2009 Fitness Magazine Interview
Effects of Vitamin B on the Skin
Niacinamide is the biologically active ingredient of vitaminB3. It has antioxidant activity, and there is some evidence that it exhibits anti-inflammatory and depigmenting properties. There is also research that suggests that niacinamide modulates certain immunologic activity. The use of niacinamide has been shown to improve the texture and tone of the skin, reduce fine lines, wrinkles and hyperpigmentation. Topical naicinamide is well tolerated and is found in several skin care products.
Skin aging is a complex process involving genetic, environmental and hormonal factors. Free radicals are highly reactive molecules which can damage cellular structural membranes and proteins. Free radical production increases with age. Antioxidants act as scavengers and block free radicals. Topical antioxidants are available in skin care products that are designed to prevent the clinical signs of photoaging. It is though that some antioxidants have anti-carcinogenic properties.
Recent studies combining niacinamide and a small amount of antibiotic gel have shown a positive effect on the skin with respect to chronological aging.
The combination of NAG and niacinamide (Olay® and Definity® was recently shown to reduce facial hyperpigmentation in two split face double blind studies. Moisturizers which contain niacinamide and gycerine (Olay®, Quench®) seem to both hydrate the skin and improve its barrier function. Niacin is available as an over the counter food supplement, and therefore the cost is low, although there is no standardization of dose and content. Niacin can also be obtained as a prescription medication and is usually taken twice daily although slow release formulations can be taken once a day.
Many studies suggest that over the counter ingredients such as vitamin B3 or niacinamide have the potential to improve aging skin. Rigorous studies and controlled clinical trials which can withstand clinical and peer review are lacking in human subjects which would more clearly evaluate the role of antioxidants like niacinamide, in decelerating skin aging. Despite this lack of clinical data, millions of dollars are spent annually on these products. Until now, the cosmetics industry is not the leader of research in this field, as companies are usually not motivated to conduct or publish research because the nature of the trade requires secrecy regarding formulations, and because expensive trials do not always support appealing claims. Moreover, there may be no financial enticement in developing products that are found naturally and have no patent potential. Nonetheless plastic surgeons and dermatologists should not ignore these popular skin care products as anti-aging and skin care are vital subject matters for the profession, and the healthcare professional must retain a role in research and education and product development.
Bissett DL, Oblong JE, Berge CA. Niacinamide: a B vitamin that improves aging facial skin appearance. Dermatol Surg 31(7 Pt 2):860-5 (2005 Jul).
Allemann, B, Baumann, L. Antioxidants Used in Skin Care Formulations; Skin Therapy Letter; (October 2008)
Chiu, A; Kimball, AB (Stanford University) Topical Vitamins As Modulators of Skin Damage; British Journal of Dermatology; (November 2003)
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