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Can Niacinamide Help With Managing Breakouts?

How does niacinamide help with acne? We’ve got answers.
  • Wendy Rose Gould
March 27, 2024

Acne is a super common skin condition that can affect all skin types and ages. Unless you have “perfect” skin (which isn’t a real thing), you’ve probably experienced some form of acne. This can include pimples, whiteheads, blackheads, or those pesky, lingering acne marks, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Because breakouts and blemishes are so common, lots of skincare formulations are specifically developed to target these concerns. These products typically leverage well-known acne ingredients, such as salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide. Niacinamide is an ingredient often left out of the conversation, but oh, does niacinamide help with acne!

Whether you’re wondering if you can use niacinamide for acne scars, are searching for the answer to “does niacinamide cause purging?” or are simply curious about the relationship between niacinamide and acne, we’ve got answers. We’ve even tapped Michelle Henry, MD FAAD, board-certified dermatologist and L’Oréal Paris consultant, for expert insights on the matter.

What Is Niacinamide?

Also known as vitamin B3, niacinamide is a popular skincare ingredient that you probably already have in your current regimen. Niacinamide is especially known for its ability to help make your skin appear brighter and more even-looking, per the Cleveland Clinic, but there are also a handful of specific niacinamide benefits for acne. This hero of an ingredient can help soothe stressed skin, fade post-acne marks, make pores appear smaller, and improve the look of clogged pores.

You’ll find niacinamide formulated in just about any sort of product you can think of—face washes, serums, masks, moisturizers, and beyond. It’s an effective ingredient for all skin types, but is particularly useful for those with oily or blemish-prone skin, those struggling with dullness or irritation, and people who want to tackle discoloration caused by sun spots or acne.

Does Niacinamide Help With Acne?

When used topically, niacinamide can help reduce the appearance of acne and symptoms of acne, like pimples and excessive oil production, according to Dr. Henry.

“You see [niacinamide] in acne products because it can reduce the activity of the oil glands or sebum production,” she shares. “It can also help improve the texture of the skin and reduce the appearance of the pores.”

Dr. Henry adds that these benefits are what make using niacinamide for acne such a smart move. What’s more, many of the products that leverage this ingredient are also formulated to target additional concerns, such as irritation or signs of aging.

Like any skincare regimen, it’s important to have a balanced approach to the ingredients and products you use. To draw an analogy, even though broccoli is good for your body, you probably wouldn’t only eat broccoli for every meal, right? In the same way, pairing different products together can help you achieve your skincare goal more swiftly. When in doubt, consult with your dermatologist for a tailored approach.

Is Niacinamide Good for Blackheads?

Niacinamide may help with acne-related blackheads. Per the Mayo Clinic, blackheads are caused by a mixture of sebum (oil) and bacteria that join forces to clog up a pore. Once the clogged pore is exposed to the air, it turns that tell-tale black/brown color, and a blackhead is born. (Note: These aren’t to be confused with sebaceous filaments, which are most common on your nose and are often mistaken for blackheads.)

If your skin produces excess sebum, you may have a higher chance of getting blackheads. Because niacinamide can help balance oily skin, this gentle ingredient can help prevent blackheads. What’s more, niacinamide is also known for its ability to refine the appearance of skin texture and visibly reduce the overall size of pores, per the Cleveland Clinic.

Using Niacinamide for Acne-Prone Skin

Now that you know that niacinamide can be good for acne-prone skin, it only makes sense to add this ingredient to your routine. Not only can niacinamide help curb oiliness (which can lead to blackheads and pimples, as mentioned above), but it’s also a gentle ingredient that works well with retinol and exfoliating acids. This ingredient can also help soothe skin—all good things that sensitive, acne-prone skin can benefit from.

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Apply a clarifying niacinamide toner

After cleansing, apply a clarifying niacinamide toner for a refreshing and acne-targeted boost. You can apply the toner to your face using a cotton pad, or by gently pressing it onto your skin. This step is an easy and effective addition to your daily regimen for a clearer, healthier-looking complexion.

Use a niacinamide serum

Try a serum dedicated to targeting acne marks and other forms of hyperpigmentation, like L’Oréal Paris Bright Reveal 12% [Niacinamide + Amino Sulfonic + Ferulic Acid] Dark Spot Serum. This niacinamide serum helps minimize the appearance of dark spots. It also gently exfoliates the skin and helps brighten your complexion.

Try a night moisturizer formulated with retinol and niacinamide

Niacinamide and retinol play nicely together, so consider incorporating a product that heroes both, like the L’Oreal Paris RevitaLift Pressed Night Moisturizer with Retinol + Niacinamide. This lightweight moisturizer visibly brightens and helps create an even-looking tone and texture while also combating common signs of aging such as fine lines and wrinkles. The formula, which features a 12% complex of soothing ingredients, also helps balance the potentially drying effects of retinol.

Spot treat with niacinamide

You can use a concentrated niacinamide product to spot treat acne-related discoloration.

Does Niacinamide Help With Acne Scars?

To answer this question properly, it’s important to note that acne scars are not the same thing as acne marks (post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, or PIH). Let’s explore the two.

Acne scars

The Cleveland Clinic explains that acne scars are physical marks left on the skin from inflamed blemishes that swell and either create craters you can see and feel on the face (referred to as pock marks) or permanent raised bumps.

You likely won’t see a change in these pock marks or permanent bumps when using niacinamide for acne scars—it’s very difficult to address them with skincare products alone. For these concerns, you’ll want to speak with a dermatologist to discuss professional treatments, such as resurfacing lasers and chemical peels, per the Mayo Clinic.

According to the Mayo Clinic, you can wear sunscreen to limit the contrast between acne scars and unscarred skin. Use the L’Oréal Paris Bright Reveal Broad Spectrum SPF 50 Daily UV Lotion to protect your skin—it has a lightweight texture that won’t clog pores, making it a great option for blemish-prone skin.

Acne marks

While niacinamide may not nix acne scars, you can use niacinamide for acne-related dark spots, according to the Cleveland Clinic. These are the stubborn red and brown marks left behind long after the pimple or blemish itself has gone away—sometimes for weeks or even months.

In clinical studies, our abovementioned Bright Reveal 12% [Niacinamide + Amino Sulfonic + Ferulic Acid] Dark Spot Serum has been shown to visibly reduce the appearance of post-acne dark spots in as little as one week. The formula works by gently exfoliating surface cells and brightening skin for a more clear and even-looking complexion.

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Can Niacinamide Cause Acne?

There is limited research on whether niacinamide can cause breakouts. However, you may experience skin purging when using this ingredient. In other words, your skin may start to look worse before it gets better.

So what’s the deal? Skin purging is common when using certain skincare ingredients. According to the Mayo Clinic, changes in texture, pimple production, and redness are all possible when using over-the-counter acne products.

Per the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), all acne treatments need a fighting chance to work their magic—about four to six weeks to see improvements and two or three months for notable clearing. The AAD adds that switching up products before this time frame can potentially irritate your skin and may even cause new breakouts. This is why skincare can require some patience. If you don’t see an improvement after this time frame, we recommend visiting your dermatologist; they can help you determine the best game plan for your skin.

Next Up: When To Use Niacinamide in Your Skin Care Routine

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