Monday, 23 June 2008 15:07

Niacin: More Than Anti-Aging

Written by   Jeri Ross

I am not a chemist by trade, but rather a curious explorer of human biology and, more specifically, cellular metabolism. I am fascinated with how our biology so magically works, and I find the discovery process endlessly entertaining. It doesn’t surprise me that my second career is taking me towards cosmetic product formulations and that science is driving my abilities to create advanced corrective products that impact cellular health and anti-aging.While researching active ingredients to address inflammation, I stumbled on a patent abstract written by an 82-year-old man about a form of niacin that, when applied topically, acts as a vasodilator to increase circulation.

His research studies also focused on how topical niacin acts as a carrier for improved penetration of vitamins and other micronutrients.

These days we are seeing more and more cosmeceutical skin care and body care products with various forms of niacin in their formulations. According to dermatologist, Zoe Draelos, M.D., “Therapeutic effects of niacinamide will continue to rise”. From my research and from having formulated an effective cellulite product using niacin, I better understand why this vital nutrient is gaining attention in the skin care industry. So, what is so ‘hot’ about niacin and what is it anyway? Let’s take a look at the role that niacin plays in human cellular biology and the active properties that it contributes in skin care treatment formulations.

What is Niacin

Vitamin B3 (niacin) is one of eight water-soluble B vitamins. Niacin plays an important role in ridding the body of toxic and harmful chemicals. It also helps the body make various sex and stress related hormones in the adrenal glands. Niacin is effective in improving circulation and reducing cholesterol levels in the blood. Much research is underway to substantiate the healing properties of niacin for high cholesterol, atherosclerosis, diabetes, osteoarthritis, cataracts, and burns. It is also being researched for use in skin care products as an anti-aging agent, for treatment of acne and possibly for prevention of skin cancer. To understand why niacin is an emerging therapeutic ingredient, it is important to review how this potent active vitamin behaves interactively with cells and skin structures.

How Aging Affects the Skin

As people age, progressive changes in the skin occur. During the normal aging process, both the epidermis and dermis become thinner with a loss of cell numbers and connective tissue. This cellular deterioration of skin structures leads to facial wrinkles and is a cofactor in causing cellulite. Also, exposure to ultraviolet sun radiation is a major source of skin oxidative stress that leads to loss of skin cells, age spots, actinic keratosis, and skin cancer. The question is, how can niacin address these concerns?

How Can Niacin Help

Repair and maintenance of healthy skin is dependent upon supplies of many essential nutrients to cellular components, as well as the efficient removal of waste products such as carbon dioxide, and other metabolic end products. An optimal supply of oxygen is required in order to support these natural, metabolic cellular functions. This is where niacin comes in. It is desirable to formulate skin and body care products that work in tandem with cellular biology to improve and prevent skin conditions, like aging. Niacin increases capillary dilation, which in turn increases blood flow or what is known as vasodilation. Our bodies are composed of over 70 trillion cells that rely on fully functioning capillaries for survival, including skin cells. Skin care treatment formulations that contain topical niacin derivatives enhance oxygenation of the dermis, due to increased circulation resulting in what I call, ‘happy cells’.

Medical and aesthetic practitioners are already realizing some benefits from using niacin in the treatment of skin conditions. Dr. Draelos, a pioneer in the field of niacin application, explains: “Niacin is thought to modulate skin leptin levels and alter cellular communication. We believe niacinamide, a derivative of niacin, acts as a topical anti-inflammatory, to speed cell turnover.” Dermatologist Leslie Baumann, M.D., speaking at the American Academy of Dermatology’s annual 2003 meeting stated: “New studies have shown that niacin is beneficial to the skin, specifically for problems involving pigmentation and dry skin. This could become another promising treatment for aging skin, which often becomes dry and flaky as we get older.” Niacinamide, as well, has shown to be an effective skin-lightening agent, and due to its anti-inflammatory properties, it is being tested as a possible treatment for acne and rosacea.

Niacin and Cellulite

It should be noted here that in facial products, it is preferable to gain the healing properties of niacin, without that signature ‘niacin flush’. When taken orally, niacin typically causes a systemic rosy to red flush, heats up the body, and may also promote sweating around the head and neck areas. Niacinamide is engineered to prevent the niacin flush. However, it still retains the therapeutic properties of the vitamin. For body treatment products, a localized flush is desirable, indicating an immediate increase in circulation. For addressing the treatment of cellulite, increased circulation promotes healthy cellular metabolism and aids in reducing inflammation caused by engorged fat cells. Clients tolerate it well, as long as they know to expect the red appearance as being the desired activity versus an allergic reaction. I have termed the experience a ‘flush-rush’ due to the instant physical stimulation and energy burst you feel from increased circulation and thermal body heat it produces in the treated areas. The flush lasts for approximately 20 to 30 minutes.

The Future of Niacin

In conclusion, more research is needed to better understand all of the physiological benefits of niacin for corrective skin and body conditions. The future promise of this amazing vitamin is already upon us. Vitamin B3 is considered by most to be the major B vitamin required for a healthy existence. What better than to utilize a nutrient that our bodies already recognize as cell-friendly for topical, therapeutic product formulations. So, next time you see an anti-aging skin care moisturizer or cellulite product with niacin, give it a try. As we know, the truth resides in the results. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.



Brown BG, Zhao XQ, Chalt A, et al. Simvastatin and niacin, antioxidant vitamins, or the combination for the prevention of coronary disease. N Engl J Med. 2001;345(22):1583-1592.

Capuzzi DM, Guyton JR, Morgan JM, et al. Efficacy and safety of an extended-release niacin (Niaspan): a long-term study. Am J Cardiol. Dec 17, 1998;82:74U–81U.

Cumming RG, Mitchell P, Smith W. Diet and cataract: the Blue Mountains Eye Study. Ophthalmology. 2000;107(3):450-456.

De-Souza DA, Greene LJ. Pharmacological nutrition after burn injury. J Nutr. 1998;128:797-803.

Ding RW, Kolbe K, Merz B, de Vries J, Weber E, Benet Z. Pharmacokinetics of nicotinic acid-salicylic acid interaction. Clin Pharmacol Ther. 1989;46(6):642-647.

Draelos, Zoe Diana, M.D. Cosmetic Conundrums. Dermatology Times. 2003.

Elam M, Hunninghake DB, Davis KB, et al. Effects of niacin on lipid and lipoprotein levels and glycemic control in patients with diabetes and peripheral arterial disease: the ADMIT study: a randomized trial. Arterial Disease Multiple Intervention Trial. JAMA. 2000;284:1263-1270.

Gardner SF, Marx MA, White LM, et al. Combination of low-dose niacin and pravastatin improves the lipid profile in diabetic patients without compromising glycemic control. Ann Pharmacother. 1997;31(6):677-682.

Hilton, Lisette. An Update on latest in cosmeceuticals. Cosmetic Surgery Times Reports 2004.

Jacobson, Elaine. United States Patent 6,924,299. Abstract: Methods and compositions useful in enhancing oxygen delivery to cells. 2005.

Naweko San-Joyz. With ambitions of fighting acne, rosacea and tumors, what can this vitamin really do for you? Natural Health

Patrick, Jay. United States Patent 5,496,827. Abstract: Compositions of transdermal delivery of nutrients. July 1994.

Jeri Ross, President and CEO of LjR, Inc. and creator of CelluliteRx, has a Masters degree in Public Health & Research and has worked in the medical industry for 15 years as a Health Educator Administrator. In 2004, she teamed up with her sister, Lyn Ross, owner of Institut’DERMed to contribute her research skills towards the development of advanced cosmeceutical skin and body care formulations. For more information, visit or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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