Niacinamide may be everyone’s favorite skincare ingredient, but there’s a fair share of those who have had some unpleasant experiences, such as breaking out after introducing a product that features this ingredient as a main active.
However, if you think the initial breakout can be characterized as a purge that will eventually stop and that you should just stick through it, better think again.
Niacinamide doesn’t cause purging; therefore, the chances are that if you are experiencing some breakouts after starting niacinamide, this is plain old inflammation instead of a stage that should come to an end eventually.
And while this is the most straightforward answer to this question, there are a few more things you should know about niacinamide before determining whether this ingredient is the right one for your skin type and skin concerns.
So continue reading to find out why niacinamide can cause breakouts and irritation in some instances.
What Does Niacinamide Do?
Niacinamide is a form of vitamin B3 that has been shown to be effective in improving a number of skin concerns, including acne, uneven skin tone and texture, post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, post-inflammatory redness, and rosacea.
It’s also loved by many because it’s a gentle yet potent ingredient that offers many benefits for the skin but is generally easily tolerated by all skin types, including sensitive and reactive skin.
Additionally, niacinamide is an antioxidant, meaning it can help protect the skin from environmental stressors like pollution as well as reverse UV damage.
And lastly, niacinamide is also an excellent hydrator and a barrier-repairing agent that helps renew the surface of the skin as well as prevent moisture loss and dehydration by helping the skin improve its natural production of barrier-strengthening ceramides.
Does Niacinamide Cause Purging?
As I already mentioned above, niacinamide isn’t an ingredient that causes purging.
Purging is a stage that occurs when you start using a skincare product that contains components that increase cellular turnover.
During the purging stage, all the blocked pores that were supposed to turn into pimples and appear on the skin’s surface at different times will now appear all at once, causing a cluster of acne that should clear up anywhere between four to eight weeks.
Some of the most common purging ingredients are retinoids, alpha, and beta hydroxy acids, and sometimes enzymes which are another form of chemical exfoliation.
Niacinamide, on the other hand, is none of the above.
Yes, niacinamide can improve the skin’s appearance in many ways the above ingredients can, but increasing cellular turnover isn’t its primary function, and thus niacinamide can’t cause purging.
So if you are experiencing a breakout after starting to use products that feature niacinamide, chances are it’s not a purge and is, instead, a reaction to the product such as inflammation or clogging (depending on the formula of the product) that’s irritating the skin and causing it to break out.
Can Niacinamide Irritate the Skin?
Yes, niacinamide can sometimes irritate the skin, and these are the most common reasons why:
- You may be using the product too often (once every other day is fine, twice a day is too much.)
- You may be using too much of the product (just a few drops on damp skin is enough.)
- You may be using it with other products which are causing a reaction on your skin.
Additionally, since niacinamide is a common addition to skincare products, it can be that other ingredients in the same product are causing you to break out, especially if the formula contains heavy emollients and oils that can lead to clogged pores and bacteria overgrowth.
Lastly, niacinamide can also irritate the skin if you use a product with a high concentration of it.
Niacinamide is an ingredient that is effective at concentrations as low as 4%, so using something that contains 10% or 20% niacinamide can be too much for some skin and may cause redness, itchiness, burning, and breakouts.
If you experience any of the above after using a product with niacinamide, do not mistake it for a purge you have to stick through to, and the best thing to do is to stop using it and focus on healing your skin barrier by applying something soothing and repairing, such as the Cicaplast Baume B5.
How to Use Niacinamide for Best Results?
Niacinamide is an easy-going ingredient that’s generally well tolerated even by sensitive skin, and it mixes well with other actives.
However, the best way to use niacinamide without the risk of irritation is to use just a few drops of it every other day (morning or evening) without trying to build up a tolerance to using it once a day the way you would do with a retinoid.
Niacinamide will work equally well if used once every couple of days, so you won’t miss out on its benefits, but you will save your skin from potential irritation due to overuse.
If your skin tolerates niacinamide well on its own but starts to rebel against your products if you mix multiple actives, there’s no need to continue doing this, and you’d be better off using your products in separate routines.
Lastly, if you’re using a toner or a serum containing niacinamide, always follow it up with a good moisturizer and high SPF in the morning.
Best Niacinamide Serums for All Skin Types
Since niacinamide is one of my favorite ingredients in skincare products, and it has the potential to massively improve the skin’s health and appearance, here are some of my recommendations for the best niacinamide products for all skin types:
Good Molecules – 3% Niacinamide Toner – $14
Best for sensitive skin.
The Good Molecules 3% Niacinamide Toner contains a low concentration of niacinamide, making it most suitable for those with sensitive and reactive skin.
On the other hand, oily folks can also benefit from this toner because it contains super-hydrating but non-clogging ingredients.
Vichy – Mineral 89 Prebiotic Face Serum – $35
Best for all skin types.
Vichy Mineral 89 Prebiotic Recovery & Defense Concentrate is a face serum with barrier-strengthening niacinamide, nourishing propanediol, and hydrating hyaluronic acid that helps hydrate and repair the skin and improve its health, radiance, and overall appearance.
Paula’s Choice – 10% Niacinamide Booster – $44
Best for normal, combination, and dry skin.
Paula’s Choice 10% Niacinamide Booster is a high-strength niacinamide serum packed with soothing, calming, hydrating, and anti-inflammatory ingredients that help improve the barrier’s function and reduce the appearance of hyperpigmentation, uneven skin tone, and texture.
It’s also excellent for redness; however, it’s best to take it easy with this one if you have ultra-sensitive and reactive skin.
My name is Simone and I am a certified skin specialist. I created this website to teach my readers how to take great care of their skin and I also like to occasionally share my honest opinions on skincare products I’ve tried. You can learn more about me here.
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