'Powerhouse' ingredient niacinamide 'an ingredient of awareness, and people are looking for it' says OLAY senior director

By Cassandra Stern

- Last updated on GMT

Extensive research supports niacinamide’s efficacy as a topical ingredient, but what is fueling its newfound popularity in the cosmetics space? © Andrey Mitrofanov Images
Extensive research supports niacinamide’s efficacy as a topical ingredient, but what is fueling its newfound popularity in the cosmetics space? © Andrey Mitrofanov Images

Related tags trending beauty trends Consumer trends Cosmetics Olay Olay skin care

CosmeticsDesign recently spoke to OLAY and essano, two very different brands focusing on the same versatile ingredient: niacinamide.

A new spin on an old standby

In an industry that constantly demands innovation, it’s an intriguing choice for a cosmetics company to embrace an old standby. While some organizations continue to devote their resources to researching and developing new topical ingredients to grab consumer attention, others have shifted their strategy and instead are reinvesting their efforts in an older and better-known option: niacinamide.

Better known as Vitamin B3, niacinamide is experiencing a renaissance in the cosmetics and beauty industries. Versatile and a veritable “powerhouse” ingredient for topical skin care, products formulated with niacinamide are increasingly becoming more popular in recent months. In response, mass and indie brands are listening to consumer demands and pivoting accordingly.

To better understand why and how niacinamide is rapidly becoming one of this year’s most sought-after ingredients, CosmeticsDesign sat down and spoke with Dr. Rolanda Wilkerson, Senior Director in beauty care at OLAY and and Katarina Scrimshaw, Marketing Manager at indie skin care brand essano for their unique perspectives. 

What it is and why it works

When considering why “an old and well-known ingredient in the green beauty industry​” is experiencing a resurgence in popularity throughout the cosmetics industry, explains Scrimshaw, it’s essential to first understand what the ingredient is, what it does cosmetically, and how it works. “Niacinamide, otherwise one of the two forms of vitamin B3 (niacin), naturally derived from nicotinic acid, is found in brewer’s yeast and many cereals. Naturally occurring in our body, it is one of the most studied and multitasking bio-active ingredients.​”

Niacinamide’s bioavailability is one of its most attractive characteristics as a topical ingredient. Not only is it “chemically stable and compatible with other skin care additives​,” details Wilkerson, but it’s “essentially a water soluble physiologically active form of vitamin B3, so it’s physiologically available and active within the viable skin cells to provide a benefit​.”

Extensive research shows topical niacinamide works as an anti-inflammatory, potentially helping skin to reduce hyperpigmentation, oil overproduction, and even damage from UV exposure. Documented benefits of consistent topical niacinamide use can include “improving skin’s complexion instant and long-lasting hydration, reducing depth and degree of wrinkles and improve skin firmness and appearance​,” says Scrimshaw, as well as “reducing fine lines, and strengthening the skin’s barrier​,” adds Wilkerson. 

Niacinamide is currently en vogue

Niacinamide’s efficacy as a topical ingredient in cosmetic and beauty products is not in dispute, so why are consumers becoming increasingly vocal in their demands for it? A few different factors are driving the momentum behind the trend.

Scrimshaw credits the renewed interest in niacinamide in cosmetics and skincare products to consumers continuing “to seek out natural ingredients, coupled with building awareness around the benefits of vitamins as core ingredients also in the beauty space​.” Most importantly, she explains, “consumers have much more knowledge about these ingredients than a few years ago, and this trend will continue​.”

Wilkerson agrees, adding that consumers are rapidly becoming more acquainted with the terminology and research necessary to make informed skincare choices. “I can definitely say vitamin B3 is a trending ingredient on social media, with the advent of people looking for ingredients that are beneficial to the skin, looking to hear from scientific experts, and dermatologists direct them to ingredients that are beneficial for the skin…vitamin B3 is an ingredient of awareness, and people are looking for it.” 

Looking ahead to 2024 and beyond

Should the cosmetics industry expect an influx of niacinamide-enriched topical formulations soon? Well, that depends on the consumer. When developing a new product, it’s always essential to first and foremost consider the demand.

I think by nature alone, Proctor & Gamble is a consumer-led company,” ​says Wilkerson. As a result, a considerable part of their R&D focuses on interacting directly with the consumer to better understand their unique needs before the research team takes it, “synthesizes it, and marries it to a technology, an ingredient, or a formula that delivers upon those needs​.”

The customer-first approach, like niacinamide itself, is not a revolutionary idea by any means. “Even in a competitive market, people are making sure that they are being fiscally conscious with their dollar,” ​explains Wilkerson, “one of the areas that they are not willing to budge on oftentimes is their beauty care​.”

As consumers continue to become better versed in making informed decisions regarding their skin health, it is crucial for companies to consider how those demands are not only driving current trends but influencing future purchasing behaviors.

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