We’ve Found The 12 Best Niacinamide Serums To Brighten Skin & Banish Blemishes

By Ashleigh Cometti
What is niacinamide and what can it do for your skin? Collage / Ashleigh Cometti

Meet the skincare heavyweights that work double duty to brighten a dull complexion and keep blotches at bay.

A handful of worthy ingredients have already earned their spot in the skincare hall of fame — retinol, vitamin C and hyaluronic acid, for example. But there’s another active ingredient that’s competing

While the ingredient is not new, niacinamide (also known as vitamin B3) has slowly proliferated formulas to become one of the most popular actives in products known to brighten and lighten complexions.

Not only this, niacinamide is shown to improve skin texture, diminish dark spots, clear acne and address the visible signs of ageing. A true all-rounder, it seems the only thing niacinamide can’t do is load the dishwasher.

Unlike harsh actives that require a built-in tolerance, niacinamide is tolerated well by all skin types and plays nicely with most ingredients depending on where you slot it into your routine.

Below, the best niacinamide serums to try now for dewier, bouncier skin, plus a few fast facts about the (many) benefits of B3.

Ingredient Fast Five

Primary benefits: Niacinamide boasts antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties, meaning it’s excellent at improving skin tone and texture, minimising pore size, regulating sebum production and fending off premature ageing caused by UV damage.

Skin type and concern: While niacinamide is suitable for all skin types, certain formulas will contain adjacent ingredients to help. For example, water-based formulas are best on oily skin types, while dry skin types might like to try formulas cocktailed with peptides or hyaluronic acid.

Concentration: Many niacinamide serums specify concentration levels, most of which vary between two and 10 per cent. If the concentration isn’t listed, remember the golden rule of reading a product’s INCI list: ingredients are always structured in order of concentration. Check to see if niacinamide is number one.

Where it fits in your routine: Apply on clean, dry skin after cleansing but before smoothing on moisturisers or facial oils.

Frequency of use: Niacinamide can be used morning and evening.

Why we love it: After mastering the art of a faux glow, Bondi Sands turned its attention to skincare, releasing a selection of skincare products geared towards a multitude of skin types and concerns. This fast-absorbing serum sees niacinamide and zinc combine to address hyperpigmentation and uneven skin tone, leaving skin appearing clear, bright and radiant.

Key Ingredients: Vitamin B3 (niacinamide), zinc and lilly pilly (which is rich in antioxidants and vitamin C).

Suitable for: All skin types, including acne-prone skin thanks to its non-comedogenic properties (meaning it won’t clog pores).

Best for: Dull skin.

Why we love it: Singapore-based beauty brand Allies of Skin excels when it comes to creating skincare that not only addresses visible skin concerns but also gets to work behind the scenes to care for your skin barrier. This lightweight serum helps support the skin’s barrier function while fending off the effects of oxidative stress on skin, which can cause premature ageing, congestion and dullness. Use it on its own or cocktail it with your serum or moisturiser of choice for an extra nutrient boost.

Key Ingredients: 10 per cent concentration of niacinamide, hyaluronic acid, a prebiotic and probiotic complex (alpha-glucan oligosaccharide and lactobaccilus), alongside vitamin E in the form of tocopheryl acetate and tocopherol.

Suitable for: All skin types, however remember to be extra wary of the sun when using products that contain AHAs like this. Remember to slather on SPF daily and avoid the sun (where possible) during peak exposure times.

Best for: Your skin barrier.

Why we love it: Leave it to Avene to formulate a serum that’s as gentle as it is effective. The formula, which heroes eight ingredients (94 per cent of which are of natural origin) includes the brand’s signature thermale spring water, known for its skin-soothing and hydrating properties. Beyond hydration, this serum helps address the visible signs of ageing by plumping fine lines and wrinkles and tightening slackened skin.

Key Ingredients: A 6 per cent concentration of niacinamide, together with 1.5 per cent hyaluronic acid and Avene’s thermale spring water.

Suitable for: All skin types, especially sensitive or dry skin types. Avene says this product works best for those aged 25+.

Best for: Sensitive skin.

Why we love it: New Zealand nail and skincare brand Kester Black has revealed the newest product to be added to its line of active botanical skincare — the new Back In Balance Vitamin B Serum. The hardworking hydrator offers skin a decent dose of niacinamide and vitamin F to fortify the skin barrier, alongside soothing ingredients to address dryness, dehydration and the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.

Key ingredients: 5 per cent niacinamide, pro vitamin B5, algae, vitamin F, glycerin and cucumber extract.

Suitable for: All skin types.

Best for: Dry skin.

Why we love it: If it’s redness, uneven skin tone or texture that ails you, then consider Skinsmith’s restorative facial serum. Powerful plant-based extracts work to calm and soothe an irritated complexion, while protective antioxidants help to defend against the harmful effects of UV rays and pollution.

Key ingredients: Niacinamide, vitamin B5, Tasman pepper, centella asiatica and SauvigNZ (a proprietary antioxidant).

Suitable for: All skin types.

Best for: Redness.

Why we love it: A triple threat of sorts, Emma Lewisham’s Skin Reset Serum has gone viral for a reason — it promises to restore radiance, reduce and prevent hyperpigmentation and achieve a more even-toned complexion. It does so with a potent blend of 20 active ingredients which effectively halt the production of melanin on the skin and lighten the appearance of existing dark spots or blemishes.

Key ingredients: Too many to name, but the heavy hitters included a patented plant stem cell extract, advanced bioavailable vitamin C and, of course, niacinamide.

End-To-End Pigmentation Reduction: Patented plant stem cell extracts and advanced bioavailable Vitamin C act to reduce the skin’s production of melanin, while niacinamide deters pigment that does manage to form from transferring to your skin’s surface.

Suitable for: All skin types, although Emma herself recommends introducing the product to your routine slowly given the high number of actives contained within the formula.

Best for: A luxury buy.

Why we love it: If you struggle with open or enlarged pores, then consider subbing Sunday Riley’s vitamin B-loaded serum into your skincare rotation, ASAP. Besides refining pore size, this super serum works its magic on blotchy skin tone, including helping to fade acne marks. Equally, it contains a blend of ingredients that help to regulate oil production, helping mattify skin and rebalance moisture levels.

Key ingredients: 10 per cent niacinamide, Brightenyl (which helps to brighten skin and soothe sensitivity), and antioxidants trans-resveratrol and EGCG.

Suitable for: All skin types.

Best for: Oily/combination skin.

Why we love it: The most concentrated of all the serums on this list, Korean skincare brand COSRX includes a 15 per cent concentration of niacinamide alongside a host of acne-fighting ingredients to keep blemishes at bay. It absorbs quickly into skin, refreshing complexions while controlling sebum production and refining pore size.

Key ingredients: Niacinamide, N-acetylglucosamine (a lighter take on AHAs but still boosts skin cell turnover), zinc PCA and allantoin (which promotes collagen synthesis and slows the growth of bacteria on skin).

Suitable for: Combination or oily skin.

Best for: Acne-prone skin.

Why we love it: Take it from someone who’s tried, loved and repurchased this serum over and over again — this serum is excellent. It won’t pill under makeup, can be worn on top as a highlighter, or on a bare face for a glass-skin finish. The gel texture is a delight to smooth on to skin and helps to brighten, hydrate and smooth in one swoop.

Key ingredients: Niacinamide, watermelon (which makes it smell delicious) and hyaluronic acid.

Suitable for: All skin types.

Best for: Applying under makeup.

Why we love it: We’ve long been obsessed with The Ordinary for its suite of ingredients-led skincare, and this highly concentrated niacinamide serum is no exception. Positioned as an effective acne treatment, this serum helps to reduce the appearance and frequency of blemishes, regulate sebum production and leave skin bright and healthy-looking.

Key ingredients: 10 per cent concentration of niacinamide and a one per cent concentration of zinc.

Suitable for: All skin types, especially oily/combination or acne-prone skin.

Best for: A budget buy.

Why we love it: Spot of bother? L’Oreal Paris’ new dark spot serum works to fade sun spots, age spots and post-acne marks with its combination of concentrated ingredients known to lighten and brighten. Together, these powerful actives exfoliate the skin’s surface, revealing a brighter, more even-toned complexion underneath.

Key ingredients: 7.5 per cent concentration of niacinamide and 2.5 concentration of amino-sulfonic acid.

Suitable for: All skin types, including sensitive skin.

Best for: Mature skin.

Why we love it: The latest product to be added to La Roche-Posay’s line of science-backed skincare is the new MelaB3 Serum, which is powered by the brand’s breakthrough ingredient Melasyl and a 10 per cent concentration of niacinamide. Melasyl works to fade existing hyperpigmentation and dark spots, and prevent future spots from forming. The non-sticky serum is smooth to apply and easy to layer with corresponding skincare steps or makeup (trust me, I’ve tried).

Key ingredients: Melasyl, niacinamide, hyaluronic acid and LHA.

Suitable for: All skin types, especially those prone to hyperpigmentation.

Best for: Dark spots.

More on skincare

From Viva team test drives to commonly asked questions.

How to build a low-waste beauty routine. Overwhelmed by plastic piles, Madeleine Crutchley trials a low-waste beauty routine for one week.

How to build a skincare regime around your unique skin type. Mukti, an eco-activist, green cosmetic chemist and founder of organic skincare brand Mukti Organics, shares tips on how to care for each skin type.

How to simplify your skincare routine to avoid breakouts. Multistep routines can cause breakouts and other issues, experts say.

Bright on! How to treat hyperpigmentation on all skin types. Halt pigmentation in its tracks with the latest topicals and treatments designed to even out all complexions.

Is fragrance in skincare actually bad for your skin? Fragranced beauty products are one of the most controversial topics in skincare.

Unlock this article and all our Viva Premium content by subscribing to 

Share this article: