Summary Nicotinic acid (also generally known as niacin) and niacinamide (also known as nicotinamide) are similarly effective as a vitamin because they can be converted into each other within the organism. The blanket term vitamin B3 is used for both. Niacinamide is a component of important coenzymes involved in hydrogen transfer. Here, the two codehydrogenases, nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD) and nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate (NADP) are of central importance. Topical application of niacinamide has a stabilizing effect on epidermal barrier function, seen as a reduction in transepidermal water loss and an improvement in the moisture content of the horny layer. Niacinamide leads to an increase in protein synthesis (e.g. keratin), has a stimulating effect on ceramide synthesis, speeds up the differentiation of keratinocytes, and raises intracellular NADP levels. In ageing skin, topical application of niacinamide improves the surface structure, smoothes out wrinkles and inhibits photocarcinogenesis. It is possible to demonstrate anti-inflammatory effects in acne, rosacea and nitrogen mustard-induced irritation. Because of its verifiable beneficial effects, niacinamide would be a suitable component in cosmetic products for use in disorders of epidermal barrier function, for ageing skin, for improving pigmentary disorders and for use on skin prone to acne.