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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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).
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.