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2022's Top Niacinamide Serums for Dark Spots & Hyperpigmentation

What to look for in a niacinamide serum + our top 5 picks for radiant, even-toned skin.

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Niacinamide has been getting a lot of attention in the beauty world lately, and for good reason.

This “humble” derivative of vitamin B3 helps give skin a smooth, balanced look while reducing the appearance of post-blemish marks, redness, and discoloration—all while being pretty gentle on the skin.

Niacinamide is a water-soluble vitamin that works with the natural substances in your skin to provide many benefits for your complexion.

A Quality Niacinamide Serum Can Help:

Visibly shrink and tighten pores

Improve the look of uneven tone, fine lines & wrinkles

Brighten up dark spots and hyperpigmentation

Hydrate and support a strong skin barrier

Soothe redness while calming and balancing the skin

Although niacinamide has become a versatile staple in many skincare products—and can even compete with other longer-beloved ingredients—it typically works best when combined with other potent skincare ingredients. For best results, look for a niacinamide-based serum that also contains the following:

Top Ingredients to Look For:

Vitamin CA powerful antioxidant shown to promote even-toned, less wrinkled, firmer-looking skin.

Brightening AcidsA group of skin-smoothing ingredients that gently exfoliate and moisturize for a dewy complexion. Look for a formula that lists some or all of Glycolic acid, Lactic acid, and Phytic acid.

Hyaluronic AcidOften listed as Sodium Hyaluronate, Hyaluronic Acid is a powerful ingredient that soothes dark circles and deeply moisturizes while skin is under repair.

Polyglutamic AcidAn intensely hydrating acid that can hold up to 10,000 times its weight in moisture and works synergistically with hyaluronic acid to visibly smooth and brighten skin.

White Shiitake MushroomNature's answer to hydroquinone, white shiitake is a kojic-acid rich brightener that gently exfoliates to minimize the appearance of discoloration, dark spots, and redness.

A niacinamide serum with these additional ingredients will go a long way to help your complexion, but there are other things to consider before making a purchase:

What to Avoid

Hydroquinone & MercuryThese synthetic ingredients can cause unwanted results. In fact, hydroquinone is banned in every country except the U.S. because prolonged use can result in significant skin discoloration.

Hidden GuaranteesAvoid companies that hide details in their return policy's terms and conditions. They can make it difficult to get your money back, if at all.

Overnight ResultsBe on the lookout for niacinamide serums that promise fast results. Real skin enhancement takes time.

Your Definitive Niacinamide Serum Checklist:

The E-Commerce AdvantageMany successful e-commerce beauty brands have inherently lower overhead costs, which gives them the ability to invest more in creating superior skincare formulas. Therefore, by selling directly to you, online beauty brands are often able to offer higher quality products at a more affordable cost.

Money-Back GuaranteeAmericans spend millions of dollars every year for youthful skin, and they still find themselves unhappy with an apparent lack of results. It’s better—and safer—to invest in a product that offers a 100% money-back, no-questions-asked guarantee. This shows the company's faith in the potency of its product and the results you will experience.

Here's who made the cut...

When putting together our rankings, we consider the quality of ingredients, safety, return policies, projected effectiveness, and customer satisfaction.

First, here's a side-by-side comparison of how industry-leading niacinamide serums stack up against each other.

*Scroll to compare

Below are the final rankings from our beauty editors, complete with detailed reviews of each niacinamide serum:

Top 5 Niacinamide Serums of 2022

1. Spot Check: Brightening Niacinamide Serum

Total Ranking

9.6/10

A

Overall Grade

PROS

  • Naturally derived ingredients that help brighten and hydrate dry skin
  • Made in the USA with imported ingredients
  • Clear list of ingredients
  • Noticeable results
  • Niacinamide, polyglutamic acid, brightening acids, sodium hyaluronate and white shiitake mushroom for youthful skin
  • No sulfates, fillers, or synthetic components
  • 60-day, risk-free, money-back guarantee
  • Featured in Vogue, Byrdie, Life & Style, Who What Wear, & Teen Vogue

CONS

  • Only sold in the U.S. & Canada
The Bottom Line

Named "Best for Dark Spots" among Byrdie's top niacinamide products, Tru Alchemy's Spot Check is our #1 pick because its naturally derived formula brightens the skin while minimizing the appearance of hyperpigmentation, dark circles, and acne scarring.


In addition to niacinamide, It contains a patented version of sodium hyaluronate, white shiitake mushroom, polyglutamic acid, and a blend of 3 brightening acids—phytic, lactic, and glycolic—as well as other ingredients that work together to visibly smooth and hydrate the skin.


Spot Check is also free of hydroquinone, mercury, synthetic dyes, synthetic fragrances, petroleum, sulfates, and other harsh chemicals. And, Tru Alchemy offers a 60-day money-back guarantee, no questions asked, which shows us they stand by their product.*

*Results are based on the Smarter Reviews Ranking System and do not necessarily reflect typical results from the use of these products. Please visit product websites for more information.

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2. BOOST 10% Niacinamide Booster

Total Ranking

9.2/10

A-

Overall Grade

PROS


  • Formulated for all skin types
  • 10% Niacinamide
  • Vitamin C
  • Sodium Hyaluronate

  • Great return policy and customer service

CONS

  • Only contains 0.67 fl. oz.
  • Customers had to make multiple purchases to see results
The Bottom Line

The BOOST 10% Niacinamide Booster by Paula's Choice came in at #2 on our list of top five niacinamide serums. We like that it contains a potent 10% niacinamide plus vitamin C and sodium hyaluronate. And the 60-day return policy is great for trying out new products.


The main complaint about this product is the consistency is too thin and many customers did not experience results.  At less than one fluid ounce, a few customers ran out of the corrector and needed to repurchase before they saw their results.


Despite these drawbacks, BOOST 10% Niacinamide Booster by Paula's Choice earns the #2 pick for its quality formula and 60-day return policy.*

*Results are based on the Smarter Reviews Ranking System and do not necessarily reflect typical results from the use of these products. Please visit product websites for more information.

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3. C + Collagen Brighten & Firm Vitamin C Serum

Total Ranking

8.8/10

B+

Overall Grade

PROS


  • Well-known name brand
  • Includes 2 brightening acids, phytic and lactic acid

  • Vitamin C
  • Vegan, cruelty-free, paraben-free and fragrance-free

CONS

  • High price point at $78
  • Limited 30-Day Return Policy only for unopened products
The Bottom Line

Dr. Dennis Gross’ C + Collagen Brighten & Firm Vitamin C Serum comes in 3rd place on our list because of its formula that contains niacinamide along with vitamin C and 2 brightening acids: phytic acid and lactic acid.

However, it’s also important to note that Dr. Gross offers a limited 30-day return policy for unopened products only, so this is quite inconvenient if the product doesn’t work for your skin type.

Despite these concerns, all of Dr. Gross’ products are vegan, cruelty-free, paraben-free, and fragrance-free. For those reasons, Dr. Gross landed our #3 spot.*

*Results are based on the Smarter Reviews Ranking System and do not necessarily reflect typical results from the use of these products. Please visit product websites for more information.

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4. 2.0 Lytera Pigment Correcting Serum

Total Ranking

8.4/10

B

Overall Grade

PROS

  • Good for all skin types and tones
  • Niacinamide
  • Phytic Acid

CONS

  • High price point at $138

  • 30-Day Return Policy
  • Lacks Vitamin C
  • Lacks Hyaluronic Acid
The Bottom Line

SkinMedica Lytera 2.0 Pigment Correcting Serum made the #4 spot on our list because of its claimed ability to help minimize the appearance of hyperpigmentation on most skin types and tones. The Lytera 2.0 Pigment Correcting Serum contains niacinamide along with phytic acid, peptides, and a marine extract blend. 

We ultimately decided to include it on our list because it's a potent formula that does not contain hydroquinone, fragrances or parabens. But, it is lacking a hydrating component like hyaluronic acid and does not include vitamin C.

However, this serum is quite expensive at $138 for one ounce, so buyers on a budget might want to opt for another serum on our list. Despite its high price point, we decided to take our Smarter Shoppers word for it and put SkinMedica's Lytera 2.0 Pigment Correcting Serum in the 4th spot on our list.*

*Results are based on the Smarter Reviews Ranking System and do not necessarily reflect typical results from the use of these products. Please visit product websites for more information.

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5. Retinol B3 Pure Serum

Total Ranking

8.2/10

B-

Overall Grade


PROS

  • Niacinamide
  • Hyaluronic Acid
  • Dermatologist tested
  • Supported by clinical studies

CONS

  • 30-Day Return Policy
  • Contains Retinol
  • May cause mild irritation
  • May not be suitable for sensitive skin
The Bottom Line

La Roche-Posay's Retinol B3 Pure Serum ranks 5th on our list. This dark spot corrector contains niacinamide, hyaluronic acid, and retinol, all of which can help support a brighter appearance.

And La Roche-Posay goes as far as to claim that their dark spot corrector is good for sensitive skin. However, the issue with this product is that some users report experiencing irritation. This may be due to either the fragrance or the retinol which, while effective, is a known irritant.

If you’re concerned about irritation, you can rest easy knowing La Roche-Posay offers a 30-day guarantee.*

*Results are based on the Smarter Reviews Ranking System and do not necessarily reflect typical results from the use of these products. Please visit product websites for more information.

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CITATIONS

  1. American Academy of Dermatology. https://www.aad.org/media/news-releases/dermatologist-shines-light-on-natural-ingredients-used-in-new-topical-treatments-for-hyperpigmentation
  2. Oregon State University Linus Pauling Institute Micronutrient Information Center http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/health-disease/skin-health/vitamin-E
  3. US National Library Of Medicine, National Institutes of Health. Short, RW. Department of Dermatology, Malcolm Grow Medical Center, MD, USA. 2007 Jan;32(1):88-90. Epub 2006 Nov 27. PMID:17137484. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17137484