One of the universally acknowledged truths of current times is that we all want to have a smooth and radiant skin for as long as possible. In order to achieve this, we usually resort to all sorts of beauty tricks in the shape of either professional products or homemade concoctions that should theoretically restore a more youthful and rejuvenated aspect to our complexion. But, regardless of what your personal approach might be, you should definitely remember to look into the benefits brought by vitamin B3 for skin and overall health alike.
What is vitamin B3?
Vitamin B3 is an organic compound also known as niacin, niacinamide or nicotinic acid. Its role within the body is to aid the metabolic processes of various substances such as carbohydrates, fats, protein, and alcohol.
Alongside vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin D, and vitamin B1 (or thiamine), vitamin B3 represents an essential nutrient for human development and subsequent wellbeing all throughout your lifetime.
The areas of your body which require the most elevated vitamin B3 supplementation are those that constantly rely on major energy input, namely your nervous system, gastrointestinal tract, skin, etc.
As the name already suggests, this element is part of the B-complex system of vitamins, which play a crucial role in the metabolic processes of cells.
Vitamin B deficiencies often lead to an array of health complications, with a substantial lack of vitamin B3 in your organism generating serious issues like pellagra (a disease characterized by severe episodes of diarrhea, dermatitis, and even dementia).
Luckily, such conditions can be treated fairly easily with a sustained enhancement of vitamin B3 in an individual’s diet.
In addition, vitamin B3 can also be employed to treat and normalize cases of hypercholesterolemia (high cholesterol) and diminish the incidence of cardiovascular problems for individuals who are using lipid-lowering medication (statins).
Health regulation laws currently place a safe vitamin B3 intake at around 11-12 mg/day for adults, with some researchers raising the level to 14-16 mg/day respectively.
Nevertheless, these numbers vary in relation to a person’s age, gender, and lifestyle accordingly; for instance, a pregnant or lactating mother will require 17-19 mg/day of vitamin B3, whereas children under the age of 13 years need anything between 6 mg/day and 12 mg/day. The standard tolerable limit for vitamin B3 intake is presently considered to be at the 35 mg/day mark.
How does vitamin B3 benefit your body?
As previously pointed out, niacin or vitamin B3 is an important component of the B-complex vitamins. Its role within the human body quite literally extends from head to toe and it definitely cannot be ignored if you want to experience a fulfilling day-to-day life.
An interesting fact is that all B vitamins – namely B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B7, B9, and B12 – are water-soluble, which implies that the organism does not store them for longer periods of time.
The result is that you need to regularly consume foods containing these vitamins for them to stay within normal readings.
And with good reason too, since vitamin B3 is responsible for a wide array of metabolic functions that ensure a normal routine activity within your body and mind alike.
One of the main contributions of vitamin B3 is related to the gastrointestinal process of transforming food – in particular, carbohydrates – into glucose. In turn, glucose is used by the organism as an energy supply and a catabolic element in the transformation cycle of other substances like alcohol and fats, for example.
Some recent studies even argue that niacin has the ability to boost your gut’s own probiotic (or ‘good’ bacteria) functionality, therefore ensuring not only proper digestive rhythms and processing, but also increased bowel motility and maximized nutrient assimilation.
While the most obvious contributions of high energetic levels pertain to muscle-related activities, you should also know that your nervous system requires a fair amount of ‘fuel’ in order to keep you sharp-minded and happy at the same time.
This aspect then brings us to the neurological implications of vitamin B3. The nootropic advantages of niacin recommend it as a natural enhancer for memory, attention, and brain plasticity, as well as an ameliorating instrument in the case of chronic neurological issues such as Alzheimer’s, depression, and ADHD.
It also helps to know that vitamin B3 can enable effective DNA repair when administered regularly, which has led researchers to further understand how this vitamin could be used in various therapeutic instances that involve a patient’s recovery and future improvement (for example, in the case of ischemia or metabolic insufficiencies).
The same melioration can be found in cardiovascular health as well, since vitamin B3 has been shown to both prevent and actively treat problems pertaining to the heart and vascular system, among which we can mention high cholesterol, ‘clogged’ arteries, and hypertension.
Because vitamin B3 contributes to the transformation of fat deposits within the organism, it can thus facilitate lipid metabolism and decrease the intensity of the aforementioned cardiovascular diseases.
Moreover, vitamin B3 has been recently linked with the treatment of diabetes via its capacity to reduce pancreatic damage, combat insulin resistance, and overall improve a patient’s quality of life in other aspects as well (energy levels, mood stability, etc.).
Nevertheless, one of the most well-known and widely employed forms of vitamin B3 is related to skin care, with niacin-based products and foods being more and more often used for the purpose of skin rejuvenation and regeneration.
Vitamin B3 and skin health
It goes without saying that your skin is a very important part of your everyday life. From a biological standpoint, it offers to shield for your internal organs from external elements.
But it also plays a role in social interactions, with a youthful complexion and smooth, wrinkle-free, ideally spotless skin being the ultimate long-term goal for most people (regardless of one’s age or gender, that is).
However, this is particularly tricky to achieve nowadays without cosmetic surgery or strictly healthy lifestyle regimes.
Your skin is constantly subjected to quite a large number of detrimental factors such as pollution, unhealthy habits (smoking, for instance), and poor quality makeup products, not to mention ultraviolet exposure, the wind, humidity, heat, etc.
Consequently, it can develop a tendency to become blemished, sun-spotted, and with a prominently aged aspect to it.
Obviously, this is deemed unfit according to Hollywood ‘standards’ and the multitude of advertisements which never fail to remind us how crucial it is not to have any imperfections showing on our bodies.
Commercial zeal aside, we should acknowledge the fact that a healthy looking skin is also a sign of internal wellbeing, with vitamin B3 being increasingly more often mentioned in the context of dermal management.
To understand exactly how vitamin B3 influences your complexion and skin in general, we must look further into this vitamin’s function within the human organism.
Firstly, you should know that vitamin B3 is actually a colorless solid derived from pyridine (a carbon – or organic – compound). Once vitamin B3 enters your body, it is converted into niacin and nicotinamide, which explains why these two terms have frequently been used interchangeably.
Even so, the two latter components are chemical precursors of nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD) and nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate (NADP) respectively.
These coenzymes are valuable because they enable certain metabolic and catabolic processes that presuppose the transference of hydrogen and which would otherwise be incomplete in their absence.
For instance, NAD can be linked to the transformational sequence of protein, fat, and carbohydrates, as well as with DNA repair, while NADP is focused on cholesterol and fatty acid conversion.
The efficient processing of these nutrients is key in maintaining tissue elasticity and ‘youthfulness’ since properly nourished cells have a higher rate of regeneration and do not oxidize (‘age’) as quickly as those deprived of essential substances.
More importantly, these coenzymes offer high-energy consuming organs – such as the skin itself – enough ‘fuel’ so that it both performs its original function (protection from outside factors for the internal tissues) and it does not experience signs of premature degradation.
Additionally, NAD and NAPD are able to regulate stress response, which is not only bad for your mental health, but it can also quickly translate into facial breakouts, expression lines, and ‘crow’s feet’ (the web-like wrinkles that develop around your eyes).
Therefore, vitamin B3 has exhibited a lot of potential in recent years with regards to skin maintenance, especially in the shape of topically applied creams and serums, as well as nutritional supplements.
Studies centered on vitamin B3 enhancement as a response to skin degradation caused by aging (sagging skin, hyperpigmentation, blotchiness, etc.) have shown positive feedback with respect to topically applied niacinamide.
These experiments reported visible improvements, as well as a lack of side effects or unwanted symptoms (which is always good to hear in clinical trials).
Another (paradoxical) benefit of vitamin B3 is that of reduced manifestations of a condition known as ‘rosacea’ (or adult acne). While some experience facial ‘flushing’ when administering vitamin B3 doses (as you will see further on), there is research which argues in favor of using niacin in order to combat the redness, swelling and discomfort caused by dermatological issues of this nature.
This particular experiment revealed higher levels of hydration at the level of the skin, alongside melioration in sensitiveness and increased self-esteem for the people who resorted to regular applications of moisturizers infused with vitamin B3.
There is also the argument that vitamin B3 can combat and somewhat reverse the effects of aging through these same properties. One specific patent suggests that topical blends based on vitamin B3 are successful in ameliorating skin dryness, pore reduction, and smoothing of fine lines, alongside photoprotection and uniform skin coloration.
Likewise, this more recent study supports the previous claims by implying that the niacinamide successor of vitamin B3 can improve upon the signs of aging such as yellowing of the skin, minimized elasticity, and excessive dryness.
All things – and research – considered, it would appear that vitamin B3 used as a skin rejuvenator is gaining momentum in the scientific community, with the cosmetic world following suit. This then explains the upsurge in niacin-based cosmetics from famous and more obscure brands alike.
Although further testing is required to ensure the total effectiveness of vitamin B3 with regards to skin health, the present data is sufficient enough so as to give the ‘green light’ for this type of supplementation towards the general public.
Sources of vitamin B3
Vitamin B3 has yet another clear advantage to its name, in the sense that it can be found in a wide spectrum of foods.
Meats rank among the most highly concentrated amounts of vitamin B3 by density, with pork, chicken, lamb liver, beef, and turkey being excellent choices for this type of supplementation.
If you want to go the extra mile in terms of health, then aim for varieties of fish like mackerel, salmon, and swordfish, since these can contain up to 50%-80% of your daily value (DV) or vitamin B3 per 100g (3.5oz).
Don’t worry if you are following a vegan or vegetarian diet either, since vitamin B3 can be found in plant-derived sources just as well. Vegetables such as asparagus, mushrooms, green peas, tomatoes, bell peppers, and sweet potatoes are champions when it comes to vitamin B3 enhancement.
Similarly, fruit like avocado or dates can give you a substantial boost of vitamin B3. Seeds of the nuts (peanuts, peanut butter, etc.) variety or whole grain products can also significantly contribute in this sense. Other foods that contain higher levels of vitamin B3 are tofu, vegemite or marmite, and even beer.
Make sure to include as many of these into your diet as possible in different combinations, in a raw form where possible (since this helps in maintaining all the nutrients and antioxidants intact before they reach your digestive system).
As previously mentioned, vitamin B3 is a water-soluble substance, so try not to overcook any of these ingredients – especially when boiling – so as to lose as little vitamin intake as possible in the process.
While it is often preferred that you maintain your skin health via foods rich in vitamin B3, there is always the option of other sources for this beneficial substance as well.
From creams and serums to entire lines of skin care products, cosmetic manufacturers have started including vitamin B3 in their items on a more serious basis.
The same goes for dietary supplements too. Vitamin B3 pills, powders, liquid drops, and everything in between are emerging in today’s current market as fierce competitors not only for dermal and gastrointestinal support but for overall wellness as well.
Regardless of how you choose to increase or diversify your vitamin B3 intake, also be certain that you are selecting quality products and produce.
After all, the higher the standard of these foods and enhancers, the better your experience with vitamin B3 should turn out to be in the end.
Vitamin B3 and its side effects
Although organic and natural in its own right, vitamin B3 can induce a number of side effects as well, which range from mildly uncomfortable to potentially dangerous (depending on the situation).
One of the most well-known effects caused by vitamin B3 supplementation is that of ‘flushing’. This phenomenon is characterized by intense redness in the face, sometimes accompanied by an itching sensation.
Episodes of this sort can last anything between 15 minutes and 2 hours, with aspirin or ibuprofen taken before the usual vitamin B3 dosage having the capacity to block most of the previously mentioned symptoms.
Vitamin B3 taken in higher than recommended doses or on an empty stomach can also generate gastrointestinal upset in the shape of nausea, vomiting, and – in more extreme cases – liver failure. These exaggerated doses have also been known to cause hyperuricemia, namely elevated readings of uric acid in one’s urinary discharge.
Individuals who are taking medicine in the shape of anticoagulants should take extra caution with vitamin B3 enhancement because there have been certain instances of heart arrhythmias recorded.
At one point, there has also been a controversy regarding the usage of vitamin B3 in combination with anti-diabetes medicine, but which has since been resolved by demonstrating that this vitamin does not influence blood sugar in a proportion higher than 10%.
The good news is that there are no major health problems or toxicity levels associated with vitamin B3 for healthy individuals. Still, consult with your doctor before starting such a treatment and have them monitor you throughout the duration of this period if only to be on the safe side of things.
Choosing vitamin B3 for your skin
In all fairness, there is no universal solution to all the skin problems a person might face during their lifetime. After all, your skin is as unique as you are!
Even so, you should at least consider giving vitamin B3 a try in the future, either by boosting your natural intake of this vitamin or by going the supplement/ cosmetic route.
If the above information is any indication of niacin’s positive influence on dermal wholesomeness, then we might be on the right and organic track with this one.
So give vitamin B3 a try and see whether your outside glow will end up matching the one inside!