What if B5 is the secret to clear, glowing, radiant skin?
I’m going to talk about pantothenic acid aka vitamin B5 for skin. Is it helpful, is it something that can clear up acne and should we be taking it?
Table of Contents
What is Panthothenic Acid or B5?
It is a B vitamin. You probably are aware of the fact that there are a ton of vitamins that we get from our diet and are critical to our life.
There are eight B vitamins and B5 is one of them.
It plays an important role, specifically in the conversion of carbohydrates, proteins and fats into energy and specifically it is responsible for increases in something called coenzyme A, which is really important for a variety of biochemical processes throughout the body.
Pantothenic acid is really important for the health of your skin. It plays a key role in epidermal barrier function and it also helps in regulation of oiliness aka sebum, which plays a major role in acne.
If you’ve got excessively oily skin, you’re more prone to breakouts, logic follows that pantothenic acid is something that’s important, at least in your diet for helping that out.
To be clear, deficiency in pantothenic acid is incredibly rare. We get it from our diet.
However, given its vital role in epidermal cell turnover, inflammation and oiliness, it’s thought that perhaps people with acne may have a lower level of pantothenic acid and would perhaps benefit from supplementation with B5 or pantothenic acid.
Is there any truth to this?
What a Study Showed?
There’s actually a study that examined taking pantothenic acid for acne, for clearing up acne lesions.
This study was a randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled trial that took adults with acne and either gave them a placebo pill that had nothing in it or a pill that had pantothenic acid in it.
At the end of the 12-week study, they demonstrated a pretty notable reduction in the number of acne lesions with the pantothenic acid supplement.
That’s compelling and importantly, throughout the study there were no adverse effects attributed to this supplement and people tolerated it well and they were happy because their skin was getting clear.
In comparison to those who were receiving the placebo pill, they did not appreciate this improvement in their acne, they didn’t get clearer skin from the placebo.
The treatment group, those that got the supplement, they were a lot happier at the end of the study and objectively they had fewer acne lesions than when they started.
B5 is safe. Like all B vitamins, it’s water soluble. What that means is that if your body doesn’t really need it, you’re gonna pee it out.
You may notice if you take a B vitamin supplement that your urine is bright yellow. It’s just because you’re peeing it out. It’s water soluble.
It has decent bioavailability when you take pantothenic acid, somewhere between 40 to 60 percent will actually be absorbed.
How it Works?
So in this study, it looks as though the supplement they were given helped give them clear skin. It’s pretty notable.
Pantothenic acid increases levels of coenzyme A, which is important for reducing oiliness and it’s anti-inflammatory.
Part of acne issue that people don’t always realize is that an impaired skin barrier.
If you have acne or a tendency towards acne, you’re more prone to lose water out of the skin. The skin becomes easily irritated and if you have low levels of pantothenic acid, that might contribute to an increased irritability of the skin and more breakouts down the road.
Those are theoretical mechanisms by which vitamin B5 might help give you clear, radiant skin.
Problems With The Study
However there are a few problems that I should point out with the way that these studies were done.
First of all, very short period of time, 12 weeks. I know for teenagers with acne that seems like a lifetime, they want to clear acne up fast. But 12 weeks is pretty short.
We don’t really have a good understanding of the long-term ramifications, how long do you have to take it, do you have to take it indefinitely, is it safe to take it indefinitely, what are the long-term potential adverse effects.
As I said, pantothenic acid is pretty safe and you mostly just pee out what you don’t absorb. However, we don’t really know. For example, can it interfere with other medications?
Hard to say!
The study was pretty small, somewhere around 50 people were included, and one thing that I noticed is that there were very few men in this study.
This doesn’t surprise me. Once men reach adulthood, acne typically is no longer a problem. But it tends to affect women throughout adulthood. That’s not surprising.
My point is if you’re a teenager or a young person, a young male with acne, I just question would this be as beneficial, given that there are so few male participants.
The elephant in the room though with this study is that it’s not designed actually to test if pantothenic acid is beneficial for acne.
Instead it tests is the supplement Pantothen beneficial for acne and that’s what they show, not pantothenic acid specifically.
This trademark supplement is more than just pantothenic acid. It also has all the other B vitamins. It has thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, B6, folate, B12 in the form of cyanocobalamin and biotin, another B vitamin. Plus it has l-carnitine in the supplement.
So there are a few other players going on.
I mentioned that the study was placebo control. The placebo pill didn’t have anything in it, it didn’t have any any of these other ingredients
The study doesn’t test the outcome of pantothenic acid supplementation specifically, it tests the outcome of Pantothen, this trademark supplement.
That’s important because we already know that some of these B vitamins like niacin it’s anti-inflammatory, so how do we know that that’s not what’s helping the acne.
Also the l-carnitine has been shown, at least in lab-based studies, to have a sibo-suppressive effect, so that could be really what is doing the work.
The other interesting thing that I’ll point out is that we’ve observed that supplementation with high doses of certain B vitamins is associated with worsening acne.
For example, biotin supplements have been reported to worsen acne and it’s thought, oddly enough, that the reason this might happen is that biotin competes with pantothenic acid as far as absorption.
So maybe people who over supplement with biotin, they don’t absorb as much of the pantothenic acid from their diet, so they get a low level.
This product has 300 micrograms of biotin in it, and, again remember I told you they’re only looking at 12 weeks.
I question if the users continue to take this without biotin, maybe it starts interfering with some of the benefits. We don’t know.
The other issue with biotin is that it actually can interfere with the accuracy of certain blood tests. Namely tests that are run in the setting of determining if you’re having a heart attack.
The other thing is we’ve also appreciate a worsening of acne with high doses of B12.
It’s thought that B12 supplements might actually interfere with the gene expression of cutibacterium acnes. A little bacteria that lives in the pore and is responsible in part for acne.
Does B5 Really Works?
I can’t really tell you if B5 or panthothenic acid supplements are the key to clear skin, because this study just doesn’t really address that.
It tests is Pantothen, the trademark supplement that has more than just panthothenic acid in it, the key to clear skin.
Pantothenic acid is abundant in many foods that you can incorporate into your diet. It’s present in eggs, meat, lentils, shiitake mushroom, avocado, cabbage, sweet potato, broccoli.
Just make sure that you’re eating a balanced diet and you are very likely to be getting these B vitamins in more than adequate amounts.
In my opinion it’s much better to get this from your diet, from actual food sources and it’s pretty easy to do so. It’s very unlikely that you’re deficient in B5. Perhaps some people have slightly low levels and that makes them more likely to have worse acne.
There’s no quick solution to get clear. radiant skin. There’s no pill that’s going to deliver results or anything like that. But having a balanced diet that includes a diverse array of whole foods is going to help your skin long term.
It’s not necessarily going to guarantee acne control, but it will help your skin health overall, by ensuring adequate levels of essential vitamins, minerals, amino acids, fatty acids, things that are really important for the moisture barrier, for control of inflammation, for reduction of oxidative stress, and for controlling skin cell turnover and oiliness.
I wouldn’t say chase after a supplement but overall this supplement seems to be pretty safe and unlikely to cause harm. I would definitely like to see more studies.