Vitamin B5 is so prevalent in animals and plants that its other name, pantothenic acid, actually comes from the Greek word that means "from all sides." Whole grains, meat, eggs, legumes, and vegetables are all good vitamin B5 sources, so chances are high that you've had your recommended allowance of it today. But hat doesn’t mean we couldn’t use a little bit more applied topically—especially given what we’ve learned about how vitamin B5 benefits skin and hair.
The body uses vitamin B5 to break down carbohydrates, proteins and fats. It creates something called coenzyme A, which in turn synthesizes fatty acids. Fatty acids have a number of roles, including storing energy, transporting oxygen through red blood cells, and building tissues and organs. Given how important all that is, it's fortunate that vitamin B5 deficiency is rare. If it occurs, the symptoms are likely fatigue, apathy, restlessness, trouble sleeping, nausea, and a burning sensation in the hands and feet.
Foods such as shitake mushrooms, sunflower seeds, chicken breast, tuna, and milk provide the highest concentration of vitamin B5 per serving. Some have touted B5 supplements as a treatment for everything from allergies to ADHD, but there's insufficient evidence to support its use for such conditions at the moment. What we do know is that it can help skin and hair.
What Vitamin B5 Does for Skin
To deliver vitamin B5 to hair and skin, most products use panthenol, which is a provitamin that the body converts into B5. Panthenol has a number of benefits for skin once applied topically in moisturizers, serums, and cleansers:
- Panthenol for dry skin: Panthenol is a humectant, meaning it attracts moisture from the air and draws it into the skin, where it is easily absorbed. This is just one reason why it's used in lotions for dry and irritated skin.
When panthenol converts to B5, it also helps promote new cell growth in the skin. In this way, it can heal wounds, and also heal any damage done to the skin's natural barrier, the stratum corneum. When the barrier is intact, it prevents moisture from evaporating from the skin, keeping it hydrated, soft, and healthy.
- Panthenol for supple skin: Vitamin B5 also stimulates the growth of collagen, which form skin's structure. Collagen production depletes with age, causing skin to lose its bounce and sag. Activating extra collagen production can have a rejuvenating effect.
- Panthenol for sunburn, irritated skin: Studies have also shown that panthenol has an anti-inflammatory effect, and this is how it reduces redness caused by UV exposure and radiation therapy, and itchiness caused by allergic reactions.
What About Vitamin B5 for Acne?
In a couple of studies, people with mild-to-moderate acne were given pantothenic acid supplements over the course of several weeks. They had significantly less acne by the end of the treatment, which may be due to vitamin B5's anti-inflammatory effect. This is promising, but more research still needs to be done before experts fully endorse this course of action.
Panthenol and B5 Side Effects
Side effects, such as allergic reactions, to topically applied panthenol are very rare. In fact, it's more likely to used to treat a reaction to something else. You can feel comfortable reaching for a lotion with panthenol or vitamin B5 knowing that it's a safe, effective pathway to soft, smooth skin. It's also a form of vitamin B that plays especially with vitamin C—making it a great ingredient in vitamin C serums.