In general, it's safe to assume that something that seems like a cure-all will probably end up acting more more like a "cure nothing." But in the skin care world, there's one buzzy ingredient that seems to help with just enough different types of concerns to be legit: niacinamide, a form of vitamin B3. At the 2019 American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) conference earlier this spring— an annual event where experts in skin care get together to talk about the biggest new trends, treatments, and procedures in the industry — niacinamide was a hot topic of conversation, with several brands releasing new products that contain the vitamin.
As several dermatologists mentioned at the event, the main draw to the ingredient is the wide variety of skin concerns it treats, as well as its low level of risk for negative patient reactions. "Niacinamide is a key ingredient to treat age-related skin changes, acne, and skin discoloration," board certified-dermatologist Dr. Jeffrey Hsu, MD, tells Bustle. "It naturally calms the skin and provides dramatic skin brightening for a wide variety of skin types." Board-certified dermatologist Dr. Meghan Feely, MD, FAAD, seconds these claims, adding that "topical or oral niacinamide has been used to treat inflammatory skin conditions like acne vulgaris."
Basically, all the clinical trials that have been done so far (here's one on melasma and one on treating uneven skin tone more generally) have shown that this stuff can help with almost any minor skin concern, whether you're looking to treat acne or just add a little more brightness to your complexion. While you should always check with your dermatologist before adding any ingredient to your routine — especially if you're taking medication, Feely notes — the risks of side effects from using it are low. In fact, Joshua Zeichner, a director of cosmetic and clinical dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, told Allure,""Niacinamide is generally considered to be such a soothing ingredient that I do not have a conversation with most patients about side effects." Hsu echoes this, telling Bustle, "Niacinamide is an extremely well-tolerated product. There are very rare instances of irritation even with the use of high percentages."
In terms of working the ingredient into your own routine, Hsu recommends his patients start out with a product that has at least a 4% niacinamide concentration. And you don't really have to worry about it interacting poorly with your current skin care faves, either. Ivana Veljkovic, PhD, the vice president of research and development at PCA Skin, tells Bustle that the only time niacinamide doesn't work is if it's mixed with L-ascorbic acid (aka vitamin C) into one water-based product. "This does not happen if the ingredients are used at the same time on the skin from different products," she explains. "They mix well in the skin, but not in one water-based product."
If you're ready to add a little B3 into your skin care routine, here are all sorts of products that contain the stuff to try.