Let's talk vitamins: There's vitamin C, which is a powerhouse when it comes to brightening, and vitamin A, which is the answer to all our anti-aging dreams. But when it comes to the lesser-known vitamin B, most of us have little to no idea how it benefits the skin. Well, the underdog vitamin B actually carries similar benefits to both A and C, so you know it's a superstar you've been missing out on. So start taking notes because we're diving into the skin benefits of vitamin B and proving why it's the ingredient your skin care routine is missing.
What are vitamin Bs?
For starters, vitamin B does not naturally occur in the body. It is an antioxidant that we can get from the food we eat including beef, chicken, and potatoes. "It supports cell function; red blood cell production; healthy skin, hair, and nails; and more," says board-certified dermatologist Dendy Engelman, M.D.
According to board-certified dermatologist Hadley King, M.D., there are eight B vitamins, and as a group they are called B-complex vitamins. But when it comes to skin care, there's one that steals the show: Vitamin B3, otherwise known as niacinamide. Ahead, we dive deeper into the topical skin benefits of vitamin B3:
While both vitamin A and vitamin C are popular picks for brightening dark spots and getting rid of hyperpigmentation altogether, the lesser-known vitamin B3 has brightening properties, too. "When applied topically, niacinamide helps reduce the appearance of brown spots, blotchiness, and redness and brightens the overall complexion," says board-certified dermatologist Caren Campbell, M.D. When targeting dark spots, it also pairs well with other antioxidants and other brighteners like kojic acid.
Helps lock in moisture.
When it comes to skin care (or any beauty product for that matter), we love ingredients that moisturize. Engelman says that vitamin B3 supports water retention so moisture stays locked in instead of seeping out. "The water retention keeps the skin moisturized, which in turn keeps the skin barrier healthy and uncompromised," she says.
Strengthens the skin barrier.
Protecting and strengthening the skin barrier may not as high of a priority as a hydrated, bright complexion, but it's imperative when trying to achieve healthy skin. Having a strong skin barrier helps our bodies keep harmful and toxic things from entering the skin. This is also where hydration levels come into play. When the skin barrier is strong, it helps to retain moisture in the skin. This becomes even more important as we age and for those who suffer from dry skin conditions like eczema.
Minimizes fine lines.
Campbell says that because vitamin B3 is an antioxidant, it has anti-inflammatory properties. "This is why it helps prevent and treat signs of aging due to reactive oxygen species, which typically break up collagen and elastin and can result in sagging wrinkles in skin." And various studies have shown that applying vitamin B topically also helped produce new skin cells1 and improve elasticity2 in the skin.
Multiple studies have shown that vitamin B3 can help to treat acne. In addition to the anti-inflammatory properties mentioned above, one study showed that applying a topical formula of 4% niacinamide treated moderate acne just as well as 1% of the topical antibiotic clindamycin. Another study found that topical application can help reduce the production of oils, which can help balance acne-prone skin.
What to know about applying it topically?
Unlike some ingredients that require great precaution before adding them to your skin care routine, there aren't many precautions needed when applying vitamin B3 topically. But it is important to note that this antioxidant is powerful when treating various skin concerns, so it's important to use low concentrations of the formula, typically no greater than 2%, to avoid irritation. "Niacinamide topically can cause stinging, burning, or flushing to the skin in some patients," Campbell warns. "Because it speeds skin cell turnover, some might experience peeling or flaking."
However, there's no need to be worried. It's always a good practice to apply any new product on a small patch of skin before applying all over the face to ensure there are no reactions. Otherwise, you can purchase any product formulated with vitamin B3 and add it into your daily skin care routine.
Andrea Jordan is a beauty and lifestyle freelance writer covering topics from hair and skincare to family and home. She received her bachelor's in Magazine Journalism from Temple University and you can find her work at top publications like InStyle, PopSugar, StyleCaster, Business Insider, PureWow and OprahMag. When she's not writing, you can find Andrea tackling new recipes in the kitchen or babysitting one of her many nieces and nephews. She currently resides in New Jersey with her husband and cat, Silas.