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Panthenol is an alcohol made out of pathenolic acid, or vitamin B5. It’s used for everything from sleep deprivation to dandruff, and is found in numerous shampoos and skin care products (MedlinePlus). While there isn’t a lot of evidence for the use of panthenol in homeopathic evidence, there’s more for what it does in skin care products.
Panthenol is a Penetrating Moisturizer
Like many ingredients ending in “-ol,” panthenol is an alcohol (don’t be frightened by that!) that helps other ingredients penetrate skin and hair.[Read More: Why Alcohol in Skin Care is Safe]
It coats skin and hair as a humectant moisturizer — which means that it draws in moisture from the environment (International Journal of Cosmetic Science). But because these moisturizers can also pull moisture from the lower levels of skin, it’s beneficial to use them in combination with an occlusive moisturizer.[Read More: What are the Differences between Occulsive, Humectant, and Reparative Moisturizers?]
Panthenol Does it All: Nail Care and Skin Care and Hair Care, Oh My!
Panthenol is quite multifaceted, working for hair care, nail care, and skin care.
An in vitro test to see how well panthenol penetrated the human nail found that over a seven-day study, regular doses increased the level of panthenol in the nail. This created a film and helped increase the hydration of the nail (International Journal of Cosmetic Science).
Several studies done on mice show that panthenolic acid increases the production of cell fibroblasts. It’s effective in aiding wound healing and for this reason has been shown to work well in anti-aging products (Drug & Cosmetic Industry). In a study on 30-60 year old women, a combination of panthenol and niacinamide improved signs of aging, such as hyperpigmentation and redness (Indian Journal of Dermatology).
In hair care products, panthenol helps to both coat the hair and also penetrate it. In breakage studies — using virgin and bleached hair — found that using panthenol reduced breakage. The effects depended on dose and treatment. It also has been found to bioconvert into vitamin B in hair (Drug & Cosmetics Industry).
Does Panthenol Cause Irritation?
Despite being a common additive, contact allergy is rare with panthenol (Contact Dermatitis). However, there have been case studies that show that it can cause contact dermatitis in some individuals (Contact Dermatitis).
Panthenol was not found to be tetratogenic or fetotoxic when fed to rats. Through tests on mutagenicity and carcinogenicity were not done, the final safety report explains that the levels of Panthenol that humans require exceeds those that can be absorbed in cosmetic products (International Journal of Toxicology).
Panthenol is the alcohol made from panthenolic acid and is found in hair, nail, and skin care products. In all of these, it’s demonstrated a strengthening and healing capability with minimal irritation (though it can very rarely cause contact dermatitis).