Background Certain moisturizers can improve skin barrier function in atopic dermatitis. The effect of topical nicotinamide on atopic dry skin is unknown. We examined the effect of topical nicotinamide on atopic dry skin and compared the results with the effect of white petrolatum in a left–right comparison study.
Methods Twenty-eight patients with atopic dermatitis, with symmetrical lesions of dry skin on both forearms, were enrolled, and were instructed to apply nicotinamide cream containing 2% nicotinamide on the left forearm and white petrolatum on the right forearm, twice daily over a 4- or 8-week treatment period. Transepidermal water loss and stratum corneum hydration were measured by instrumental devices. The amount of the stratum corneum exfoliated by tape stripping (desquamation index) was determined by an image analyzer.
Results Nicotinamide significantly decreased transepidermal water loss, but white petrolatum did not show any significant effect. Both nicotinamide and white petrolatum increased stratum corneum hydration, but nicotinamide was significantly more effective than white petrolatum. The desquamation index was positively correlated with stratum corneum hydration at baseline and gradually increased in the nicotinamide group, but not in the white petrolatum group.
Conclusions Nicotinamide cream is a more effective moisturizer than white petrolatum on atopic dry skin, and may be used as a treatment adjunct in atopic dermatitis.