Did you ever wonder why the damage you inflicted on your skin during your teens—damage from tanning beds, poor diet and lack of sleep—didn’t show up until your thirties and forties? Over time, our cells’ ability to repair themselves slows down. That’s when we start experiencing dry skin, hyperpigmentation, loss of elasticity and fine lines and wrinkles. Fortunately, through a nutritious diet and a solid skin care routine, we can arm our skin with essential nutrients to repair and defend itself from its daily stressors.
One of these essential nutrients is niacin. Now you’re probably wondering why everyone is suddenly talking about this ingredient. What does niacin do, and why is it being called the “superfood” of skin care?
Niacin, a Primer
Also known as vitamin B-3, nicotinic acid or niacinamide, niacin helps the body perform critical functions like cell signaling, DNA repair, energy metabolism and for converting carbohydrates and fats and proteins. In the early part of the 20th century it was discovered that increasing dietary niacin could cure the debilitating and often fatal skin disease pellagra. However, essential nutrients cannot be made by the body and must come from outside sources, usually through excellent sources like fish, chicken and turkey, pork, beef, mushrooms, peanuts and avocado. While eating niacin-rich foods is important, topical application of niacin can deliver impressive benefits as well.
The Benefits of Topical Niacin
When niacin is taken orally, it must first be digested before it can be broken down, bioconverted and circulated throughout the body. However, when niacin is applied directly to the skin it bypasses digestion. Concentrated amounts are absorbed directly into the skin where it is immediately bioconverted to its active form: nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD).
NAD is a cell-signaling coenzyme that our cells use for DNA repair, improved energy metabolism and stimulating key proteins and hormones like leptin, a natural repair hormone. Generations of healthier skin cells get to work by tightening up the cellular matrix, repairing hyperpigmentation and rebuilding the skin’s protective barrier. Within weeks, skin is brighter and more hydrated, texture and tone have improved and fine lines and wrinkles start to diminish.
A Potential Skin Cancer Cure?
It is important to note that not all topical niacin products are created equal. Niacin is a water-soluble vitamin, which means it is unable to deeply penetrate the fatty layers of the skin on its own. Therefore, it is essential to use a fat-soluble, or lipophilic, form of the vitamin. This crucial component is the foundation of NIA 24® Niacin Powered Skin Therapy, a skin care line that boasts a patented molecule known as Pro-Niacin®.
Pro-Niacin® is a micronutrient delivery system clinically proven to increase the amount of bioactive niacin to the basal cells. Pro-Niacin® has been proven so effective that it was chosen for independent research by the National Cancer Institute as a potential skin cancer prevention agent. According to studies, since bioactive niacin repairs damaged cells, it can also help induce apoptosis, a natural process that prevents damaged cells from reproducing, potentially limiting the risk for skin cancer.
How to Maximize the Benefits of Niacin
The beauty of niacin is that it works synergistically with other nutrients to enhance the overall effect. For extremely powerful combinations, pair niacin with vitamin A or vitamin C—two other skin-enhancing, nutritional powerhouses widely known to have tremendous benefits when applied topically.
Vitamin A, retinoic acids and retinol palmitate to name a few—is the gold standard when it comes to wrinkle prevention. Vitamin A works by stimulating the skin’s renewal process and supercharging cellular division. However, using retinoic acid over time can thin the skin and make it unable to retain moisture. Skin becomes thin and dry and more susceptible to damage. Using niacin in conjunction with vitamin A will counter this effect because niacin rebuilds the skin’s protective barrier from the inside out.
Similarly, the benefits of vitamin C, commonly known as ascorbic acid and L-ascorbic acid, are enhanced when combined with niacin, especially as a tyrosinase (an enzyme involved with melanin production) inhibitor. Niacin works to repair the damaged cells, including regulating melanin distribution to melanocytes, while vitamin C works to inhibit overproduction of the enzyme. The effect when used together? Brighter, healthier skin with less hyperpigmentation.