proven additional benefits to have a 10% niacinamide serum in your routine, then a toner with niacinamide, followed by a moisturiser with niacinamide... I think you get my point!
So, why am I writing a post about an ingredient I've just confessed I'm sick of? Well, I'm actually seeing brands subvert this trend and I'm into it! I'm seeing more niacinamide-forward formulas on the market that don't market themselves as the highest concentration possible and include other amazing, complimentary ingredients. I appreciate that most of these are high-end formulas, but I'm sure affordable brands are going to hop on this counter-trend too. So - when they do - these are the things to look out for...
The first formula I have to discuss that's really elevated niacinamide is the Dr Dennis Gross Skincare B3Adaptive Superfoods Stress Rescue Serum* | £74. This is a milky, water-based serum which is designed to calm the skin and reduce redness. It's packed full of antioxidant extracts (like turmeric root and chaga mushroom), hyaluronic acid and glycerin (to draw water into the skin), fatty ingredients to replenish the skin (such as linoleic acid), anti-inflammatories (like ginger extract) and moisturising oils (such as squalane and sweet almond). Niacinamide helps skin barrier function so I love seeing it in such a well-rounded formula that will protect the skin, deliver hydration and moisturising goodness, and almost calm things right down.
Next, we have Monday Muse's the Juice Daily Serum* | £40 | which really lets both this ingredient's clarifying and its skin barrier boosting benefits shine. This is a light, hydrating milky serum with panthenol and glycerin to increase hydration, a small everyday-friendly concentration of lactic and salicylic acids (to gently improve breakouts and discolouration), moisturising and soothing hemp seed oil, prebiotics to support the skin barrier and moisturising plant oils. It provides both that immediate 'juicy' glow boost in the immediate, but also contributes to clearer, more hydrated, healthier skin in the long run.
I also loved the Zelens Power B Vitamin B Concentrate* | £90. This is a gel-serum that's definitely oily skin friendly but will still work really nicely for dry, dehydrated skin. This formula also brings together Vitamin B3 with Vitamin B5 (panthenol), in a hydrating, humectant-rich base (of glycerin and hyaluronic acid). Vitamin E is in the mix to boost the antioxidant benefits of this formula and ingredients like aloe and Beta-glucan provide a skin-soothing effect. There are also natural moisturising factors in this formula, to replenish the skin's natural stores of the stuff that keeps it healthy and hydrated. It's a great all-rounder that just about anyone could benefit from.
Finally, I loved the Venn Vitamin B All in One Concentrate* | £180 | (I know! That price-point!) And I've been on the lookout for a similar cheaper product for a while, so I'll update you as soon as I find something that fits the bill. This is a kind of creamy-lotion that can be used as a serum during the winter if you're drier-skinned, or as a one-step active moisturiser. We have panthenol and other B vitamins in this formula alongside fatty alcohol, moisturising plant oils, nourishing shea butter, peptides (to soothe and plump the skin), fortifying minerals, powerful antioxidant extracts and skin-replenishing amino acids. It's soothing, nourishing and does the work in the background so that every day is a 'good skin day'.
How do you feel about niacinamide? Are there any next-generation formulas you've loved using?