Do you like quizzes? Ok, then let’s start: Take a look in your bathroom cabinet and scrutinise the ingredient list of your pots, tubes, and jars. What ingredient appears the most often besides water? It’s panthenol. Don’t be surprised if you also run across it in several other products in your home. You can find it in food, supplements, and personal care products of a wide variety.
Panthenol, also known as pro-vitamin B5, is one of the unsung beauty heroes. It’s one of the most versatile ingredients for your skin but gets overlooked by more glamorous stars such as aloe vera or resveratrol. It does several jobs brilliantly and still gets along with other ingredients without bitching and airs. Without taking any credit, it improves your skin as well as works swiftly to enable other components to do their jobs.
What is this Panthenol?
Panthenol is a chemical substance derived from pantothenic acid, vitamin B5. It’s also known as the provitamin of B5. That’s a precursor, a substance that your body converts into vitamin B5.
Pantothenic acid is an essential nutrient that occurs in every living cell. It’s essential because it’s needed to make coenzyme A, a substance needed by other enzymes and hence required in all enzymatic processes and ultimately by life.
Think of it as a helper that your body needs to convert lipids, protein, and carbohydrates into energy, which helps maintain healthy hair, healthy skin, healthy eyes, in short it helps to keep your entire body healthy.
Pantothenic comes from the Greek word “panthothen” which means everywhere. It’s an apt name denoting that pantothenic acid is naturally occurring in plants and animals abundantly.
Panthenol has the chemical structure of an alcohol. It’s a carbon-based molecule with an oxygen and a hydrogen bonded together at one end (a so-called hydroxyl group). It’s a more stable form of vitamin B5 and can penetrate your skin better. Hence it’s more often used. It’s often added to personal care products.
Most likely you’ve used a cosmetic or hygienic product with pantothenic acid in the last 24 hours. It’s also highly likely that you have pathogenic acid in your system right now, as it’s found in every living cell and so occurs in many common food sources. Again, the term pantothenic is true as the ingredient is so widely used.
At room temperature, panthenol is either a white powder or a transparent viscous liquid. If you don’t find panthenol on the ingredient list, look for its other names
- Alcohol analog of pantothenic acid
- D-pantothenol alcohol
- Provitamin B5
It’s all the same substance and when your body absorbs it, it gets converted to vitamin B5. It’s water-soluble and can bind as well as hold on to water.
What can it do for your skin?
Panthenol is best known for its ability to bind and hold on to water as well as other moisturising ingredients effectively. Hence it’s known for making your skin soft and moisturised. This also helps to make hair easier to manage, giving it a smoother texture. It also helps frizzy hairs. Aside from it’s moisturising properties, it has some other helpful effects.
First off, Don’t let the fact that panthenol is the alcohol derivative of pantothenic acid mislead you. It’s not a simple alcohol but completely gentle and non-drying.
Unlike other the famous moisturising substance hyaluronic acid, panthenol has an unbeatable upside: It’s both a humectant and an emollient. As a humectant, it continually pulls moisture from the air and retains it in your skin. As an emollient, it fills in the cracks in your skin.
Both properties together reinforce and protect your skin barrier. Panthenol helps your skin manage dryness and sensitivity. It reduces water loss, keeping your skin soft, smooth, and looking dewy. Research has found that it restores your skin barrier by increasing the mobility of fats and proteins in the outermost layer.
This is the main reason why you find panthenol in skin care but also makeup and hair care products.
Calming and soothing
When panthenol hits your skin, it’s converted into pantothenic acid or vitamin B5, a component of coenzyme A. This substance is needed in the formation of fatty acids and steroids which helps soothe inflammation. The fatty acids are also needed to replenish any missing lipids in your skin barrier.
Since panthenol can help relieve redness, itchiness, and other symptoms of irritated skin, it’s used in products for sensitive skin as well as in many SPF and after sun products.
Encouraging wound healing
If you’ve ever had a tattoo, you probably got the recommendation by the artist to apply an ointment with panthenol during the early healing period. That’s because panthenol both boosts your skin barrier functions as well dampens inflammation.
It also speeds up cell turnover and stimulates the growth of fibroblasts in your skin. You need fibroblasts to create structural skin proteins like collagen and elastin. Both are essential for wound healing and tissue repair as well as for rejuvenating your skin for a bouncy and firm complexion.
Anything to consider?
Panthenol is generally well tolerated and as yet not linked to any skin irritation when used on the skin. It’s been approved both by the US FDA and the European Commission on Cosmetic Ingredients for use in cosmetics.
The FDA also has listed it in its “Generally Regarded as Safe” database for when it’s used as a supplement.
It’s an incredibly gentle, water-soluble ingredient that works well with many different types of ingredients. It makes it easy to formulate moisturisers, toners, but also mascara, powders, etc.
That said, a reaction is always possible, although the odds are low. If you want to be cautious, start with a patch test.
Panthenol plays well with other ingredients. So, the odds are, you’re already using it. Getting the most out of it doesn’t have to do with other ingredients or products but how you use it. You can use it in lotions, essences, or creams after your regular cleansing.
Since it works well with other ingredients, you may want to try one of these combos
Vitamin A – helps your skin in many ways, from speeding skin cell turnover to reducing visible signs of ageing but it can often make your skin dry and flaky. To counteract this, use panthenol to soothe your skin.
Vitamin E – put your skin barrier function on steroids with this antioxidant. It will also boost the soothing properties of panthenol.
The role vitamin B5 has can’t be highlighted enough, especially for oily skintypes. While it moisturises your skin, it reduces oil production without shrinking the sebaceous glands. That’s because your body needs vitamin B5 to make coenzyme A and this in turn reduces the synthesis and secretion of oil as well as promotes sebum breakdown in the skin’s oil glands.