Nicotinamide gel for acne (Nicam, Freederm)

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Apply the gel twice each day. Use it on all of the area where your spots occur - not just on each spot.

Wash the area with soap and water and dry it gently, before applying the treatment.

If your skin becomes irritated or dry, apply the gel less often until your skin recovers.

Type of medicineA topical vitamin B3 preparation
Used forAcne
Also calledNicam®; Freederm®
Available asGel

Acne is the common cause of spots. Most people with acne are aged between 12 and 25, but some older and younger people are affected too. Small sebaceous glands lie just under your skin surface and make an oil (sebum) that keeps your skin supple and smooth. Tiny pores on your skin allow the sebum to come on to the surface of your skin. In acne, some of these pores become blocked, causing small pimples, blackheads and whiteheads.

Nicotinamide has an anti-inflammatory effect which is helpful in the treatment of acne. You can buy nicotinamide gel without a prescription at pharmacies and other retail outlets.

To make sure that this is the right treatment for you, before you start using nicotinamide gel it is important that you speak with a doctor or pharmacist:

  • If you have ever had an allergic reaction to a skin product.
  • If you are taking any medicines, or using any medicated skin preparations. This includes any which are available to buy without a prescription, such as herbal and complementary medicines.
  • Before you start the treatment, read the manufacturer's printed information leaflet from inside the pack. It will give you more information about nicotinamide gel and will provide you with a full list of the side-effects which you could experience from using it.
  • It is recommended that you use nicotinamide gel twice each day. If your skin becomes irritated or dry, you can reduce the number of times you use it to once daily, or even to alternate days only. A general point is that you should apply the gel to all of the area where your spots occur and not just to each spot.
  • Before you apply the treatment, wash the area with soap and water and gently dry it with a towel. Then apply the gel and rub it in gently.
  • As you apply the gel, try to avoid getting it on the sensitive areas of your skin in or around your nostrils, your eyes and your mouth. Do not apply it to any areas of skin which are irritated or sore.
  • It is recommended that you use a mild soap and lukewarm water to wash with. You cannot clean off blackheads. The black tip of a blackhead is actually a skin pigment and cannot be removed by cleaning or scrubbing.
  • If your skin becomes very dry, it may help to use a moisturising cream (preferably a fragrance-free and water-based cream). Do not use ointments or oil-rich creams, as these could clog your pores again.
  • Continue with the treatment for at least six weeks before deciding if it is working for you or not. The most common reason for treatment failure is giving up too soon, thinking that the treatment is not working. If, however, your skin has not improved after this time then make an appointment to speak with your doctor who will advise you about other suitable preparations to try.
  • Once your spots have cleared, acne commonly flares up again if you stop treatment altogether, so it is common to carry on with a maintenance treatment. You may find that one application of gel every other day is sufficient for this.

Along with their useful effects, most medicines can cause unwanted side-effects although not everyone experiences them. The table below contains some of the most common ones associated with nicotinamide gel. You will find a full list in the manufacturer's information leaflet supplied with your medicine. The unwanted effects often improve as your body adjusts to the new medicine, but speak with your doctor or pharmacist if any of the following continue or become troublesome.

Nicotinamide gel side-effectsWhat can I do if I experience this?
Dry skin, irritation, burning, itching and rednessIf troublesome, reduce your dose to one application each day or every other day

If you experience any other symptoms which you think may be due to the gel, speak with your doctor or pharmacist for further advice.

  • Keep all medicines out of the reach and sight of children.
  • Store in a cool, dry place, away from direct heat and light.

If you buy any medicines, always check with a pharmacist that they are safe to use with your other medicines.

This preparation is for use on the skin only. If you suspect that someone has swallowed some of it by accident, contact the accident and emergency department of your local hospital for advice.

If you are having an operation or dental treatment, tell the person carrying out the treatment which medicines you are using.

This medicine is for you. Never give it to other people even if their condition appears to be the same as yours.

Do not keep out-of-date or unwanted medicines. Take them to your local pharmacy which will dispose of them for you.

If you have any questions about this medicine ask your pharmacist.

Further reading & references

  • Manufacturer's PIL, Nicam® 4% w/w Gel; Dermal Laboratories Limited, The electronic Medicines Compendium. Dated December 2014.
  • British National Formulary; 69th Edition (Mar 2015) British Medical Association and Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain, London

Disclaimer: This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. EMIS has used all reasonable care in compiling the information but make no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. For details see our conditions.

Original Author:
Helen Allen
Current Version:
Peer Reviewer:
Dr Hannah Gronow
Document ID:
8708 (v4)
Last Checked:
Next Review:
The Information Standard - certified member

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