What Does Panthenol Do for Skin and Hair?

Panthenol

Panthenol is an often-overlooked beauty hero with loads of research backing its ability to improve skin’s barrier strength and hydration, among other benefits. We’ll explain exactly what it is, why it works so well, what benefits you can expect to see, and how to incorporate it into your self-care routine.

In this article:

What is panthenol?

Panthenol (often referred to as pro-vitamin B5) is a substance derived from the B vitamin pantothenic acid. While pantothenic acid itself occurs naturally in plant and animal (including human) tissues, the types of panthenol used in cosmetic formulations are produced synthetically.

Panthenol is water soluble and mixes well with other ingredients, making it agreeable to formulate skincare products. It’s also widely used in haircare formulations and can be found in makeup products, as well as oral supplements.

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What is panthenol in skincare?

The panthenol used in skincare formulations comes in two forms: D-panthenol (a viscous oil, also known as dexpanthenol) and DL-panthenol (a white, crystalline powder) (1). Of these, D-panthenol has notably more research behind it and is described as the more bioactive form, meaning it’s more impactful, although DL-panthenol is still considered beneficial (2). Both have a place in skincare thanks to their ability to amplify moisture and soothe skin.

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What skin type is panthenol good for?

While it can enhance any skin type, pantothenic acid benefits dry, dehydrated or compromised skin in particular. Its skin-softening and hydration-boosting properties form a powerhouse to improve rough, parched skin, leaving it feeling more supple and soothed.

Board-certified Dermatologist, Dr Corey L. Hartman adds, “Panthenol is a great way to fortify the epidermis and soothe a compromised skin barrier that is common in those with dry or dehydrated skin."

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What does panthenol do for skin?

There are various panthenol skin benefits. These include strengthening the barrier function, thanks in part to its ability to reduce transepidermal water loss (a fancy way of saying it helps prevent moisture evaporation from skin) due to its humectant properties (3).

Adding to the benefits, cumulative research shows D-panthenol has significant repairing and soothing properties, making it incredibly beneficial for skin that has experienced visible impairment from stressors. It may also play a role in visibly reducing facial redness triggered by sensitivity (4).

Dr Hartman further explains: “Panthenol soothes the skin and can help to improve hydration levels. It has also been shown to lessen the appearance of redness in skin.”

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Is panthenol the same as hyaluronic acid?

No, panthenol and hyaluronic acid are different skincare ingredients, although they do both help to make skin soft, hydrated and more youthful looking. In fact, they can work together as a dream team.

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Is panthenol safe?

Panthenol has a long history of safe use in skincare and other personal care products (2). Of note, it has been thoroughly studied and analysed by the Cosmetic Ingredient Review Expert Panel, with the most recent 2018 assessment deeming panthenol safe in present practices and use. The report surveyed over 5,000 products using up to 5.3% concentrations of panthenol (5).

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Is panthenol safe during pregnancy?

While there are no known concerns about using panthenol topically during pregnancy, we always suggest checking with your doctor or midwife to discuss the products you plan to use during gestation and breastfeeding. When referring to topical products used during pregnancy, The Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology notes: “Panthenol is considered safe since it is one of the elements in the skin” (6).

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How to use panthenol for skin

Panthenol can be found in many types of skincare products, which allows you to incorporate it into your routine in a variety of ways. Generally speaking, you’ll reap the most benefit from panthenol when used in leave-on products such as moisturisers, serums, toners and body lotions where it has a longer amount of time to interact with skin. However, it can even be beneficial in rinse-off formulas, such as facial cleansers, as it lends a hydrating and skin-conditioning effect.

It’s proven to be gentle, soothing, and barrier-strengthening, which means panthenol can be used daily in your skincare and body care routines (7).

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Can panthenol be used with vitamin C, retinol, or other active ingredients?

Panthenol can be used with vitamin C, retinol, and other active ingredients. In fact, its ability to soothe skin and increase hydration can even help skin respond better to these potent types of ingredients.

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Can panthenol cause acne?

Panthenol hasn’t been shown to cause acne. In fact, its soothing properties may complement an anti-acne routine. As with any skincare ingredient, the formulary base that the panthenol is incorporated into matters. If your skin is prone to breakouts, avoid panthenol products that come in heavy, occlusive, rich creams, as those may result in clogged pores and exacerbate acne breakouts.

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Does panthenol clog pores?

Panthenol is not a pore clogging ingredient in and of itself. If the panthenol product you choose comes in a very emollient and/or occlusive type of consistency, then that base formula can potentially clog pores. However, that would be due to the overall texture of the product—not the panthenol itself. Panthenol can be incorporated into lightweight gels and even liquid formulas, where pore clogging isn’t a concern.

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Is panthenol good for hair?

Panthenol is good for hair when used as a conditioning agent that serves to moisturise. It can help improve the softness, shine, and look of dry hair. Outside of traditional topical methods, D-panthenol has been studied for promoting the formation of stronger hair, although researchers note that additional independent clinical trials are needed to confirm the results (8,9).

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How to use panthenol for hair

Panthenol is commonly included in hair conditioners and other types of haircare/styling products. Check your labels, as you might find that you’re already using it! No special usage instructions are required, just use the product as you normally would. For best results, look for leave-on products with panthenol, as its water-soluble nature doesn’t allow much of it to cling to hair in rinse-out products.

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Learn more about skincare ingredients.

References for this information:

1. Cosmeticsinfo.org, Accessed May 2022, ePublication

2. Journal of Dermatological Treatment, May 2017, pages 776-773
3. Journal of Cosmetic Science, July/August 2011, pages 361-369
4. Pharmaceuticals, June 2020, pages 1-12
5. Cosmetic Ingredient Review, March 2018, pages 1-51
6. The Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology, February 2022, pages 49-57
7. American Journal of Clinical Dermatology, August 2022, page 427–433 (2002)
8. Current Issues in Molecular Biology, September 2021, pages 1,361-1,373
9. Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, January 2020, pages 75-77

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