Yes, niacinamide can be safely used on active acne. A 2017 research reported that applying niacinamide for 6–8 weeks significantly reduced acne. Moreover, studies have shown that oral consumption of niacinamide-containing supplements effectively reduces acne. (1)
Some teenagers face breakout problems, which can be an ongoing issue till adulthood. However, adult acne is a serious issue and needs special care.
Niacinamide is one of the best active ingredients to treat adult acne.
Niacinamide is a form of vitamin B3 (2) and is found in nuts, mushrooms, and fish. It has antimicrobial, (2) antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, etiopathogenic, antiadhesive, antiproliferative, and antibiofilm properties.
Niacinamide treats acne, hyperpigmentation, excessive sebum production, signs of aging, photosensitivity, irritation, and dryness. (3)
Continue reading to learn about the safety of niacinamide on active acne.
Is it Safe to Use Niacinamide on Active Acne?
A 2016 research reported that using niacinamide in a 4% concentration on active acne is safe and improves acne. (4)
Another 2020 research concluded that a 4% niacinamide-containing gel effectively treated mild to moderate acne and pustules. Its anti-inflammatory property is equivalent to topical clindamycin for healing acne. (3)
How Does Niacinamide Treat Acne?
Niacinamide treats acne in the following ways.
1. Decreases sebum production and fights active acne
Niacinamide has the potential to reduce sebum secretion. (2) It inhibits the activity of sebocytes (sebum-producing cells), resulting in reduced sebum production and skin oiliness.
Its anti-inflammatory properties treat papular acne (small, inflamed bumps due to excess oil) and pustular acne (blister-like, pus-filled, small inflamed sores). (4)
A 2016 research reported that application of 2% topical niacinamide reduced sebum secretion rates after using it for 2-4 weeks. (5)
2. Reduces bacterial growth
Niacinamide has antimycobacterial properties that treat acne vulgaris. (6) It gives long-lasting bacterial protection.
A study also showed that niacinamide improved the skin’s antimicrobial activity with the potential to kill bacteria (S. aureus and E. coli) in 6 hours. (7)
It also inhibits cell proliferation and the growth of Plasmodium falciparum and Mycobacterium tuberculosis. (8)
3. Soothes inflammation
The anti-inflammatory properties of niacinamide alleviate acne’s lesion count and severity. It reduces post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation and halts the development of pigmented spots.
A 2010 research reported that 2%-3% topical niacinamide application, individually or with N-acetyl glucosamine, controls the worsening of hyperpigmentation. (11)
4. Strengthens the skin barrier
The skin barrier is crucial as it protects the skin from environmental threats, such as fungi, bacteria, viruses, and moisture loss. A damaged or weakened barrier causes inflammation and irritation.
Niacinamide is a water-soluble vitamin widely used in skin disease treatment. It also repairs damaged DNA due to its antioxidant effects. (2)
Acne: Negative Effects and Responsible Factors
Acne is a chronic inflammatory dermatosis with whiteheads, blackheads, nodules, papules, and pustules.
Young adults face several adverse effects of acne. It leads to permanent skin scarring, disfigurement, emotional stress, and discomfort. It also causes embarrassment and anxiety in some people and reduces social and physiological well-being.
Some factors that cause acne are stress, youth, smoking, male sex, genetics, and comedogenic medications (corticosteroids, halogens, androgens, and pore-clogging cosmetics).
Past research indicates that sebum overproduction due to genetic influence in combination with comedogenic hormones leads to acne lesions. (4)
Niacinamide Combination for Active Acne
Combining niacinamide with other agents is safe for more significant acne control.
You can use them individually to avoid irritation or the risk of interacting with topical medication; for instance, apply niacinamide in your morning routine and topical benzoyl peroxide or retinoids at night. (14)
The following compounds effectively treat acne:
- Benzoyl peroxide unclogs pores and eliminates acne-causing bacteria.
- Retinol reduces scar appearance, boosts collagen production by penetrating the deep skin layers, removes oil and dead skin cells, and exfoliates pores. (14)
- Salicylic acid is a chemical exfoliant that penetrates deeply to cleanse pores. It treats non-inflammatory acne effectively. (15)
- Vitamin C reduces hyperpigmentation, inflammation, acne, and scars due to its antioxidant properties.
- Zinc reduces acne breakouts due to its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties and subdues sebum production due to its anti-androgenic properties. (16)
Note: You can apply any of the above-mentioned ingredients if you don’t want to use niacinamide.
Can too much niacinamide cause acne?
Skin care products containing niacinamide sometimes cause breakouts in acne-prone skin. If you notice constant breakouts with niacinamide use, discontinue it immediately.
What happens if I use niacinamide in excess?
According to several studies, niacinamide is safe. However, its topical application has some side effects; the most common are mild irritation, burning, redness, and itching. (17)
Generally, niacinamide is well tolerated, but oral consumption has more side effects as it runs through your body. The common ones are diarrhea, nausea, headache, acne, gastroesophageal reflux, and rash. (18)
Niacinamide is a crucial nutrient in specific foods. It also comes as an oral or topical treatment for non-inflammatory or mild-to-moderate inflammatory acne.
Niacinamide treats acne by controlling and reducing bacterial growth and unclogging pores from dirt. It targets inflammation and controls sebum secretion.
- The role of nicotinamide in acne treatment accepted article. https://deepblue.lib.umich.edu/bitstream/handle/2027.42/138875/dth12481_am.pdf?sequence=1.
- Zhen AX, Piao MJ, Kang KA, et al. NIACINAMIDE protects skin cells from oxidative stress induced by particulate matter. Biomolecules & therapeutics. November 1, 2019. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6824628/.
- Sitohang IBS, Yahya YF, Simanungkalit R, Adi Winarni DR, Madjid A. Efficacy and tolerability of topical nicotinamide plus antibacterial adhesive agents and zinc-pyrrolidone carboxylic acid versus placebo as an adjuvant treatment for moderate acne vulgaris in Indonesia: A Multicenter, double-blind, randomized, controlled trial. The Journal of clinical and aesthetic dermatology. July 2020. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7492018/.
- Fox L, Csongradi C, Aucamp M, du Plessis J, Gerber M. Treatment modalities for acne. Molecules (Basel, Switzerland). August 13, 2016. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6273829/.
- Endly DC, Miller RA. Oily skin: A review of treatment options. The Journal of clinical and aesthetic dermatology. August 2017. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5605215/.
- Nicotinamide. Nicotinamide – an overview | ScienceDirect Topics. https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/chemistry/nicotinamide.
- Niacinamide leave‐on formulation provides long … – wiley online library. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/exd.13285.
- Xing X, Liao Z, Tan F, Zhu Z, Jiang Y, Cao Y. Effect of nicotinamide against candida albicans. Frontiers in microbiology. March 26, 2019. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6443637/.
- Topical niacinamide reduces yellowing, wrinkling … – Wiley Online Library. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1467-2494.2004.00228.x.
- Provitamin B5 using skin comparison of anti-aging effect. https://repository.usu.ac.id/bitstream/handle/123456789/70514/Similarity.pdf.
- Davis EC, Callender VD. Postinflammatory hyperpigmentation: A review of the epidemiology, clinical features, and treatment options in skin of color. The Journal of clinical and aesthetic dermatology. July 2010. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2921758/.
- HE; JL. Stratum corneum abnormalities and disease-affected skin: Strategies for successful outcomes in inflammatory acne. Journal of drugs in dermatology : JDD. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27741332/.
- Levin J, Momin SB. How much do we really know about our favorite cosmeceutical ingredients? The Journal of clinical and aesthetic dermatology. February 2010. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2921764/.
- Sacchidanand SA, Lahiri K, Godse K, et al. Synchronizing pharmacotherapy in acne with review of Clinical Care. Indian journal of dermatology. 2017. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5527713/.
- Rendon MI, Berson DS, Cohen JL, Roberts WE, Starker I, Wang B. Evidence and considerations in the application of chemical peels in skin disorders and aesthetic resurfacing. The Journal of clinical and aesthetic dermatology. July 2010. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2921757/.
- Gupta M, Mahajan VK, Mehta KS, Chauhan PS. Zinc therapy in dermatology: A Review. Dermatology research and practice. 2014. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4120804/.
- HM; R. A review of nicotinamide: Treatment of skin diseases and potential side effects. Journal of cosmetic dermatology. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25399625/.
- El Ters M, Zhou X, Lepping RJ, et al. Biological efficacy and safety of niacinamide in patients with ADPKD. Kidney international reports. June 10, 2020. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7403550/.