Don’t Underestimate the Best Niacinamide Serums

It’s a multi-talented ingredient, targeting redness, inflammation, hyperpigmentation, and oil.

the best niacinamide serums
(Image credit: Future)

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

Concentration 

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.” 

Other Ingredients 

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

Meet the Dermatologists

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Dr. Lian Mack

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.

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Dr. Anna Karp

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.

Beauty Editor

Samantha Holender is the Beauty Editor at Marie Claire, where she reports on the best new launches, dives into the science behind skincare, and shares the breakdown on the latest and greatest trends in the beauty space. She's studied up on every ingredient you'll find on INCI list and is constantly in search of the world's glowiest makeup products. Prior to joining the team, she worked as Us Weekly’s Beauty and Style Editor, where she stayed on the pulse of pop culture and broke down celebrity beauty routines, hair transformations, and red carpet looks. Her words have also appeared on Popsugar, Makeup.com, Skincare.com, Delish.com, and Philadelphia Wedding. Samantha also serves as a board member for the American Society of Magazine Editors (ASME). She first joined the organization in 2018, when she worked as an editorial intern at Food Network Magazine and Pioneer Woman Magazine. Samantha has a degree in Journalism and Mass Communications from The George Washington University’s School of Media and Public Affairs. While at GWU, she was a founding member of the school’s HerCampus chapter and served as its President for four years. When she’s not deep in the beauty closet or swatching eyeshadows, you can find her obsessing over Real Housewives and all things Bravo. Keep up with her on Instagram @samholender.