Pantothenic acid is just a fancy name for vitamin B5. Medical professionals believe that it is essential for healthy skin. Because acne is the world’s most widespread skin condition, it has become fashionable to use pantothenic acid for acne as a treatment. But does it work? If you want the answer to this question, read on.
Vitamin B5 Deficiency
The first thing to note is that a vitamin B5 deficiency is unlikely to be responsible for your acne. Most health authorities recommend that we consume between five and seven milligrams of it per day, which is almost impossible not to get in our diets.
Food sources of vitamin B5 include sunflower seed and oil, avocado, corn, mushrooms, yoghurt, chicken liver, salmon, tuna, trout, blue and feta cheeses, eggs, beef, pork, chicken, turkey, broccoli, cauliflower, and sweet potato. Many of these are popular foods, and just two of these per day will easily push you over the recommended daily intake amount. This means that you are probably already consuming enough.
This does not necessarily mean that a vitamin B5 supplement cannot improve your acne, of course, but it does mean that you would have to take considerably more than the recommended daily intake to enjoy the benefits. Let’s examine the research.
Pantothenic Acid for Acne: The Research
The first theory was formulated by Dr. Lit-Hung Leung, who proposed that acne arose from a lack of vitamin B5 because this vitamin enabled your body to process (metabolize) fat. According to this theory, if your body cannot process the fats you eat, it pushes it towards your skin where it clogs your pores. In his own study, his volunteers’ acne improved significantly after he gave them between 10 and 20 grams (10,000 and 20,000 milligrams) of vitamin B5 per day. This is so far above the recommended daily intake of vitamin B5 that it sounds almost lethal!
I would be irresponsible if I did not point out that Dr. Leung received a patent for a vitamin B5 anti-acne supplement at the same time as he was formulating his theory, calling his impartiality into question. Do with this information what you wish.
The further evidence is thin on the ground.
One study from 2014 found that a supplement could indeed reduce the severity of acne and the number of pimples. This study had only 41 subjects, however, meaning that it was too small to draw a definite conclusion.
The same objection can be raised to a study in 2012 that supported the consumption of an oral vitamin B5 supplement for acne. That one had only 10 subjects.
More research is definitely needed, but the studies that have been conducted have been mildly encouraging. Both these later studies used supplements with one gram (1,000 milligrams) per day, miles over the recommended daily intake, but at least not as high as 10 daily grams. Both found that their participants had no side effects to the overdoses that they were taking.
By the way, a vitamin B5 supplement does not speed up wound-healing or improve the quality of wound-healing. Accordingly, it is unlikely that it can help with healing acne or preventing or treating acne scars.
How to Take Vitamin B5
If you would try anything to solve your acne problem, even if research is weak, your options are the following:
- You can follow the research and take a B5 supplement with between 1,000 and 10,000 milligrams per day. The two most common supplements are pantothenol and calcium pantothenate, but you will have to take it in powder form because you are planning to take so much. You surely don’t feel like swallowing 20 pills per day, do you? Since this is an overdose, you should take it only until your acne clears up, not permanently. The above studies continued for eight and 12 weeks respectively, so they never claimed that this overdose was safe in the long term. You might struggle with bloating, diarrhea, and other forms of gastrointestinal discomfort.
- If such a high amount of oral vitamin B5 makes you feel sick, take only half of that amount orally and use a vitamin B5 topical cream on your acne-infected skin. Splitting it in this way may save you from the side effects of the oral overdose.
- A common online recommendation is to take, say, 750 milligrams of vitamin B5 and 250 milligrams of L-carnitine because the latter improves fatty acid metabolism to draw fat away from your skin. This theory claims that the L-carnitine then does half of the vitamin B5’s job so that you can take less vitamin B5. Here we are in scientific never-never land, because there is actually very little research that shows that a high intake of fat promotes acne. But I thought I would mention it for completeness’ sake.
Many people on online message boards report that pantothenic acid, or vitamin B5, has cured their acne. This makes it worth trying, but always remain sensitive to your body’s responses to your attempts. If it works, you are lucky and can prove something to skeptical scientists. If it makes you feel sick, try other treatments that have evidence behind them. There are many of those.