When we think of vitamins in skincare, we think of heavy actives like vitamin A or vitamin C that are notoriously unstable. Panthenol, however, can’t be further away from unstable -it’s quite the opposite. Let me put it this way; if topical skincare vitamins had names, vitamin B5 would be a Joey; gender-neutral, familiar, comforting, tolerated by all, and plays well with everyone! On a side note, vitamin A would definitely be an Alexander, but I digress. Vitamin B5 (panthenol) may not be the hottest or the buzziest of the bunch, but it brings so much to the table. Keep reading to find out what panthenol is, how it benefits your skin, and the best products to try.
What is Panthenol?
Also called pro-vitamin B5, panthenol is a precursor to vitamin B5 (1). It’s a water-soluble vitamin used in skincare products like serums and creams for its soothing, hydrating, and barrier-repairing benefits. It’s an incredibly gentle skincare ingredient that all skin types can easily tolerate.
On a side note, a precursor vitamin basically means that the precursor is going to convert to the active form of the vitamin. When you apply panthenol to the skin, it converts to pantothenic acid, the active form of vitamin B5.
Now, the function of pantothenic acid is going to tell you a lot about why panthenol needs to be in your skincare products. Pantothenic acid is responsible for the epidermal barrier function (2). It promotes lipid synthesis, which makes a healthy skin barrier. More on this below!
Benefits of Panthenol (Vitamin B5) For Skin
1. It hydrates.
Panthenol is a humectant. It binds water to the skin and increases the water content. As a result, it improves skin elasticity and keeps the skin plump and healthy. It prevents transepidermal water loss and keeps the outer layer of the skin hydrated.
2. It moisturizes.
Panthenol also works as a moisturizer, meaning that it also increases the oil content. When we say oil, we don’t mean the excess oil that causes clogged pores or breakouts.
We mean the oils that your skin barrier needs to stay intact and functional (3). Because of its moisturizing abilities, panthenol keeps the skin soft and reduces roughness and flakiness.
3. It soothes.
Besides hydration, panthenol has anti-inflammatory benefits for the skin. This is how it differs from hyaluronic acid. Panthenol has soothing effects on the skin and has been used to treat wounds and bruises.
4. It repairs the skin barrier.
Because of the fact that it works both as a humectant and an emollient, panthenol is excellent for repairing the damaged skin barrier. Several things can damage the skin’s barrier function.
If you’ve been over-exfoliating, using retinol, harsh actives, or harsh cleansers, you’re likely to experience sensitivity, irritation, redness, and itching. That’s how you know your skin barrier is compromised.
And because of its hydrating, moisturizing, and soothing benefits, panthenol is incredibly helpful in repairing the damaged skin barrier, treating irritation, and reducing sun-induced redness.
5. It prevents irritation.
Treating irritation is one thing, but preventing it is another story. And panthenol does both! A study (4) was done to see panthenol’s preventative effects. People applied panthenol and then went on to use an SLS-based formulation, which is a known skin irritant.
The test suggests that the skin that was pre-treated with panthenol was more resistant to irritants. And this explains why certain serums with active ingredients also incorporate vitamin B5 into the products to mitigate sensitivity and irritation. Panthenol not only treats irritation but also prevents it.
Side Effects of Panthenol
Panthenol, as a topical skincare ingredient, has no known side effects. Just like hyaluronic acid, it’s a very well-tolerated ingredient. However, there can always be exceptions. You may happen to be allergic to it.
But the important thing to keep in mind here is that panthenol is paired with a lot of ingredients in products. So if you think that some ingredient in your serum or moisturizer irritated your skin, it’s very unlikely to be panthenol.
How To Use Panthenol?
As panthenol is a hydrator and moisturizer, it’s more effective in serums and creams. Apply your serum or cream on clean, damp skin. Damp skin is better able to absorb products because it’s when your skin is most permeable.
Plus, panthenol is easily absorbed by the skin. After cleaning your face, apply your cream or serum on wet skin for maximum hydration benefits.
How To Choose a Panthenol/Vitamin B5 Product?
Just like hyaluronic acid, panthenol is also an ingredient that comes in almost all skincare products. It’s not what they call “a rare, expensive commodity”. But it’s great for all skin types, especially for people with sensitive skin.
To get the most out of your panthenol products, keep your skin type and concerns in mind. For example, if you’re looking to repair the damaged skin barrier, look for a minimal moisturizer that contains panthenol high up on the list.
As panthenol is a non-comedogenic humectant & emollient, it’s incredibly helpful for people with oily skin. If you have oily and dehydrated skin, look for an oil-free moisturizer that also contains vitamin B5.
If you have very dry skin, look for a hyaluronic acid serum that also packs vitamin B5 to layer under your moisturizer. Similarly, if you have sensitive skin or rosacea, panthenol is among the ingredients that need to be in your products.
If you’re following an anti-aging routine or regularly using retinol products, panthenol will help a lot with reducing the side effects of retinol and preventing dryness and irritation. So, you can add a panthenol moisturizer or a cleanser to soften your hardcore anti-aging routine.
The Best Panthenol/Vitamin B5 Products
Panthenol comes in a lot of skincare products. It’s not super difficult to find. But below are the best products that are majorly formulated around panthenol aka vitamin B5.
This is an amazing face serum all skin types can benefit from! It’s hydrating, soothing, and also anti-aging. It’s made with vitamin B3 (niacinamide) as well as vitamin B5 for soothing the skin and enhancing the skin barrier function. It also has ferulic acid to fend off skin-aging elements.
The serum promotes resilient, stronger skin that’s better able to resist irritation, oxidative stress, and aging. Plus, it contains copper peptides, which reduce inflammation and redness. The soothing and hydrating formula is especially helpful for reactive and inflamed skin.
This is another multi-functional serum all skin types can use to replenish the skin. It’s great for oily and dehydrated skin to hydrate without clogging pores. It’s amazing for sensitive skin to reduce redness. And it’s also great for dry skin to hydrate before moving on to a thicker cream to lock moisture in. It’s made with hyaluronic acid and panthenol. Plus, hyaluronic acid comes in different molecular weights, which ensures maximum hydration. It’s one of the most affordable panthenol serums out there that works!
Hyaluronic acid and panthenol at their finest! This incredibly minimal and skin-friendly multi-tasker offers hydration, soothing, and moisture for the skin that’s thirsty and parched. It’s alcohol-free, oil-free, fragrance-free and one of the best panthenol products you can get your hands on. Because of its gel texture, it’s a gold mine for dehydrated oily skin that’s prone to acne.
If you’re dealing with retinol dryness, rosacea flares, sensitive/sensitized skin, this balm is going to put out the fire on inflamed skin. This is a very therapeutic moisturizer. It has panthenol to hydrate and soothe. And to provide more anti-inflammatory benefits to calm sensitive skin, it has madecassoside. It’s a component of Centella Asiatica. The cream is excellent for sensitive, dry, flaky skin. The fragrance-free formula keeps roughness at bay with softening shea butter. You can also use this to spot treat dry, irritated areas.
Toners are amazingly versatile. And they’re not what they used to be -drying and astringent. These days, they have hydrating and soothing toners that are relieving for the skin. This one’s a top-shelf superstar. It’s minimal and contains three goodies; hyaluronic acid, panthenol, and bamboo extract, which is equally restorative for the skin barrier. Apply the soothing toner after you clean your face to balance the skin’s pH, eliminate redness, replenish the skin, and prep it for your skincare routine. The Korean gem is an amazing panthenol toner any skin type is going to love.
If you’re looking for a panthenol-based product, you’re very likely to be in urgent need of a hydration boost with some calming action on the side. That’s what face masks are for! And this one is great for that. It’s a sheet mask formulated with panthenol, hydrating hyaluronic acid, and moisturizing algae. Also, it has a botanical blend made with licorice, ginger, and camellia extract to infuse the skin with calming nutrients. Put the mask on whenever your skin is feeling dry, parched, sensitive, and reactive.
This ridiculously affordable moisturizer is like an acai bowl for the face! Besides vitamin B5, it has vitamin B3 to strengthen the skin barrier and increase the skin’s radiance. It combines vitamin C with vitamin E for the ultimate antioxidant protection. It’s a whole skincare routine itself with amazing actives minus the irritation. And it’s one of the best vitamin B creams that’s affordable and effective.
Panthenol is also great for sensitive eyes that need special care. This one offers a replenishing formulation that brightens the eye area and gives you a more rested, fresh look. It’s incredibly hydrating with squalane, ceramides, and panthenol. Its lightweight creamy texture absorbs easily and leaves a healthy dew on the skin. It also comes with Centella Asiatica, oat kernel, and calendula to soothe, calm, and depuff the eyes.
Another hit formulated with hyaluronic acid and vitamin B5 is this serum. It’s the remedy for dehydrated, dull, and tired-looking skin. Its minimal formula instantly plumps up the skin and boosts radiance. With improved elasticity, it leaves the skin bouncy and healthy.
This is a great example of utilizing humectants in a non-comedogenic form to help oily and acne-prone skin. This daily cream with a gel texture hydrates without clogging pores. It’s made with panthenol to boost water without congesting oily skin. In fact, to help calm the skin and reduce redness and inflammation, it has green tea extract. The Korean formula is cruelty-free and also soothes the skin with aloe, leaving a cooling, refreshing feel on the skin.
- Draelos, Z. D. (2011). Cosmetic Dermatology: Products and Procedures. In Vitamin B5 (pp. 323–324). Wiley-Blackwell. https://doi.org/10.1002/9781444317657
- Ebner, F., Heller, A., Rippke, F., & Tausch, I. (2002). Topical use of dexpanthenol in skin disorders. American journal of clinical dermatology, 3(6), 427–433. https://doi.org/10.2165/00128071-200203060-00005
- Camargo, F. B., Jr, Gaspar, L. R., & Maia Campos, P. M. (2011). Skin moisturizing effects of panthenol-based formulations. Journal of cosmetic science, 62(4), 361–370.
- Biro, K., Thaçi, D., Ochsendorf, F. R., Kaufmann, R., & Boehncke, W. H. (2003). Efficacy of dexpanthenol in skin protection against irritation: a double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Contact dermatitis, 49(2), 80–84. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.0105-1873.2003.00184.x
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