Vitamin B5

Regulates skin barrier function, including oil production, which helps to reduce acne.

Written by
Julia Hammond
Medically reviewed by
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min read
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These days you can design a skincare routine for every need. Whether your skincare products are formulated for intense hydration, to have an anti-inflammatory effect or for sensitive skin types; a whole host of active ingredients work hard to keep your skin soft and smooth and your skin barrier function healthy.

Vitamin B5 is one powerful ingredient that has been shown to help retain moisture, treat acne and have anti-ageing effects. Here's everything you need to know about how it works.

What is vitamin B5?

There are 13 essential vitamins that your body can’t make for itself — and vitamin B5 is one of them. B5 is actually part of a whole group known as vitamin B. In total, there are eight types of vitamin B [3]:

  • B1 – AKA Thiamine
  • B2 – AKA Riboflavin
  • B3 – AKA Niacin
  • B5 – AKA Pantothenic Acid
  • B6 – AKA Pyridoxine
  • B7 – AKA Biotin
  • B9 – AKA Folate
  • B12 – AKA Cobalamin

These are often grouped together because you can find them in the same food sources, though they do have different skin and health benefits.

They are also all a type of water-soluble vitamin, which means your body flushes them out throughout the day. To ensure your levels stay healthy, you need to consume foods with all different types of vitamin B each day [1].

What's the difference between pantothenic acid and vitamin B5?

Here’s an easy one — vitamin B5 is also known as pantothenic acid. This technical name comes from the Greek term ‘panthos’, which means ‘from everywhere’ [1]. And you really can find B5 almost everywhere. Foods that are a good source include: 

  • Eggs
  • Meat
  • Cheese
  • Peanut butter
  • Mushrooms
  • Legumes
  • Broccoli
  • Avocado
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Tomatoes [1][5].

The recommended daily intake for vitamin B5 is rather small — just 5mg per day for adults [1]. This means it’s pretty easy to fill up your daily needs. Although, some people do benefit from more than this. We’ll get into more detail on that soon.

What are the benefits of vitamin B5?

Not only can you find vitamin B5 almost everywhere, but it also has benefits for your overall health. It’s sometimes called the anti-stress vitamin because of how it helps reduce signs of stress [3].

It’s effective on wounds — helping to speed up the healing process and strengthen scars [1]. Studies have also shown that vitamin B5 can help lower cholesterol [5].

Last, but never least, vitamin B5 is proving to be a skin wonder. One of its main functions is retaining moisture in your skin [3]. But, it has also been found to work well on acne-prone skin as well.

The benefits of vitamin B5 for skin

More than one study has found that pantothenic acid helps support healthy skin. In particular, it has been studied as a treatment for acne.

Here’s an example — a study of 100 teens and young adults used a high dose of pantothenic acid as an acne treatment [1]. Participants used a combination of an oral supplement and a cream, applied topically.

Within 3 days, they reported their face felt less oily. After 2 weeks, clinical photography showed their pores were smaller, while existing pimples had begun to heal and new pimple growth had slowed. By the 8-week mark, moderate acne was relatively controlled. For severe cases, up to 6 months of supplementation was recommended to reap the most benefit.

In another study, 51 adults took a daily supplement of vitamin B5 for 12 weeks [2]. The results found an over 67% reduction in skin lesions, plus participants reported improved quality of life thanks to their clearer skin. The researchers believed that vitamin B5’s antibacterial and skin softening properties were the key to success.

What’s interesting to note is that a lot of these studies use high doses of pantothenic acid [1]. We mentioned earlier that some people benefit from a higher intake, and this is what we meant.

For skin treatments, it is considered safe — and often more effective — to increase your intake up to or even above the recommended daily amounts. Remember that you’ll be combining food sources with supplements, so you don’t have to go straight for the highest dose on the shelf.

Vitamin B5 is generally well tolerated, so side effects are rare and more likely if you consume more than one gram daily [1]. If you’re ever concerned that a new supplement or skincare routine is harming you, it’s best to speak with your doctor or a skin expert.

Vitamin B5 and hormonal acne

In more exciting news, it seems like B5 may work wonders on hormonal acne. This explanation will get a bit scientific — but we’ll do our best to break it down for you.

First up, you need to meet Coenzyme A — or CoA for short. CoA has two important functions [7]:

  • It contributes to your fatty acid metabolism, which is how you turn fats from food into energy
  • It supports your sex hormones — i.e. testosterone, oestrogen and progesterone.

Our old friend B5, or pantothenic acid, is 1 of 3 essential ingredients that our bodies need to form Coenzyme A. This means without enough vitamin B5 in reserve, you can’t form enough CoA for both functions. What does the body do when it doesn’t have enough of something? It prioritises.

Whether you agree or not, the body chooses to support the sex hormones over your fatty acid metabolism [7]. This can cause a build-up of fats — the ones that haven’t been made into energy. And this, friends, is what causes an excess of oil to appear within your skin — leading to more breakouts and oily skin.

Some researchers believe that this act of prioritising is why teenage acne is so common [7]. Before your sex hormones dial-up with puberty, you can use your entire vitamin B5 reserves for fatty acid metabolism.

After your hormones kick in, you have to split the resources. Until your body adjusts to sharing things out (often by your 20s), you can struggle with excess oil and acne-prone skin.

Phew — we hope you made it through all that with flying colours. In case you feel lost, the general gist is this: vitamin B5 is essential to build a specific enzyme. When you’re low in B5, you become low in that enzyme too. Science suggests this can contribute to hormonal acne. By upping your intake of vitamin B5, you may also be able to clear up hormonal acne.

Is vitamin B5 the same as hyaluronic acid?

There’s more than one skin wonder ingredient out there to treat acne and improve skin texture. Another popular ingredient is hyaluronic acid. So, is it the same as vitamin B5? Not quite.

Hyaluronic acid is a sugar molecule found naturally in the body [6]. Its main functions are to keep skin hydrated and supple. This is where the vitamin B5 comparison begins — since B5 is also good for retaining moisture in your skin.

While hyaluronic acid is definitely a top skin choice, even for sensitive skin, it’s not the exact same as B5. It does, however, work nicely alongside other skin-boosting ingredients like vitamins B5, B3 and C [6].

Is vitamin B3 or B5 better for the skin?

There’s another B vitamin that’s often touted as a winner for skin — vitamin B3. Its other names include niacin, nicotinic acid and niacinamide.

Vitamin B3 is popular because of its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. It’s been used for treating a range of skin conditions, like rosacea and acne [3]. It also has anti-ageing effects, by supporting collagen production, minimising wrinkles and improving skin texture [3][5].

You can find vitamin B3 in many of the same foods as B5 — like meat, milk and dairy products, and whole grains. It’s also commonly added to foods like breakfast cereals [5]. 

Both B3 and B5 have positive effects on your skin. It’s less about deciding which one is better, and more about including a range of foods, supplements and minerals in your diet. The Acne Supplement by Software also happens to include both B3 and B5 — since they’re just so hard to beat.

Is vitamin B5 good for anti-ageing?

We’ve talked a lot about acne so far, but vitamin B5 has many benefits when it comes to your skin. It also has powerful anti ageing effects. Some of the common signs of skin ageing include; wrinkles, skin marks and pigmentation, reduced skin elasticity and dry skin [3].

Research has shown that nutrient supplements, like vitamin B5, can improve the signs of ageing in the skin [3].

One example is a study of women aged 30-60 in India [4]. They were provided with a moisturising lotion that contained B5, B3 and vitamin E. They used this product twice daily, for 10 weeks and the results showed improvements in skin texture, evenness and reduced pigmentation.

For more advice on every skin type, head to the Software Skin Journal where we cover everything you need to know for your best skin yet.

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