If you suffer from rosacea, you are probably aware of a multitude of dietary factors, including supplements, which can trigger your symptoms. Vitamins from the B group, in particular, niacin (also known as Vitamin B3, nicotinamide and niacinamide), have earned a reputation as “flushing vitamins” for their tendency to produce red, flushed and irritated skin soon after administration. Lycopene, iron and coffee supplements have similar reputations, however supplemental niacin seems to produce flushing more readily than any other supplement.
Niacin vitamins are sometimes described as nicotinic acid and nicotinamide, but much less frequently because they sound similar to, although they are unrelated to, nicotine. Niacin is essential to the healthy function of the skin and nervous system, however the body is unable to produce niacin, therefore it must be supplied through the diet, oral supplementation and/or topical application.
Recommended Daily Intake of Niacin
The recommended daily intake of niacin is 14 milligrams for women and 16 milligrams for men, however higher amounts and topically applied niacin have been shown to confer additional benefits beyond preventing major diseases, particularly for inflammatory skin diseases such as rosacea. So make sure you eat a lot of foods rich in niacin.
Preventing Flushing from Niacin in Rosacea
Reducing the amount of niacin you ingest in a given meal or combining it with slow to absorb foods, time-release supplements and topical application will allow you to gain the benefits of niacin for the damaged and fragile capillaries of rosacea without resulting in the characteristic flushing of the disease.
Dietary Sources of Niacin
The most concentrated dietary sources of niacin are peanuts, bran and brewer’s yeast, although processed bran has had virtually all of its niacin stripped. Brewer’s yeast is found in high concentrations in yeast extract spreads such as Marmite and Vegemite and should be used sparingly to avoid flushing. Paprika and sun-dried tomatoes are also high in niacin and can trigger flushing in rosacea if anything more than small amounts are ingested at a time. More modest sources of niacin are found in the following foods and are not likely to cause flushing in rosacea if eaten in large amounts:
- Brown Rice
- Pine nuts
- Sesame Seeds
- Split peas
- Sunflower Seeds
- Wild rice
- Whole wheat
Topically Applied Niacin in Skin Care for Rosacea
When applied directly to skin, niacin produces none of the flushing associated with ingestion. In fact, niacin provides anti-inflammatory effects and is so well tolerated that mass-produced skin care brands such as Olay routinely contain up to 30% niacin in their formulations.
One brand of metronidazole gel (a mainstay of prescribed medical treatment for rosacea) contains similarly high levels of niacin as an active ingredient. Dermatology patients who take immediate-release supplemental niacin for long periods of time will tend to develop persistent flushing, which may then develop into rosacea, however chronic usage of skin care highly concentrated in niacin actually reduces rosacea symptoms of inflammation, redness, stinging, burning and fragile capillaries.
Niacin Supplemental to Sunscreens for Rosacea
Sunscreens are a crucial part of rosacea therapy, their use potentially preventing symptoms in 60% or more of patients. Unfortunately, sunscreens often lead to irritation due to the overly permeable and reactive nature of rosacea-prone skin and the adverse effects of some chemical sunscreens.
Topically-applied niacin (in skin care, medications and sunscreens) has been shown to help substantially restore healthy skin barrier function and mildly reduce photodamage (sun damage) and hyperpigmentation (persistent dark marks on the skin which follow the resolution of inflammation).
By avoiding excessive or sudden ingestion of large amounts of niacin, and by supplementing with topical skin care or sunscreens containing high concentrations of niacin, rosacea and exercise patients can gain the essential anti-inflammatory and skin-repairing benefits of this Vitamin to their rosacea while preventing flushing, the symptom which drives capillary damage in rosacea.