Final report of the safety assessment of niacinamide and niacin

Int J Toxicol. 2005:24 Suppl 5:1-31. doi: 10.1080/10915810500434183.


Niacinamide (aka nicotinamide) and Niacin (aka nicotinic acid) are heterocyclic aromatic compounds which function in cosmetics primarily as hair and skin conditioning agents. Niacinamide is used in around 30 cosmetic formulations including shampoos, hair tonics, skin moisturizers, and cleansing formulations. Niacin is used in a few similar product types. The concentration of use of Niacinamide varies from a low of 0.0001% in night preparations to a high of 3% in body and hand creams, lotions, powders and sprays. Niacin concentrations of use range from 0.01% in body and hand creams, lotions, powders and sprays to 0.1% in paste masks (mud packs). Both ingredients are accepted for use in cosmetics in Japan and the European Union. Both are GRAS direct food additives and nutrient and/or dietary supplements. Niacinamide may be used in clinical treatment of hypercholesteremia and Niacin in prevention of pellegra and treatment of certain psychological disorders. Both ingredients are readily absorbed from skin, blood, and the intestines and widely distribute throughout the body. Metabolites include N1-methylnicotinamide and N1-methyl-4-pyridone-3-carboxamide. Excretion is primarily through the urinary tract. While Niacinamide is more toxic than Niacin in acute toxicity studies, both are relatively non-toxic. Short-term oral, parenteral, or dermal toxicity studies did not identify significant irreversible effects. Niacinamide, evaluated in an in vitro test to predict ocular irritation, was not an acute ocular hazard. Animal testing of Niacinamide in rabbits in actual formulations produced mostly non-irritant reactions, with only some marginally irritating responses. Skin irritation tests of up to 2.5% Niacinamide in rabbits produced only marginal irritation. Skin sensitization tests of Niacinamide at 5% during induction and 20% during challenge were negative in guinea pigs. Neither cosmetic ingredient was mutagenic in Ames tests, with or without metabolic activation. Niacinamide and Niacin at 2 mg/ml were negative in a chromosome aberration test in Chinese hamster ovary cells, but did produce large structural chromosome aberrations at 3 mg/ml. Niacinamide induced sister chromatid exchanges in Chinese hamster ovary cells, but Niacin did not. Under certain circumstances, Niacinamide can cause an increase in unscheduled DNA synthesis in human lymphocytes treated with UV or a nitrosoguanidine compound. Niacinamide itself was not carcinogenic when administered (1%) in the drinking water of mice. No data on the carcinogenic effect of Niacin were available. Niacinamide can moderate the induction of tumors by established carcinogens. Niacinamide in combination with streptozotocin (a nitrosourea compound) or with heliotrine (a pyrrolizidine alkaloid), produced pancreatic islet tumors. On the other hand, Niacinamide reduced the renal adenomas produced by streptozotocin; and intestinal and bladder tumors induced by a preparation of bracken fern. Niacinamide evaluated in in vitro test systems did affect development, but Niacinamide reduced the reproductive/developmental toxicity of 2-aminonicotinamide-amino-1,3,4-thiadiazole hydrochloride and urethane. Clinical testing of Niacinamide produced no stinging sensation at concentrations up to 10%, use tests produced no irritation at concentrations up to 5%, and a 21-day cumulative irritation test at concentrations up to 5% resulted in no irritancy. Niacinamide was not a sensitizer, nor was it a photosensitizer. The CIR Expert Panel considered that Niacinamide and Niacin are sufficiently similar from a toxicologic standpoint to combine the available data and reach a conclusion on the safety of both as cosmetic ingredients. Overall, these ingredients are non-toxic at levels considerably higher than would be experienced in cosmetic products. Clinical testing confirms that these ingredients are not significant skin irritants, sensitizers or photosensitizers. While certain formulations were marginal to slight ocular irritants, other formulations were not. Niacinamide, while not carcinogenic alone, can modulate the induction of tumors by certain established carcinogens. The Panel noted that the doses in these studies are high relative to the low concentrations at which Niacinamide is used in cosmetic formulations. In neither case (tumor protection or tumor promotion) are these findings considered relevant to the use of Niacinamide at its current low concentrations of use in cosmetics. Both ingredients were considered safe as used in cosmetics.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Consumer Product Safety*
  • Cosmetics / toxicity*
  • Drug Administration Routes
  • Expert Testimony
  • Humans
  • Niacin / chemistry
  • Niacin / pharmacokinetics
  • Niacin / toxicity*
  • Niacinamide / chemistry
  • Niacinamide / pharmacokinetics
  • Niacinamide / toxicity*
  • Skin Absorption
  • Species Specificity
  • Toxicity Tests


  • Cosmetics
  • Niacinamide
  • Niacin