We decided to take a deeper look into the science surrounding pantothenic acid as an acne treatment. Here’s what we found, both good and bad. Read on and check out the resources to make the right choice for your skin.
Zits, pimples, boils … yuck! A blotchy complexion is the bane of teen existence, and a fair number of adults suffer from acne too. Lately there is a lot of buzz around pantothenic acid as a simple natural remedy for treating acne. Is there a scientific basis for using pantothenic acid to treat acne, or is it all a lot of hype? Let’s take a look at the facts.
What is Pantothenic Acid?
Pantothenic acid is another name for vitamin B5. Vitamin B5 is an essential nutrient, also sometimes known as “pantothenate.” The name comes from the Greek word pantothen, which translates to “from everywhere.” This alludes to the fact that you can find small amounts of this nutrient in most foods.
Like other B vitamins, vitamin B5 is water-soluble. This means that your body isn’t able to store pantothenic acid, so a steady dietary supply is an ongoing must.
What Causes Acne?
Before we get into why pantothenic acid is used to treat acne, let’s talk briefly about what causes acne in the first place. Sometimes it’s your diet causing acne, or you might be using cosmetic products which are clogging your pores. Other times, hormones or heredity are responsible. Some people simply have skin which is especially oily or dry.
Wait, dry skin can cause acne? Absolutely. It may sound counterintuitive, but there’s an explanation. “Dry skin has microscopic cracks and fissures in which bacteria can multiply and cause acne,” explains Dr. Francesca Fusco, Mount Sinai Medical Center assistant clinical professor of dermatology.
How Can Pantothenic Acid Help Treat Acne?
According to proponents of pantothenic acid, vitamin B5 can greatly reduce acne flare-ups and breakouts, and may provide even more relief than traditional OTC and prescription acne medications. But where’s the evidence?
There are two key reasons pantothenic acid works:
#1: Pantothenic Acid Acts as a Moisturizer
First off, preliminary studies indicate that pantothenic acid can moisturize your skin. Scientists still do not have a thorough understanding of how pantothenic acid achieves this effect, but the research is promising. If dry skin is causing your acne, the moisturizing powers of pantothenic acid can help to balance your skin’s oil production, curbing breakouts.
#2: Pantothenic Acid is a Precursor to Coenzyme-A
Coenzyme-A, or “CoA,” for short, is a coenzyme which your body needs to synthesize and oxidize fatty acids. You can’t manufacture CoA without pantothenic acid. The scientist who has conducted the majority of the research exploring the connection between pantothenic acid, CoA, and acne is Lit-Hung Leung, M.D. This article is considered his definitive overview on the topic, published in The Journal of Orthomolecular Medicine in 1997. Leung also published two other studies on pantothenic acid in 1995 in a journal called Medical Hypotheses.
What did Leung uncover in his research? Basically, when you are not getting a sufficient amount of Acetyl CoA, your body is unable to efficiently oxidize fatty acids. This results in your skin becoming oily. And as you probably know all too well from experience, oily skin leads to acne.
To test his hypothesis that supplementing with B5 could balance oil production, Leung gave patients in his research trials large doses of pantothenic acid (5-10 grams per day). The results were excellent.
For many years, these studies conducted by Leung were the only prominent research trials available. This, coupled with the fact that Leung gave his patients such hefty doses of pantothenic acid, acted as a limitation on recommending vitamin B5 for acne treatments.
Just last year (2014) though, a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled research trial was published in Dermatology and Therapy. The researchers tested the safety and effectiveness of pantothenic acid as an acne treatment on more than 40 adults. There were significant improvements in the group that took pantothenic acid over the group that took the placebo. The patients who took the B5 had no problem tolerating the supplement. This lends support for its safety and efficacy.
There is also a great deal of anecdotal evidence backing up pantothenic acid as a treatment for acne. Consider the numerous high ratings that vitamin B5 supplements get on Acne.org as well as the top shelf reviews you can find for other pantothenic acid supplements online. So many acne patients who say they tried everything else finally found the results they were looking for with pantothenic acid.
Are There Any Side Effects?
No upper limit (UL) has been established for pantothenic acid for the simple reason that most people handle even large doses very well. At very high levels, some people might experience diarrhea or hair loss. Other uncommon side effects include heartburn and nausea.
Pros and Cons of Pantothenic Acid for Acne
- Scientific research studies back up the efficacy and safety of pantothenic acid as an acne treatment, even at large doses.
- Pantothenic acid is 100% natural. In fact, it’s nothing short of an essential nutrient. It plays a vital function in your body and it’s good for you!
- There is a huge amount of impressive anecdotal evidence supporting pantothenic acid as an acne treatment. Check out reviews for B5 supplements to read about other acne sufferers’ experiences.
- There is still not a whole lot of research on pantothenic acid and acne. While existing evidence is promising, scientists still do not completely understand the mechanisms through which vitamin B5 works to reduce acne flare-ups.
- With no official UL established for pantothenic acid, there is some ambiguity concerning safety. Still, for most acne sufferers, vitamin B5 is side-effect free, safe and effective.
How to Take Pantothenic Acid for Acne
How do you take pantothenic acid? There are a few topical creams with vitamin B5, and you’ll also find it listed as an ingredient on some soaps. The most effective way to use it though is as an oral supplement. Take it as a standalone product, or order a multivitamin for skin health which includes vitamin B5 as an ingredient. With any luck, you will soon be looking at a smooth, clear, beautiful complexion!