What to Do with a Niacinamide Allergy

If you've spent any time perusing ingredients lists or learning about skincare science, you've come across niacinamide. Niacinamide is an antioxidant/vitamin (Vitamin B3) and it is a gold star ingredient for so many skin types and problems. From the title of this post you've probably guessed- but I have an unfortunate allergy to the ingredient. And I've met many others who share this problem. Usually an ingredient sensitivity is no big whoop- most ingredients have easy "dupes" which replicate the same effect. Not quite so with niacinamide- and that's because niacinamide does so many damn things, and it does them so well...

  • Repairs damaged moisture barrier
  • Soothes and relieves irritation and redness
  • Works well to diminish acne
  • Assists in fading hyperpigmentation

This wonder-ingredient does it all, and for the people who can happily use it, go away nobody likes you, but if you are allergic like me, here are some of the ingredients I've substituted in my routine in place of common niacinamide products. I will also list some great products I have successfully used that achieved for me what niacinamide does for others, but keep in mind this is not an exhaustive list. Since niacinamide is such a superstar, I am taking a multi-pronged approach to "duping" its presence in a routine- I will talk about both ingredients and delivery systems that can help with the same problems niacinamide addresses...

Barrier Repair

Those of you with dehydrated skin will be familiar with the concept of the skin's natural moisture barrier. The moisture barrier is the mechanism by which our skin protects itself and holds moisture. It is of utmost importance to skin health, function, and appearance. Dehydrated skin can be dull, flaky, painful, and prone to inflamed acne. Where niacinamide usually swoops in to help fix up a damaged moisture barrier, I substitute a few key elements...

  • Ceramides: Ceramides and niacinamide are best buddies, found in many formulations side-by-side. But you don't need niacinamide to have a party. Ceramides, paired with fatty acids and cholesterol are still great for topical use to bolster a damaged or weakened moisture barrier. They're common in creams, but you can also find some toners and serums that contain these powerhouses.
  • Facial oils: I neglected facial oils for a long time, thinking my oily skin didn't need them or wouldn't like them. I was incredibly wrong. I now think that basically everyone can benefit from some type of facial oil blend in their daily routine. Indeed, if you are suffering some type of dehydration in particular, you will probably find that the right mix of oils will help your skin recover some of its bounce and resilience.
  • Heavy petrolatum-based balms: Niacinamide helps fix your moisture barrier, actively. Occlusive agents, petrolatum being the best of the best, won't immediately "go to work" on your skin, but they protect it and bolster its ability to repair itself naturally. It's not like a surgery to reset a bone, but like a cast to protect it while it heals. Sensitivites to petrolatum occur, but they are incredibly rare. It's something any skincare beginner can adapt to their routine, as it's unlikely to cause breakouts, but will absolutely get your moisturizing routine off to a good start.

Cerave Moisturizing Cream
Meishoku Ceracolla Gel
Dr. Jart+ Ceramidin Liquid

Facial oils:
Stratia Fortify Oil
The Ordinary Squalane Oil
The Ordinary Marula Oil

Petrolatum-based occlusives:
Cerave Healing Ointment


  • Copper Tripeptide: This is a bit of a hand-wavey next-gen antioxidant, but after using some copper products for a few months, I can see the redness reduction and pro-skin repair effects on my own face. I think that in the next 5 years, we will see more research and products with this ingredients, which encourages collagen production and reduces inflammation. Great for acneic and aging skin concerns.
  • Snail Mucin: There's a reason things like starfish and bee venom have somewhat faded in popularity, but snail remains a staple in so many Asian skincare lovers' routines. Products containing snail tend to be exceptionally good at relieving irritation, redness, and inflammation. Great for use if your skin is irritated by climate, excessive picking (hey you! Stop that!), or a breakout.
  • Madecassoside/Centella/Madecassic Acid: This ingredient can be found in a pure botanical extract form and some derivatives.
via LaRochePosay.us


NIOD Copper Amino Isolate
Skin Biology Super CP Serum

Mizon All in One Snail Repair Cream
CosRX Snail 96 Essence

Klairs Supple Preparation Toner
La Roche Posay Cicaplast Baume B5


Of course there are many treatments out there for acne, but what makes niacinamide so useful for an acneic person is its gentle nature. Many acne-focused ingredients are harsh, sensitizing, and can cause problems for beginners. I will not be talking about those obvious acne treatments, but the ones that fall in the same category as niacinamide- gentle, fairly foolproof, and supplemental to harsher steps you might already have.

  • Azelaic acid: I have personally found that AzA resolves my inflamed acne with fewer side effects and greater speed compared to BHA and retinoids. Read this excellent Snow White and the Asian Pear post for more AzA details. A great benefit of AzA is it works to relieve inflammation, redness, and rosacea as well as acne, so it's the antithesis of your average drying acne treatment. 
  • Honey: Raw honey will always have a special place in my heart. Its ability to repair and soothe skin while giving the effect of a more-drying clay mask makes it a no-brainer weekly treatment for acne-prone folks. Here is my method for creating mess-free DIY honey masks which you can use regularly- daily if you like. Honey is nourishing, gentle, and purifying for acne-riddled skin. It's something you can use alongside any acne regimen.
  • Tea Tree: I know, I know- so many people would call this "harsh" and unforgiving as far as acne treatments go. The problem most people have is they either use alcohol-laden formulas with a tiny hint of tea tree or they commit the mortal sin of applying tea tree oil straight up to their faces. This will give you horrible chemical burns eventually, and is not advisable under any conditions. However, I find TTO mixed at a 2% concentration into a gentle carrier oil (jojoba, argan, camellia, mineral, rosehip, squalane) makes for a lovely gentle allover treatment. I use a few drops mixed into my moisturizer nearly every day to incorporate this anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial ingredient without compromising my skin's moisture levels.
via Glowrecipe.com


Azelaic Acid:
The Ordinary 10% Azelaic Acid Suspension
Melazepam 20% Cream

Raw honey

Tea tree:
DIY 2% tea tree oil blend
LJH Tea Tree Essence

Fading Hyperpigmentation

  • Arbutin: Alpha-arbutin promotes skin brightening and fading of visible UV damage in the form of dark spots/post acne spots. It's rarer than niacinamide, but I've found it to be excellent for brightening, caring for PIH, and overall skin tone. 
  • Vitamin C: Vitamin C is definitely a little stronger/more intense than niacinamide, but it's not quite as tricky to introduce as an exfoliating acid. L-Ascorbic Acid is the form of Vitamin C that has the most proven efficacy for affecting skin tone and texture, and can be found in many serums. This is a great active to use, even if you are already using acids or retinoids.
  • Licorice root extract: Found in many Asian skincare products, licorice is an all-round great- not quite as multifunctional as niacinamide, but it comes close. Its main benefits are brightening and soothing for redness/irritation. 
via Amazon.com


DHC Arbutin Masks
Hada Labo Shirojyun Line
Kikumasamune High Moist Lotion

Vitamin C:
Timeless Vitamin C Serum
Stratia Vitamin C (coming soon-
check the Stratia Instagram Page!)

Licorice Root:
Paula's Choice Redness Relief Toner
TonyMoly I'm Real Mask (Rice)
Naturie Hatomugi Skin Conditioner


  1. Thank you for this write up! Glad to know I'm not alone allergic to niacinamide and to know the other options!

  2. Awesome post! Definitely a topic ive never heard discussed before and the list of alternatives is A+

    1. There's a lot of us with this issue, so I hope to see more and more discussion in the future!

  3. Thank you so much for this fantastic post.... I just tried The Ordinary’s Niacinimide + Zinc, and was so sad to have a burning reaction to it :(

    This is a great list of alternatives!

  4. I choose suspect I have a niacinamide sensitivity. Thank you for this informative read. Does anyone have a negative reaction if using a face wash with niacinamide midway down the ingredient list? I'm getting desperate and running out of options and I'm about to try La Roche Posay's hydrating cleanser.

  5. Thank you for this info! I started using Tarte's Knockout and have developed dry scaly eyelids (even though I avoid my eyes), as well as a rough flaky ring around my neck. I refused to believe it could be the Knockout as I had used glycolic acid before with no problems and thought this formula would cause no problems, but every time I use it I get contact dermatitis so there you go niacinamide definitely does not agree with my skin.

  6. Great article! I've been using La Roche Posay with spf daily and my lips have been burning and feeling chapped (even tho I avoid the lip area) I was devastated originally but your article was helpful. I really appreciate the recommendations!