Niacinamide – The ‘Fairness’ Vitamin

Updated: Nov 21, 2018

Niacinamide or nicotinic acid amide is a water-soluble vitamin of the B group, also popular as vitamin B3. Niacinamide is converted from niacin in the body; both niacin and Niacinamide have similar potency and activity. They are the essential constituent of the oxido-reduction coenzymes, the pyridine nucleotides, nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD) and nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate (NADP).

Niacinamide can be used in doses up to 4% in topical applications. [3] It is generally well tolerated but the acid derivative of Niacinamide, that is, Niacin, can cause skin redness, itching and irritation due to increased vasodilation even in low doses.

(Top) Niacinamide or Vitamin B3 (Bottom) Fitzpatrick skin type chart showing tones from the lightest to darkest. Such skin charts are commonly used to determine the change in skin colour by use of fairness creams or whitening treatments.

Niacinamide is one of the most common constituent of fairness creams or whitening treatments that do not have a bleaching action. Studies have shown that use of Niacinamide containing products regularly can result in improved skin barrier function, hydration and reduced wrinkled appearance. In a recent in vitro study, Niacinamide was shown to reduce production of prostaglandin E2 in keratinocytes in response to UVB stress stimuli and maintain integrity of cellular structure. Application of Niacinamide reversibly inhibited melanosome transfer to keratinocytes thereby leading to depigmentation.[1-2]

From effective moisturization to anti-aging benefits, niacinamide may sound like a panacea for all skin care problems. However, one must be careful while applying products containing this vitamin as it is known to cause redness and irritation too.


1. Berson DS et al. Niacinamide. In Cosmeceuticals and Cosmetic Practice, P. K. Farris (Ed.). 2013

2. Greatens A et al., Effective inhibition of melanosome transfer to keratinocytes by lectins and niacinamide is reversible. Exp Dermatol. 2005;14(7):498-508.

3. Cosmetic Ingredient Review Expert Panel. Final report of the safety assessment of niacinamide and niacin. Int J Toxicol. 2005;24, S5:1-31.

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