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Niacinamide is a biologically active form of niacin (vitamin B3) found in root vegetables and yeasts. One of the advanatges of niacinamide is its stability being unaffected by light, moisture, acids, alkalis or oxidizers. Niacinamide has several proposed medicinal applications in the skin industry including anti-inflammation, prevention of photo-immunosuppression and increased intracellular lipid synthesis.


During the 1970s various clinical trials highlighted the good skin penetration of niacinamide and since then scientists have been increasingly interested in exploring the topical effects effects of niacinamide and its application within skin care.

Niacinamide has the following effects on skin:

  • Helps impart a more even looking skin tone. Extended exposure to sunlight is a main reason for hyperpigmentation. Melanocytes in deeper skin layers produce melanosomes that contain the pigment melanin. These are then released to keratinocytes that move upwards to the upper epidermis. Niacinamide does not inhibit the production of melanin but it was shown in 2002 that niacinamide inhibits the transfer of melanosomes to the surrounding keratinocytes by up to 68%. The scientists used a keratinocyte/melanocyte co-culture model.

A clinical trial by Proctor and Gamble, volunteers confirmed the skin lightening activity. They had applied a skin cream with 5% niacinamide for eight weeks. Age spots around the eyes and cheek were significantly reduced. 89% of participants reported a noticeable or significant decrease in hyperpigmentation:

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Figure 1: Niacinamide 5% cream reduced hyperpigmentation at four and eight weeks.

In another clinical study by Proctor & Gamble 120 Japanese women aged 18-130 with moderate to deep facial tan, it was concluded that niacinamide induced a significant increase in skin lightness at four and six week time points and significant increase in graded visible skin at four weeks:

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Figure 2. Percentage reduction of area of hyperpigmentation from baseline for niacinamide and vehicle treated side of face. Individual points circled at same week of use indicated significant difference.

In another study conducted in 2006 by Proctor and Gamble showed that the combination of n-acetyl glucosamine at 2% and niacinamide at 4% synergistically treated hyperpigmentation, dark spots and uneven skin tone in UV damaged skin cells. This synergistic effect instigated Complexi-Light research team to include N-acetyl glucosamine alongside niacinamide.

  • Improvement of skin moisturisation. Skin softness, suppleness and skin hydration are related to barrier properties of the horny layer. It is known that several lipids such as fatty acids and ceramides are critical for the structural and functional integrity of stratum corneum. The skin barrier function can be assessed by transepidermal water loss (TEWL) measurements. A study conducted in 2000 showed that 2% niacinamide reduced the TEWL by 24% in four weeks. At the same time fatty acids and ceramides were boosted by 67% and 34% respectively.
  • Improvements in the appearance of the aging of the skin. Skin aging is characterised by major skin changes like reduced skin elasticity poorer structures and appearance of wrinkles. An important factor is the gradual loss of collagen breakdown, while increasing fibroblasts. A recommended strategy in preventing skin aging is to reduce collagen breakdown, while increasing fibroblasts. Studies with human fibroblasts showed that niacinamide stimulates new fibroblasts by 20% and collagen secretion by 54%.

– Topical niacinamide at 4% has been shown to provide potent anti-inflammotory activity in the treatment of acne vulgaris. In a study reported by Shalita, 82% of subjects with inflammatory acne showed an improvement in global evaluation after eight weeks of usage accompanied by significant reductions in papules/pustules by 60% and acne severity by 52%. These effects may be due to niacinamide ‘s apparent anti-histaminic effect, its anti-oxidant effect or its inhibition cyclic-AMP phosphodiesterase activity. In another study Niacinamide found that there was a significant reduction in both sebaceous lipids and triglycerides. The regulation of sebaceous lipid can also contribute to anti-acne properties.

The multiple beneficial effects of niacinamide on the skin makes it an excellent ingredient for Complexi-Lights formulation which helps to reduce acne, the appearance of wrinkles and also aimed at helping skin tone.