Niacinamide (Vitamin B3)

What is it? Niacinamide is “an amide derivative of nicotinic acid“, also known as Vitamin B3.
INCI Niacinamide
Appearance White powder
Usage rate Niacinamide is typically used in the 2–6% range, though I’ve seen recommendations as low as 0.05% and as high as 10%.
Scent Nothing much
Solubility Water
Why do we use it in formulations? Niacinamide is a fantastic skin care active! It helps down regulate sebum production, reduce inflammation, decrease acne lesions, increase the synthesis of ceramides, reduce transepidermal water loss (TEWL), reduce fine lines, fade age spots and hyperpigmentation, and brighten the complexion.
Do you need it? No, though if you are interested in skincare I recommend it.
Strengths Highly effective, well-researched skin care active with many benefits.
Weaknesses While it is usually well tolerated, it can be irritating to some.
Alternatives & Substitutions Nothing is a complete substitution; you may need to combine multiple ingredients to replace all the jobs niacinamide (Vitamin B3) performs in our formulations.

Panthenol (vitamin B5) plays some of the same roles and can be a decent alternative. N-Acetyl Glucosamine (NAG) is also worth trying.

You could try choosing a botanical extract that has comparable properties depending on what you are trying to achieve. A humectant or hydrolyzed protein could also be a decent choice.

You will have to do your own research and testing if you wish to substitute niacinamide (Vitamin B3).

How to Work with It Include it in the water phase of recipes; supplier formulations indicate it is a-ok to include in the heated water phase.

I’ve found varying recommendations for the final pH of the product. The recommended final pH is typically around 5–6, but Amanda at Realize Beauty and Stephen at Kind Stephen have articles on on how and why a lower final pH is also likely to be ok. There’s also some interesting discussion on Chemists Corner (1, 2, 3) that draws the same conclusions. Based on the conclusions of professional cosmetic chemists, I generally aim for 4–6.

Storage & Shelf Life Stored somewhere cool, dark, and dry, niacinamide should be shelf stable for up to three years.
Tips, Tricks, and Quirks If you want to try niacinamide in your skin care routine before investing in the raw ingredient I would highly recommend The Ordinary’s 10% Niacinamide + 1% Zinc formulation. It has absolutely revolutionized my skin and it’s under $6!

If your primary aim is brightening, a combination of niacinamide (Vitamin B3) and N-Acetyl Glucosamine has been shown to be more effective than niacinamide (Vitamin B3) alone (source).

La Roche Posay (a well-respected skincare brand) uses niacinamide (Vitamin B3), glycolic acid, and salicylic acid together in their Effaclar Ultra Concentrated Serum, which would have a pH around 3.6–3.8 as that is the pKa of glycolic acid. I’ve used this serum for months without any irritation.

Recommended starter amount 10–30g (0.35–1oz)
Where to Buy it  Buy it from an online DIY ingredient supplier.

Some Formulations that Use Niacinamide


Posted on

December 13, 2018