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Panthenol - a special active ingredient in skin care

The active ingredient panthenol (also known as dexpanthenol) is familiar to almost every person who has used topical wound-healing treatments. It promotes optimal wound healing and reduces scar formation.

However, many people do not know the following: Panthenol is a provitamin and is converted to vitamin B5 within the body (1). Inside the organism, it is oxidized to pantothenic acid (vitamin B5) and acts as a component of coenzyme A in skin metabolism. 

How does panthenol work in skin care?

Hydration of the skin

In water-oil emulsions, panthenol penetrates the skin and accumulates in the upper cell layers. There, it increases the hydration of the skin and improves its elasticity. This stabilizes the skin barrier and reduces trans-epidermal water loss (TEWL).

TEWL is a measure of the diffusion rate of water vapor through the skin and is influenced by environmental factors, climate, cosmetics, age, skin type, and sweat production.  

Stimulation of cell division

In in-vitro experiments, active participation in cell metabolism produced a detectable stimulating effect on the migration, proliferation, and gene regulation of dermal fibroblasts, which are the precursors of connective tissue cells of the skin (2).

This means that panthenol activates the connective tissue cells and their precursors and stimulates increased cell division. This effect is specifically used for scars and burns.

Evidence-based medicine

Panthenol for the treatment of atopic dermatitis

The active ingredient panthenol has been investigated in numerous studies.  The result of one study comparing the clinical outcome after topical therapy with panthenol and hydrocortisone in patients with atopic dermatitis is of particular interest.

It could be shown that a 5% panthenol ointment showed the same efficacy as a 1% hydrocortisone ointment (3).

This could mean that the anti-inflammatory effect specifically produced by cortisone-containing exteriors could also be achieved by using panthenol to treat atopic dermatitis.

Reduction of skin pigmentation

Even a sunburn can be alleviated by panthenol – the sun-induced inflammation can be reduced without side effects.

In a large randomised study with more than 200 participants, a further beneficial property of panthenol was determined: the reduction of skin pigmentation.

After 6 weeks of daily application of a panthenol-containing lotion in combination with niacinamide (vitamin B3) and tocopheryl acetate (vitamin E), a significant reduction of skin pigmentation, as well as an improved flatness of skin tone and structure was achieved (4). 

Which skin benefits the most from panthenol?

In principle, panthenol-containing exteriors are suitable for all skin types. Infants, children, and patients with very sensitive as well as dry skin especially benefit from this active ingredient.

Even irritated parts of the body such as the diaper area of babies and toddlers, or chronic dry zones, as well as symptoms of eczema can be reduced with panthenol. Combining panthenol with zinc reduces trans-epidermal water loss (5).

Cream or ointment?

Panthenol can be applied in various forms: as a lotion, cream, or ointment. The base humidity and the specific area of application determine the formulation.

Table of Contents

Atopic Dermatitis

Atopic dermatitis, also known as atopic eczema, is one of the most common chronic skin conditions. It presents predominantly in childhood and tends to...

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Bibliography

  1. Proksch E, de Bony R, Trapp S, Boudon S. Topical use of dexpanthenol: a 70th anniversary article. J Dermatolog Treat. 2017 Dec;28(8):766-773
  2. Heise R, Skazik C, Marquardt Y, Czaja K, Sebastian K, Kurschat P, Gan L, Denecke B, Ekanayake-Bohlig S, Wilhelm KP, Merk HF, Baron JM. Dexpanthenol modulates gene expression in skin wound healing in vivo. Skin Pharmacol Physiol. 2012;25(5):241-8.
  3. Udompataikul M1, Limpa-o-vart D. Comparative trial of 5% dexpanthenol in water-in-oil formulation with 1% hydrocortisone ointment in the treatment of childhood atopic dermatitis: a pilot study. J Drugs Dermatol. 2012 Mar;11(3):366-74.
  4. Jerajani HR, Mizoguchi H, Li J, Whittenbarger DJ, Marmor MJ. The effects of a daily facial lotion containing vitamins B3 and E and provitamin B5 on the facial skin of Indian women: a randomized, double-blind trial. Indian J Dermatol Venereol Leprol. 2010 Jan-Feb;76(1):20-6.
  5. Wananukul S, Limpongsanuruk W, Singalavanija S, Wisuthsarewong W. Comparison of dexpanthenol and zinc oxide ointment with ointment base in the treatment of irritant diaper dermatitis from diarrhea: a multicenter study. J Med Assoc Thai. 2006 Oct;89(10):1654-8.