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What is Panthenol?

By Harriette Halepis
Updated May 21, 2024
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Panthenol is a derivative of Vitamin B5, and it is often referred to as "pro-vitamin B5." This derivative is widely used within the cosmetics industry for a variety of reasons. When isolated, panthenol is a liquid that is somewhat transparent, though this liquid dissolves when mixed with certain alcohols and water, which is why it is a preferred cosmetics additive. There are many different uses for panthenol within the cosmetics industry, though it is most commonly added to shampoos and conditioners.

When shampoo or conditioner containing pro-vitamin B5 are applied to hair, it leaves behind a thick transparent residue. Since this residue actually coats the hair, the result is shiny hair. Essentially, this form of Vitamin B5 acts as a type of lubricant for the hair, though it does not thicken or strengthen hair. Panthenol is also frequently added to various ointments and creams, since it can soothe the skin reducing the effects of sunburn, dry skin, and certain skin disorders.

Once a product containing panthenol has been applied to the skin, the skin will absorb this additive thoroughly. As soon as the skin has completely absorbed this derivative, it is then turned into Vitamin B5. Thus, using products that contain panthenol is not bad for the skin. In fact, this Vitamin B5 derivative can even be ingested without harm, though this is not recommended.

Large cosmetics companies often used panthenol in numerous products ranging from haircare products to mascara, though this ingredient is also used by smaller natural companies. Companies that produce natural skin products often used the Vitamin B5 derivative, since it is organic and safe for skin. Therefore, products containing panthenol can be purchased both in large supermarkets and in smaller stores.

Consumers shopping for products containing panthenol should look at complete ingredient lists. Even though this vitamin derivative is not harmful to hair or skin, certain products may contain other harmful ingredients. Some skin and hair experts believe that additives such as mineral oil, petroleum, and glycerin may harm the skin, and these additives are often mixed with pro-vitamin B5.

People who want to purchase natural cosmetics products should search for products that do not have numerous chemical additives. Such products can be found in health stores, online, or through natural cosmetics retailers. While pro-vitamin B5 is not harmful to the skin, other product ingredients have been know to age and damage skin.

BeautyAnswered is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

Discussion Comments

By ceilingcat — On May 17, 2012

I used to religiously use a conditioner that had panthenol in it. I totally bought all the advertising about it making your hair strong and shiny. However, after awhile my hair had a lot of residue on it.

My stylist told me that this is directly because of the panthenol. As the article said, it coats your hair but isn't absorbed. If you use products with this stuff in it for long periods of time, a lot of it will build up on your hair and make your hair really flat and heavy!

By Monika — On May 16, 2012

@KaBoom - It's probably not necessary for you to stop taking your supplement if you're worried about an overdose of panthenol.

First of all, this stuff isn't toxic. The worst that will happen to you if you get too much of it is maybe some diarrhea. And second of all, I don't think you can really absorb a significant amount of panthenol by using panthenol creme on your skin.

That being said, other types of B vitamins can be toxic, so if I were you I would watch out for those instead!

By KaBoom — On May 15, 2012

@lighth0se33 - I knew that pantothenic acid could be found in all those things. Pantothenic acid is good for a ton of stuff, including reducing inflammation and allergy symptoms. However, I had no idea that the pantothenic acid supplements I take actually contain the same thing as my hair conditioner!

When I buy panthenol, I usually buy it in the form of conditioner. Or so I thought. However, after reading this article I'm guessing a lot more of my beauty products have panthenol in them than I thought!

I'm going to check the ingredients of some of my products. If I find that my lotion has this stuff in it, I think I'm going to stop taking my B5, since you can absorb this vitamin through your skin!

By wavy58 — On May 15, 2012

@Perdido - I know what you mean. While I don’t use a panthenol shampoo for this very reason, I do use a panthenol hair spray, and I’m very happy with the results.

It provides a flexible hold, so I can style my hair after spraying each section. It results in a tremendous shine after I use a curling iron on top of the sprayed hair.

I don’t mind a slight residue from hair spray, because any hair spray would leave something behind. I prefer the panthenol spray to other kinds, because it provides such an intense shine.

By Perdido — On May 14, 2012

I have been seeing advertisements that mention panthenol in hair products for decades. These ads always feature models with super long, unbelievably shiny hair.

I find it interesting that panthenol does not actually strengthen hair. These ads claimed that it would, and they even showed models tying their hair in a big knot and yanking it tightly.

I used a panthenol shampoo and conditioner, and I definitely noticed the residue that the article mentions. This might make my hair shinier, but it also makes it feel like it isn’t clean enough. I switched shampoos not long after starting this one.

By orangey03 — On May 13, 2012

I’ve been using a panthenol cream to lessen the appearance of wrinkles under my eyes. I spend a lot of time out in the sun, and even though I always wear sunscreen, I do get more wrinkles than a person who never stays outdoors for any length of time.

The panthenol cream feels very smooth and silky. It instantly moisturizes the area under my eyes, and this seems to plump up the lines there.

The cream does feel soothing after I have spent hours in the sun. I put it on at night after my shower, and I believe that works with my body to repair my skin as I sleep.

By lighth0se33 — On May 12, 2012

I recently saw a program that mentioned panthenol on television. I learned that it comes from something that is found in honey. So, it’s even more natural than I originally thought.

I also learned that pantothenic acid can be found in eggs, meat, and vegetables. So, panthenol and things related to it do seem to be safe for the human body.

I listened closely to the program, because several of my favorite cosmetics contain panthenol. I wanted to make sure that it couldn’t be added to the long list of cosmetic ingredients that are bad for people.

By anon92054 — On Jun 25, 2010

We have been using Panthenol in our shampoo to make the hair more rich looking. In independent trials 87 percent agreed our Nutrigro Shampoo made them feel their hair was more healthy and fuller.

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