What is Panthenol?

What is Panthenol?

Have you ever looked at the ingredients list on your skincare and hair products and wondered just what is that word and what does it mean? Is that an ingredient or a foreign language? We're taking a deeper look into one such ingredient commonly seen in many products you use every day: Panthenol, also called pantothenol. You'll see it listed on countless products from skincare and haircare to pharmaceuticals and you probably use it more often than you think. It's one of the best ingredients for skin care.

Its Chemistry

Panthenol, or Provitamin B5, is a biologically active alcohol that is processed by the body through oxidation into pantothenic acid (vitamin B5). Pantothenic acid, a component of coenzyme A (CoA), is a water-soluble B-complex vitamin that was identified in 1933 and first synthesized in 1940. The name came from the Greek word "panthos," meaning "from everywhere" because of its widespread presence in food. It’s found in all living cells, both plant and animal, and is a normal component of skin and hair. It's found in all living cells, both plant and animal, and is a normal component of skin and hair. It's essential for normal metabolism and hormone production. In cosmetics and personal care products, two forms of panthenol can be found: D-Panthenol occurs as a viscous oil and DL-Panthenol occurs as a creamy white, crystalline powder. When applied topically, panthenol converts to pantothenic acid and holo-fatty acid synthase, which is essential to normal epithelial function. This makes it the perfect ingredient for skin care. It's used mostly as a humectant (a substance that helps to retain moisture) and is used to moisturize hair and skin and keep them from becoming dehydrated. Its molecular structure allows it to attract moisture from the atmosphere and bind to water molecules.

What Does That Mean?

When used in hair products and cosmetics, Panthenol binds to hair follicles to coat and seal in moisture in the hair and to lubricate the follicles. Skin might become softer and smoother. Aside from improving hydration, it's been shown to reduce itching and inflammation and to accelerate healing in epidermal wounds. (The epidermis is the top layer of your skin.) Panthenol is commonly added to many personal care products to help keep them more stable. It is an emulsifier, which helps incompatible chemicals to stay evenly mixed in things like creams and serums. Panthenol is commonly added to many personal care products to help keep them more stable.

Put It In My Hair!?

If it's good enough for Proctor and Gamble, it should be good enough for you, right? They created an entire line of hair care products around this chemical. You've heard of Pantene Pro-V, right? The provitamin can enhance the appearance and feel of hair by increasing hair body, suppleness, or sheen. It may improve the texture of hair that has been damaged physically or by chemical treatment. As an emulsifier, panthenol helps products to spread evenly, which is important in a hair product since the strands must be covered from roots to ends to be effective. The structure of the molecule gives it the ability to reflect light, giving hair a healthy-looking shine. Once thought to cause heavy buildup contributing to dandruff and an oily countenance, panthenol is actually water and alcohol soluble, so it's very easy to wash out. Just don't get swept away by company ads or slogans. You can't actually repair or strengthen hair with topical vitamins. Hair is already dead, so it can't metabolize anything. Provitamins aren't actually nourishing your hair, they're coating it, giving it the appearance of a healthy glow.

Skincare Benefits

Clinical studies show that panthenol-based formulations increased skin moisture and had a significant effect on skin barrier function Clinical studies show that panthenol-based formulations increased skin moisture and had a significant effect on skin barrier function by decreasing transepidermal water loss (TEWL). In addition, concentrations of the provitamin also influenced the improvement of skin barrier function. It's able to penetrate into the deeper skin layers and is absorbed into the cells before being metabolized into pantothenic acid. This ability to penetrate deeply is useful in adding essential moisture, helping to maintain skin's natural moisture balance. Loss of water may adversely impact skin appearance and lead to skin disorders, so this provitamin is added to cosmetics to maintain physiological skin conditions and prevent dry skin alterations. Using it will help to keep your skin smooth by maintaining that natural moisture balance. Panthenol acts as a lubricant on the skin surface, giving it a soft, smooth appearance. In a 1995 study conducted by LH Leung, it has was shown to counteract surface bacteria and reduce inflammation. This, coupled with its absorption properties means it is considered to be a viable acne treatment. As a result of these properties, panthenol lends itself to treating skin irritations such as mild burns, sunburns, insect bites, superficial wounds, fissures, corneal lesions, and allergic dermatitis. It's well tolerated with minimal risks of skin irritancy and has been shown to have protective effects against skin irritation.

Taken Internally

Eating a balanced diet will ensure that you are receiving adequate amounts of Vitamin B5. The Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) is 5 mg/d of pantothenic acid for males and females 14 years old and over, but a 1981 study estimated that the average American diet only contains about 5.8 mg/d of pantothenic acid. Foods that are considered to be exceptionally good dietary sources of pantothenic acid include peanut butter (5-8 mg/100 g), liver (5-7 mg/100 g), kidney (4-6 mg/100 g), peanuts (2-3 mg/100 g), almonds (2-3 mg/100 g), wheat bran (2-3 mg/100 g), cheese (1.5 mg/100 g), and lobster (1.5 mg/100 g). The vast majority of vitamin B5 in foods is found already incorporated into Coenzyme A and as phosphopantetheine. Refining, freezing, canning and cooking food causes losses of pantothenic acid, so a modern processed food diet would be expected to have lower amounts of vitamin B5 than a whole foods diet

Should I Be Worried About This Chemical?

Panthenol is safe for use according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Its safety has also been evaluated by the Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR) Expert Panel and has been deemed safe for use in cosmetics and personal care products. Chances are, you're already being exposed to this on a regular basis. Just to be sure, as with trying anything new, you should perform a patch test on your skin to check for any allergic reactions to this ingredient.