You want hyaluronic acid if your skin needs a boost of hydration. You need vitamin C for antioxidant protection. When it comes to niacinamide? Be prepared to target a handful of skin concerns in one fell swoop—it’s a “skincare superstar,” says board-certified dermatologist Dr. Lian Mack. “In skincare, niacinamide helps to reduce redness, hyperpigmentation, pore size, strengthens the skin barrier, regulates sebum production, and acts as an antioxidant.” That in mind, incorporating one of the best niacinamide serums into your skincare routine is a welcome addition.
The benefits are worthwhile for every skin type (even sensitive skin types) and can swoop in and save the day when it comes to treating certain types of acne, rosacea, or fine lines and wrinkles. Still, it’s key to be discerning when scooping up your serum. You want to take into account the concentration of niacinamide and factor in what other ingredients made their way into the formulation. To find the best niacinamide serum for you, scroll ahead. Top dermatologists (and yours truly!) are breaking down exactly what to look for—and shop.
What to Look For
More isn’t always better—especially when it comes to Niacinamide. It’s important to take your skin type into consideration; if you’re sensitive to new products, easing into the ingredient best. “Look for lower concentrations of one to two percent,” says Dr. Mack. “At higher concentrations, niacinamide may actually cause redness, irritation, or contact dermatitis, which manifests as a red, scaly rash.”
That said, if you tolerate new ingredients fairly well or are specifically concerned with treating discoloration, the two to 10 percent range is perfect. “If you are using niacinamide to treat dark spots, I would recommend the five to 10 percent concentration,” explains board-certified dermatologist Dr. Anna Karp. If you’re concerned about tolerability, “Patch test on a small area of your skin, such as the forearm, before applying it to your entire face.”
While some serums will highlight niacinamide as the star ingredient, you’ll typically find it alongside other actives, salicylic acid being one of the most common. “Niacinamide can help to reduce inflammation and redness, which can be caused by salicylic acid,” explains Dr. Karp.
That said, it plays well with just about everything. “Niacinamide is extremely compatible with other active ingredients including retinoids, alpha and beta hydroxy acids, peptides, and hyaluronic acid,” adds Dr. Mack.
Do I Need Niacinamide?
There’s a high probability you can benefit from incorporating a serum with niacinamide into your skincare routine. It works across all skin types—even sensitive skin. Specifically it’s great for acne, as it can “reduce inflammation, sebum production, and the appearance of blemishes,” according to Dr. Mack.
It’s also ideal for balancing oily and dry skin. “Niacinamide can help to control oil production and reduce the appearance of pores, while hydrating the skin and improving barrier function,” she adds.
The Best Niacinamide Serums
- The Best Niacinamide Serum Overall: Peach & Lily Glass Skin Refining Serum
- The Best Drugstore Niacinamide Serum: CeraVe Retinol Serum for Post-Acne Marks and Skin Texture
- The Best Niacinamide Serum for Skin Barrier Health: Dr. Barbara Sturm The Better B Niacinamide Serum
- The Best Niacinamide Serum for Mature Skin: Caudalie Premier Cru Anti-Aging Serum
- The Best Niacinamide Serum for Redness: Sunday Riley B3 Nice 10% Niacinamide Serum
The Best Niacinamide Serum for a Glow
The brand’s best-seller, this product will single handedly make your skin have a disco-ball like iridescence in just a few week’s time. The niacinamide expertly reduces the look of dark spots and brightens the skin’s overall complexion, while complimentary ingredients like peptides, hyaluronic acid, and peach extract give the skin bouncy, supple effect. Try adding just this one product into your regime—you’ll be mesmerized by your skin’s transformation.
Pros: Great texture; Fades dark spots
Cons: Can be irritating for some
Customer Review: “It's not aggressive or irritating, and I have very sensitive skin. I love that it's fragrance free and it feels like they really invested in the actual formula and not some kind of marketing gimmick to make it cutesy like a lot of skincare companies do which I appreciate. It sinks in beautifully and layers well with my moisturizer, sunscreen, and makeup.” — Ulta
As someone with highly reactive skin, vitamin C serums are tricky to use without eliciting some form of reaction. Enter: This Motif brightening serum, which leverages powerful antioxidants, alongside backuchiol, which is a natural, and less irritating form of retinol. I've been using this for a few weeks and have already noticed my dark spots have faded and my complexion is brighter.
Pros: Effective; Great ingredients; Safe for sensitive skin
Customer Review: "This is my go-to serum all year long! With my combination skin, I love that it's hydrating without feeling oily. It has evened my skin tone and given me a fresh, supple look." — Motif
It shouldn’t come as a shocker that this skincare staple has earned a cult-like following—it’s deeply nourishing, glow-boosting, and doubles as the perfect clear highlighter on top of makeup. “I love the hydrating effects of this serum,” says Dr. Mack. “Niacinamide is coupled with hyaluronic acid creating a dynamic, hydrating duo.” It smells like watermelon (obviously) and has a slight shimmer to its formulation.
Pros: Dermatologist-recommended; Very glowy; Contains hyaluronic acid for hydration
Customer Review: “I love this product so much! It is very hydrating and soft on my dry skin. It also leaves my skin very glowy which I love. I also really like the scent.” — Sephora
The Best Niacinamide Serum for Mature Skin
It’s hard to find a high-concentration niacinamide serum that’s going to be extra efficacious yet non-irritating. But thanks to the unique combination of ingredients, this La Roche-Posay serum does just that. “It’s a good choice for those with sensitive skin, as it is formulated with thermal water, hyaluronic acid, and other soothing ingredients,” says Dr. Karp. Make sure to use this for around eight weeks if you want to see full results.
Pros: Dermatologist-recommended; Great for tackling dark spots
Cons: Might still be irritating for some; Fragrant
Customer Review: “The only product to actually reduce the appearance of my dark spots and evens out my skin tone!! This is my holy grail for sure!!” — Target
The Best Drugstore Niacinamide Serum
“This is a dedicated 10% niacinamide serum with a lightweight feel,” says Dr. Portela. “It’s easy to combine with other skin care products in your routine.” That said, because it’s so multitasking you’ll probably find that you can cut out a lot of excess. In addition to addressing pores and texture, vitamin C and licorice extract tackle inflammation, redness, and hyperpigmentation. Just one callout: This is a water-like booster, so your best bet is to combine the liquid with your moisturizer of choice.
Pros: Lightweight; Multi-tasking
Cons: Might be too strong for some
Customer Review: “It is specifically designed for those with uneven skin tone, post-acne scar marks, and large visible pores. I have been using it because I am concerned about my uneven skin tone and have recently become bothered by my pores. After using it for about a week and a half, I have noticed some improvement, so I plan to continue using it.” — Target
The Best Niacinamide Serum for Acne-Prone Skin
CosRX might be on the map for its snail mucin serum, but don’t overlook the brand’s other offerings. Case in point? This serum comes with the maximum concentration of niacinamide, making it extremely effective for oily, acne-prone skin. The star ingredient is responsible for regulating oil production, soothing inflammation, and helping to fade scars. Zinc is in the mix to help with inflammation, while the rest of the formula bolsters hydration and skin softness. Start by using this just once daily for a couple weeks and then up the ante if your skin can handle the strength.
Pros: Great for acne-prone skin; Shrinks pores
Cons: Too intense for some
Customer Review: “This serum is definitely in the top 5 niacinamide serums that I have used. I can definitely tell the difference in the oil production throughout the day on my skin on the days that I use this and on the days that I may miss this step in my routine. Even though I have not changed my moisturizer at all, I have found that my skin feels more hydrated since adding this serum into my routine.” — Ulta
The Best Niacinamide Serum for Skin Barrier Health
More often than not, skin freakouts by way of acne, rashes, or rosacea, are the result of a compromised skin barrier. Building it back up? That’s the best solution. Cut to: Dr. Barbara Sturm’s The Better B Niacinamide Serum. Naturally, niacinamide does most of the heavy lifting, but ingredients like plankton extract and panthenol are there to provide an assist. Plus, the milky formula feels instantly soothing when pat into the skin.
Pros: Milky texture; Effective
Customer Review: “Well worth the investment, I saw a noticeable difference after only a few days. Great texture, a small amount coats the face well with no sticky feeling. Thoroughly recommend it.” — Dr. Barbara Sturm
The Best Niacinamide Serum for Mature Skin
Chronically dry skin? Give this deeply hydrating serum a go. You *should* notice a difference in your skin’s texture in as little as a few hours. How? Expertly sourced tightening sugars and honey locust manage to tighten skin in as little as three minutes—and the results will stick around for six hours. Short term benefits are very welcome, but it’s the long-term effects that will keep you hooked. Your skin will look more even toned and plumped with continued use.
Pros: Good for aging; Well tolerated
Customer Review: “This is lightweight and easily absorbs into skin. It makes my skin look hydrated and feels smoother immediately after using. Also, my skin looks slightly firmer after weeks of using, my mouth lines definitely look less pronounced. Love the pump packaging for the convenience.” — Caudalie
The Best Niacinamide Serum for Redness
Sunday Riley’s newest launch is a need—not a want—if you have sensitive, redness-prone skin that craves a little TLC. The niacinamide obviously helps with tone from an inflammation perspective, but an ingredient called trans-resveratrol is really what amplifies the product’s redness reducing powers. Your blotchy tone will all but disappear, hyperpigmentation will begin to fade, and your skin will look more even, calm, and happy after just a few uses.
Pros: Ideal for redness; Very brightening
Cons: Dropper is a little messy
Customer Review: “I noticed a difference after using this for a few days. It was brightening and gave me younger looking skin, plus it was not harsh or oily. The only thing I disliked was how quickly I went through the bottle!” — Nordstrom
The Best Niacinamide Serum for Fine Lines
Retinol derivatives can be irritating (read: dryness, peeling, flaking), but don’t let that deter you from trying Youth to the People’s serum. It’s expertly paired with niacinamide to help combat those less-than-ideal side effects. While the retinal will work to speed up cell turnover and decrease signs of aging, niacinamide swoops in to reinforce the skin’s barrier. You’ll also find adaptogenic mushroom in the mix, which will replenish moisture and combat sensitivities.
Pros: Doesn’t irritate sensitive skin; Powerful ingredient combination
Cons: Might stain fingers yellow
Customer Review: “I just started this so I can’t speak to the anti wrinkle effect yet, BUT I am already impressed with how quickly this absorbs into skin. My skin drank it up in seconds without leaving any greasy residue like other brands.” — Sephora
The Best Niacinamide Serum for Dry Skin
Naturium is one of the best brands in the business for highly concentrated actives at affordable price points. Take this serum: It not only contains 12 percent niacinamide, but also two percent zinc PCA. In tandem, they effectively reduce the appearance of dark spots, smooth out fine lines, and reduce the appearance of pores.
Pros: Affordable; Contains Zinc
Cons: Doesn’t last long
Customer Review: “This serum is amazing -- absolutely no smell whatsoever, goes on like silk, and a noticeable difference in skin texture and pigmentation after a week. Very pleased!” — Target
The Best Niacinamide Serum for Hyperpigmentation
If hyperpigmentation is your biggest pain point, allow me to turn your attention to PillowtalkDerm’s Major Fade Hyper Serum. Developed by New York City-based dermatologist Dr. Shereene Idriss, this product has your skin’s best interest at heart. The brand put the work in with clinical trials, and can prove 100 percent of users experienced brighter and more radiant skin as a result of the niacinamide-packed formula.
Pros: Dermatologist-formulated; Effective
Cons: Some say it causes clogged pores
Customer Review: I love this product. I’ve been using it for 5 months and I can see the improvement in my dark spots. My skin feels great and looks more even than it used too.” — PillowtalkDerm
The Best Niacinamide Serum for Stress
If you’ve ever noticed that you get cyst pimples during busy work seasons, it’s no coincidence. Stress can wreak havoc on your skin. Luckily, a new generation of products, such as this Dr. Dennis Gross super-serum, have been designed to help create balance for your complexion. With niacinamide (an expert skin-balancer) and a handful of adaptogen ingredients tailor-made to respond to your skin’s needs, this silky serum will have you on your way to a clearer, smoother complexion in just a few week’s time.
Pros: Great formulation; Good for breakouts
Customer Review: “I was floored by the results of the stress rescue serum. Literally within minutes of applying this serum to my face, the redness began disappearing and my complexion began clearing up. It made my skin literally glow to the point my husband was complimenting me on my skin after a few days, and he never notices anything.” — Bloomingdales
Meet the Dermatologists
Lian Mack, MD is a board certified dermatologist committed to excellence in comprehensive dermatological care. She holds a special interest in skin conditions as it applies to skin of color, as well as all aspects of aesthetic enhancements including neurotoxins, injectable fillers, and laser treatments. She has achieved a Master Injector Certification from Allergan, the largest makers of dermal fillers and Botox.
Dr. Mack graduated magna cum laude from Columbia University, Columbia College in the City of New York. She continued her postgraduate studies at Weill Cornell Medical College, during which she did a one-year research fellowship in melanoma research at the NYU School of Medicine. After a one-year internship at New York Hospital, she went on to complete her residency in Dermatology at St. Luke’s – Roosevelt Hospital Center where she served as Chief resident during her final year. Prior to GlamDerm, Dr. Mack worked in Chelsea alongside her mentor Dr. Michael Eidelman. Currently, she volunteers as an Assistant Professor of Clinical Dermatology at Mt. Sinai Medical Center.
Dr. Mack has authored numerous peer reviewed journal articles and book chapters. She is a fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology, and a member of several professional societies including the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery, and has actively served as a member and on the board of the Women’s Dermatologic Society.
Dr. Karp is a native New Yorker, growing up on the South Shore of Long Island. After graduating magna cum laude with her bachelor of arts degree in Biology from the State University of New York at Binghamton, she went on to earn her medical degree from Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine in New York City. She then completed dual residencies in Family Medicine and Dermatology at St. John’s Episcopal Hospital in Far Rockaway, New York.
During her residency, Dr. Karp presented at a number of local and national conferences, and she published several articles in peer-reviewed journals. She also served as Chief Resident during the final year.
Dr. Karp is an active fellow and member of the American Academy of Dermatology, American Osteopathic College of Dermatology, and the American Medical Association. As a highly skilled dermatologist, she focuses on providing the highest level of individualized and compassionate care to all her patients.