What Is Panthenol?

By Patricia Hill

Panthenol, a natural, hydrating form of vitamin B, is used in formulations of numerous beauty products. The nontoxic pro-vitamin has absorption properties that make it an excellent moisturizer and emollient. Panthenol has been used as an ingredient in haircare and skincare products, and as an alternative treatment for blemishes and acne. Its safety has been tested, and it's reported to be completely safe when applied externally, according to the Food and Drug Administration.

Shelf with cosmetics and toiletries in bathroom
credit: serezniy/iStock/Getty Images
Bottles of beauty and hair products on a bathroom shelf.

How It's Used

Panthenol is a derivative of vitamin B-5, or pantothenic acid. Pantothenic acid occurs naturally in living cells and tissue, and aids in the proper function of metabolism and hormone manufacturing. Both panthenol and pantothenic acid are used in beauty care products such as lotion, shampoos and conditioners, and cosmetics. Panthenol may also be used to treat minor skin injuries, skin allergies and insect bites.

Skincare Solutions

Panthenol is used as an ingredient in skincare products primarily thanks to its a potent moisturizing and emollient qualities. The substance passed all FDA tests regarding its safety, and it's well-tolerated even by people with sensitive skin. Panthenol easily penetrates the skin, resulting in softer skin and an increase in the skin's elasticity; it's non-greasy and suitable for all skin types.

Haircare Help

Panthenol and pantothenic acid are used in haircare products such as shampoo, conditioner, gels, hair spray and special moisturizing products. The same properties of panthenol that make it excellent for skincare can be attributed to its popularity in haircare products. Panthenol's ability to penetrate help it improve damaged hair, reducing split ends and adding shine and texture to hair.

Cosmetic Cues

Panthenol is an odorless substance soluble in water and alcohol, yet insoluble in oil, making it work well as an ingredient in cosmetics. Other qualities of panthenol such as its penetration ability and anti-inflammatory and healing properties make it desirable for use in facial products. Additionally, the CIR Safety Review Expert Panel conducted experiments with panthenol and ultraviolet light and determined that panthenol and pantothenic acid were photo-irritant-free and photosensitive-free, a common concern for some who wear makeup.

Wax Off

Although some say panthenol-containing products can cause a waxy buildup, there is no proof to back up this rumor. Panthenol contains no wax-like properties, and it rinses easily off both hair and skin, leaving no buildup.