Best Niacinamide Serum – Our Favourite Products & How to Use Them

Last Updated: October 6, 2020

You know B vitamins are good for you but did you know they’re also a great skincare ingredient? Niacinamide, or vitamin B3, is a jack of all trades skin hero that does everything from moisturizing to soothing inflammation. It’s become a staple in my regimen and I’ve looked far and wide for the best niacinamide serum. Here’s what I found.

The Beginner’s Guide to Niacinamide and Why You Need It in Your Routine

Niacinamide is the buzz-worthy ingredient of the moment but I think over time, it will prove to be more than a passing fad. It has all the makings of a skincare classic, like retinol and vitamin C. Niacinamide is made from vitamin B3 (also called niacin) and is under the B complex vitamin category. Vitamins in this group have healing and soothing properties.

What does niacinamide serum do for your skin?

Brightens the complexion

If you want to improve dullness and correct uneven tone, vitamin B3 is a must have. It treats hyperpigmentation at its source by blocking melanin production so dark spots don’t have a chance to form. Niacinamide corrects a lackluster complexion in as little as two weeks of twice-daily application.

Tightens pores

Niacinamide’s nickname should really be the pore corset. Scientists still haven’t found the reason why it’s so effective for reducing pore size but they agree that niacinamide works. It supports the skin and brings the lining of the pores back to normal. This pore-minimizing function is especially helpful if you have clogged and rough skin or an orange peel-y texture from sun damage.

Reduces signs of aging

Retinol is the gold standard for anti-aging but we shouldn’t belittle the power of niacinamide because it can pull its own weight in softening fine lines and wrinkles. How does it do this? Niacinamide helps speed up collagen and hyaluronic acid production. This is important because as we get older, collagen production decreases which leads to sagging and wrinkles. By improving cell turnover and shielding skin from environmental damage, it reduces the appearance of aging and boosts elasticity.

Fights zits

If all this anti-aging talk doesn’t interest you at the moment (lucky you), you might be interested in using niacinamide for its acne-busting abilities. It lowers sebum production which is good news if you have combination or oily skin. Niacinamide is also antibacterial which helps prevent pimples. However, you can’t use niacinamide like salicylic acid because it doesn’t treat spots directly. It prevents them from forming by regulating oil production. As they say, prevention is better than cure.

Prevents dehydration and moisture loss

Dry skinned gals need not feel left out from the niacinamide party because it also fortifies the moisture barrier. What that means is it prevents water loss from the epidermis and seals in moisture. It amplifies the production of ceramides which are fats that are naturally found in the epidermis. In conjunction with a good moisturizer, niacinamide has been shown to prevent tight, flaky skin.

Soothes rosacea and eczema

Niacinamide has soothing, anti-inflammatory properties that help heal the moisture barrier. It improves the barrier function, thereby relieving rosacea and eczema. Even sensitive types can use niacinamide because it’s non-irritating.

Great for all skin types

As I’ve mentioned, niacinamide is a jack-of-all-trades, the ultimate skincare multitasker. It has antioxidant functions, moisture-barrier restoring properties, and oil-reducing powers. Even more astounding is niacinamide’s ability to boost cell production so there’s always a supply of new cells, which gives you that coveted youthful glow.

What percentage of niacinamide is effective?

More isn’t always better when it comes to active ingredient percentages. Niacinamide can be effective in as little as a two percent dose. Studies on niacinamide use a range of two to ten percent for topical use (not orally ingested tablets). There are formulations that use twenty percent niacinamide which is quite high, good for more advanced signs of damage. If you are sensitive, start off with a low percentage. Two percent is recommended.

How to Choose the Best Niacinamide Serum for You

Percentage

Look for a niacinamide serum that indicates the percentage on the label or ingredients list. This lets you know how potent it is and, if you have sensitive skin, how potentially irritating it is. Start off small, with a two to five percent serum.

Quality of ingredients

Though niacinamide by itself is a multitasker, it doesn’t hurt to have added benefits with your serum. I like a product that has more than one active ingredient in high concentrations so I can get more potency in a single step. This also helps pare down my routine. As always, look for high quality ingredients.

Formula

Even when a serum is effective, I’ll be less likely to stick to it if the formula is unpleasant to use. I love budget niacinamide serums but sometimes they don’t have an elegant formula with an enjoyable feel. I prefer a quick-absorbing and fast-drying product so I can move on to my next steps.

What works best with niacinamide?

Niacinamide is great for pairing up with hydrating and moisturizing ingredients like hyaluronic acid. It also works well with actives that fight dark spots such as hydroquinone and arbutin.

What’s the best way to use niacinamide?

Read the instructions of the product so you can use it as the manufacturer intended. Topical niacinamide products are better than wash-off types. Use niacinamide after your cleanser and pH-dependent actives such as chemical exfoliants and vitamin C. Apply the serum anywhere in your skincare routine after that, depending on its thickness. Thin serums go under thicker serums, lotions, and creams. For maximum results, use niacinamide twice a day. You can try layering it with moisturisers and serums, as well.

The 5 Best Niacinamide Serums You Must Try

1. asap super B complex

Niacinamide gets a hydrating boost with hyaluronic acid in asap’s super B complex, your new skincare BFF. This well-loved serum by the Aussie brand contains 30 ml of moisturising goodness. The hyaluronic acid complements the hydrating effects of niacinamide. It locks in moisture, fortifying your moisture barrier, and preventing flaky skin.

This will also help calm down any redness or irritation which is good for those with sensitive skin and rosacea. Niacinamide also treats fine lines and wrinkles because it’s full of antioxidants that fight free radical damage. You get a collagen boost, too. But that’s not all, this lightweight and easy to use formula contains glycolic acid and lactic acid, which are AHAs (alpha hydroxy acids) that increase cell turnover and work in tandem with niacinamide to brighten the complexion and fade hyperpigmentation.

This is safe to use day and night and good for all skin types. However, you have to be strict with your SPF because glycolic acid and lactic acid cause sun sensitivity. The serum is cruelty-free, vegan, and artificial fragrance-free.

A slight downside to this product is that it can be irritating because of the two types of AHAs in the ingredient list. This is not ideal for daily use if you haven’t used chemical exfoliants before. This niacinamide serum also doesn’t indicate its niacinamide percentage.

Pros
Cons

2. The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%

The Ordinary is a pioneer in the beauty world, making potent yet budget-friendly skincare that can be seen in the top shelf of even the most discerning beauty editors. Their 10% niacinamide serum is combined with zinc to support its zit-zapping effects. This is one of the best niacinamide serums for those on a tight budget.

As indicated on the label, this is a high concentration (10 percent) of niacinamide. In conjunction with zinc, it helps lower visible oil production and reduces the appearance of acne. This is amazing for oily and combination skin that’s prone to congestion.

However, it’s not a serum that’s meant to be used alone if you have persistent blemishes. It can help improve the efficacy of your spot treatment because it treats the complexion from within. This serum is also good for brightening the skin and fading dark marks.

It’s alcohol-free and oil-free so it will suit both dry and oily skin types. For ethically conscious shoppers, this is cruelty-free and vegan. This niacinamide serum is great if you have allergies because it’s nut and gluten-free, as well.

Because of how affordable it is, I recommend this as a starter niacinamide serum for beginners, especially if you have oily and acne-prone skin. This product doesn’t have the most pleasant formulation as it tends to be sticky. Some users also report pilling and a white cast, so I don’t think it will be good for daytime use under makeup. However, for the price, I can’t complain.

Pros
Cons

3. SkinCeuticals – Metacell Renewal B3

If aging is your top concern, this is the best niacinamide serum on the list for you. It’s a lightweight emulsion with 5 percent niacinamide and 2.5 percent firming tripeptide concentrate. The lotion has 15 percent pure glycerin, a humectant that draws moisture into the skin, leaving it plump and hydrated.

This serum’s main draw is its effectiveness in reducing signs of photoaging. Photoaging is what makes the skin look dull and old. The peptides included in the ingredients are proven to fight skin aging. It helps reduce the appearance of fine lines and gives the face a firmer feel. This anti-aging serum stimulates cell turnover so your skin is soft, smooth, and glowy.

The niacinamide pairs with glycerin to strengthen your moisture barrier. The serum also gets rid of discolored and blotchy skin. It will refine your skin texture, so it looks fresh and glowy.

The lightweight emulsion is formulated well. It’s smooth and fast absorbing. The product is delivered through a tightly sealed pump bottle so it’s easy to use and hygienic. You get 50 ml of the serum in one bottle. Though this niacinamide serum is a bit pricey, you only need a little each time and the effects are priceless.

Pros
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4. Paula’s Choice – 10% Niacinamide Booster

Paula’s Choice is a woman-owned brand that prioritises scientifically proven, effective products. You may have heard of their universally loved salicylic acid products but did you know they also make a great niacinamide serum?

The Paula’s Choice 10% Niacinamide Booster has a high concentration of niacinamide. In this formula, it’s combined with vitamin C and licorice extract to amplify its effects. This serum is great for all skin types. If you have oily skin, you’ll benefit from its anti-inflammatory and pore-minimising effects. If your skin needs more glow, you’ll love the combination of vitamin C and niacinamide in targeting dullness and dark spots.

It’s also a powerhouse duo for treating signs of aging because vitamin C is an effective antioxidant. Dry skin will love this for its moisturising properties. The allantoin and licorice extract is excellent for calming down irritated skin and rosacea.

The Niacinamide Booster can be used alone as a regular serum or mixed with a moisturiser to complement its efficacy. The cruelty-free serum comes in a dropper bottle so it’s easy to apply. It’s free of parabens and fragrance, making it a good choice for sensitive skin. You get 20 ml of product in one bottle.

This niacinamide booster has a waterlike consistency which can be tricky to spread evenly on the skin. Though this is an affordable product, it’s a small bottle.

Pros
Cons

5. Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare – Stress Rescue Super Serum with Niacinamide

Dr. Dennis Gross is a well-known name in the dermatology world and he’s brought his expertise in his skincare brand. This is one of his magnificent creations and I think it’s the easiest to recommend for busy people who want to cheat that glow. It’s arguably the best niacinamide serum for stressed skin.

Stress can lead to premature signs of aging, even if you’ve been diligent about applying your sunscreen. If you have worry lines, dullness, flareups, and blotches, that might be your skin telling you you’re too stressed. The serum contains superfoods and adaptogens that reduce these giveaways that your skin is under stress.

This serum filled with nutrient-dense ingredients such as maitake mushroom, maca root, cacao, and goji berry that help to resurface the skin and promote collagen production. What makes this stand out from other serums on the list is its unique microcapsule delivery system that boosts the absorption of all these skin goodies.

This super serum prevents breakouts and reduces the appearance of pores. It contains Ashwagandha which has stress-reducing and antibacterial properties. Goji brightens the complexion and protects you from oxidative stress.

It’s a lightweight and fast-absorbing formula that comes in a dropper bottle. It’s pleasant to use and not sticky on the skin. The only con is its price. It’s a bit of a splurge but it’s well worth it if you want an all-in-one antiaging step. There’s also no percentage indicated on the label.

Pros
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Conclusion

Picking the best niacinamide serum can be confusing with the dizzying array of products available. Hopefully, this helps narrow down your options so you can decide what’s the most suitable serum for you. For me, it’s the SkinCeuticals Metacell Renewal B3. I love that it’s a serum and moisturiser in one, which is perfect for reducing skincare steps or for lazy nights when you’re too tired to do your whole routine. The tripeptides boost niacinamide’s anti-aging benefits so fine lines are reduced and firmness is increased. The pump bottle makes putting the serum on the face easy plus it’s incredibly pleasant to use because it’s well-formulated and quick absorbing. If you want a powerful serum in your nightly rotation, definitely check out this SkinCeuticals product. It might just get you hooked on niacinamide.