Americans spend close to $20 billion on anti-aging products such as supplements and cosmetics to reduce wrinkles, according to the research company The Freedonia Group, and millions more for other skin-care products. Manufacturers of these products continually try adding new components to their formulas in hopes of more sales, although some of these additives are more effective than others. One compound that has demonstrated clinically-verifiable results is a form of niacin called niacinamide.
Niacin and niacinamide are forms of vitamin B-3 found in many foods including yeast, meat, fish, milk, eggs, green vegetables, beans and cereals. Niacinamide, also known as nicotinamide, is needed for the proper metabolism of fats and sugars in the body and to help maintain healthy cells. Also important for skin cream formulas is the fact that niacinamide’s water-soluble ingredient is stable in the presence of heat and light.
Not many studies have looked into the effects of niacinamide on acne. One double-blind study from 1995, published in the “International Journal of Dermatology,” divided 76 patients into two groups -- one receiving a topical gel containing 4 percent nicotinamide and the other receiving a gel with 1 percent clindamycin, a prescription antibacterial acne preparation. The researchers found that both groups had equally positive results.
Niacinamide creams can also help boost water content in skin. A study in Japan with 28 atopic dermatitis patients used a 2 percent nicotinamide cream. The results, published in the “International Journal of Dermatology” in March 2005, demonstrated that the nicotinamide cream was more effective than petrolatum, the same ingredient in Vaseline, at boosting hydration levels in the patients’ dry skin.
Rosacea is a chronic, uncurable skin condition that causes red facial skin, flushing, red bumps and pustules. Scientists at Wake Forest University School of Medicine treated 50 volunteers with rosacea using a niacinamide-based moisturizer on the face and forearm twice a day for four weeks. The results, published in 2005 in the journal “Cutis,” showed that the niacinamide moisturizer provided substantial improvements in rosacea symptoms.
Possible Skin Cancer Prevention
Several studies have tested niacinamide in vivo and on laboratory animals to study its effects on skin cancer. One study that was published in July 2010 in the “Journal of Nucleic Acids,” reported that nicotinamide was able to protect against ultraviolet-induced skin cancer in mice. It helped prevent the progression of premalignant actinic keratoses to malignant squamous cell cancers.
An eight-week, randomized, parallel-group study, sponsored by Proctor and Gamble and published in March 2010 in “The British Journal of Dermatology,” treated subjects with various formulations including niacinamide, peptides and antioxidants. Changes in facial wrinkles were assessed by expert grading, digital images of subjects' faces and a self-assessment questionnaire. The niacinamide was as effective at reducing the appearance of wrinkling after eight weeks as a prescription cream containing 0.02 percent tretinoin.
A separate study published in “Dermatologic Surgery” in 2006 showed topical niacinamide provided reductions in fine lines and wrinkles, hyperpigmented spots, red blotchiness, skin yellowing and elasticity, as measured by a cutometry machine.