Psst: This Secret Ingredient Might Be Best for a Brighter Complexion



Since we're in the business of perpetually seeking better and brighter skin, we've known about the glow-worthy benefits of vitamin C for a while now. And if you were to peruse any Byrdie editor's skincare routine you'd more than likely find at least a few elixirs with said superstar ingredient. Afer all, science, doesn't lie: It works. However, when a recent email came through my inbox singing a different vitamin's skin praises, I was intrigued. Apparently, vitamin B3 (also known as niacinamide) is another dark horse when it comes to turbo-charged brightening benefits. Oh, and French girls swear by it. 

Byrdie's Editorial Director, Faith Xue, is another vitamin B3 devotee: "I'm actually obsessed with niacinamide—it's a powerhouse ingredient for brightening and hydration that I think gets overlooked a lot in relation to vitamin C." So what's there to know? According to the experts I tapped, a lot. To find out what makes vitamin B3 tick in regard to its under-the-radar skin benefits, I consulted board-certified  dermatologist and dermatologic surgeon Jennifer Herrmann, MD, who's based in Beverly Hills. Keep reading to learn more about vitamin B3's benefits and to see our editors' best-in-class product picks.


What is vitamin b3?

"When we think about skin benefits and vitamin B3, we're referring to a specific form of B3 (an amide) called nicotinamide. Nicotinamide is an essential water-soluble vitamin, which is not synthesized in the body, meaning we have to eat it to receive its benefits," says Herrmann. However , here is one common misconception when it comes to B3 and its (multiple) monikers: "Nicotinamide is a specific amide (a particular chemical structure) form of B3. It's not niacin, the acid form of this vitamin. Niacin is much more easily found at the drugstore but has the unpleasant side effect of flushing that nicotinamide doesn't have." Not into a red face? Make sure to scan your ingredient lists. 

Additionally, the vitamin has been incorporated into skincare products, since as Herrmann clarifies, our bodies don't produce it on their own. Therefore, if we want to reap the brightening benefits of nicotinamide (also called niacinamide), it needs to be ingested via supplement (Herrmann recommends this one!) or applied topically to the skin: "Nicotinamide is in some topical formulations and can be used in the morning or night as a cream, typically after gentle cleansing." Vitamin B3 can also be found in some of Byrdie HQ's favorite serums (see below!) which can either be applied prior or into your go-to night cream. 

The key, however, is choosing your product selection wisely. Herrmann explains that our skin is smart and since its job is to act as a barrier—protecting our bodies from potentially harmful invaders—not all topical formulations may boast the technology to effectively penetrate.

"Any topically applied active ingredient must be formulated in a way so that it can get into the skin to where it's needed. If nicotinamide successfully penetrates this barrier, it can be effective."

How is it related to brightness?

In short, it's incredibly restorative: "Nicotinamide helps restore cellular energy, repair damaged DNA, and reduce the immunosuppressive effects of sun-induced UV rays." With a fountain of youth likeness, Herrmann compares vitamin B3 to that of a "well-oiled machine," fighting off internal and external stressors that can ultimately lead to the deterioration or breakdown of our skin and premature signs of aging like discoloration and wrinkles.

Concerning brightness specifically, she tells us: "Nicotinamide has been shown to prevent the transfer of pigment within the skin, which can help reduce brown spots." Less redness (thanks to vitamin B3's anti-inflammatory properties), preserved hydration, a strengthened skin barrier, and the improved synthesis of healthy fats (key for glowing skin) are other benefits cited by Herrmann and backed by various studies.

Vitamin B3's Skincare BFFs

Another lesser known fact: Most skin-improving ingredients work most effectively when combined with a few partners in crime: "Concerning pigmentation specifically, nicotinamide is best paired with other ingredients like hydroquinone, kojic acid, arbutin, and soy, which can work synergistically on the "pigment pathway" to best help clear brown spots and discoloration," Herrmann tells us. 

Itching to incorporate the ingredient into your skin care routine asap? Keep scrolling for vitamin B3–enriched products our editors can't quit.