Fact Check: Can Vitamin B5 Stop Acne?

If you are suffering from acne then you'll have read all sorts of wacky and wild claims about things that will help to reduce the horrible effects of it. Something you will undoubtedly have heard about people using to try and beat acne is Vitamin B5, otherwise known as pantothenic acid.

It's really sensible to research something before putting it into your body, especially if you're desperate to reduce the levels of acne that you are suffering from.

So what's the deal with using Vitamin B5 for acne? Is there any evidence it works, or is it simply another unproven theory that's going to be a waste of your time?

What Causes Acne?

The best place to start in looking to see if there is a relationship between vitamin B5 and acne, is to determine what actually causes acne. Then you can see if the way vitamin B5 interacts in the body could have any correlation.

The main causes of acne are:

1. Hormone fluctuations

Changes in hormone levels within our bodies are the main cause of acne outbreaks. This is the reason that teenagers suffer from acne more than any other group. Because their bodies hormones are flying around all over the place at higher levels the normal, they are prone to getting acne.

2. Genetics

Unfortunately, some people are just more prone to bad skin. You can thank your parents. Genes mean some people have problem shedding and regenerating skin, other people struggle to cope with oil on the skin, others have skin which has a more inflammatory response.

When hormone levels rise in our bodies, our sebaceous glands produce more sebum. This is a protective oil that helps to keep the hair follicles healthy.

This excess oil attracts dirt, dead skin and bacteria. It clogs the hair follicles, the pores, and causes infection.

So it's hormone level changes in the body that causes an over-production of sebum, and this can be exaggerated further depending on how a person's genetics make their skin react. But is there any evidence that vitamin B5 can interact with, and reduce, either of these problems?

The Role Of Vitamin B5 In The Body

The thing is, that vitamin B5 is everywhere, literally. Its name is pantothenic acid. This name comes from the Greek word “pantos”, which means "everywhere".

This name was used because vitamin B5 is a water-soluble vitamin found in almost all foods. So it's name is derived from the fact that you obtain it almost every time you eat something. In fact, it's a little-known vitamin because deficiency in it is incredibly rare. People just don't hear about it.

In our bodies, vitamin B5 is essential for the following:

  • ​Produces energy by breaking down fats and carbohydrates into glucose
  • ​Promoting healthy hair, liver, skin and eyes
  • ​Synthesizing cholesterol
  • Forming red blood cells

Now obviously promoting healthy skin is the key one here. Vitamin B5 is needed to synthesize something called coenzyme A in our bodies.

Coenzyme A is a key component in breaking down fat in the body to fatty acids, a process known as fatty acid oxidation.  So technically, a deficiency in vitamin B5 could mean the body struggles to break down fat, forcing the body to get rid of it in other ways, such as through the oil glands in the skin.

Increasing levels of this vitamin in the body could increase the volume of fat broken down, which could theoretically lower the levels of oil that the body has to get rid of through other the skin. This means less sebum, which means less clogged pores.

Research Into Using B5 To Treat Acne

Now, that all sounds brilliant, simple and hopeful. But is there actually any scientific study evidence that concludes that the increased intake of vitamin B5 stops fat leaking out of our pores as sebum?

The problem is that there have only been a few studies into this topic, and all of those studies have had very small sample groups.

For example, a 2014 study by Yang et al. Concluded that after 12 weeks of vitamin B5 supplements, a study group of had reduced levels of acne.

But there was a problem. Although it was a proper study, randomized, placebo-controlled and double-blind, the study only used 41 people.

This is common for the handful of studies into the relationship between vitamin B5 and acne reduction, with sample groups as small as 11 people.

Even bigger problems occurred from a study by Dr Lit-Hung Leung. He advocated a megadose of vitamin B5, as there is no evidence that high levels cause any damage. But the problem with his conclusions are that although it was dressed up as a scientific study, his paper was actually never published as a proper paper in a journal, nor was it peer-reviewed.

Worse than that, his conclusions that large levels of vitamin B5 did help to reduce acne were called into question when it was discovered that he had previously filed a US patent, that describes a prescription acne treatment using the active ingredient....vitamin B5!

So Can Vitamin B5 Reduce Acne?​​​​

Unfortunately, there is no scientific evidence that vitamin B5 can help to reduce levels of acne.

There is no scientific study evidence that backs up the claims that people are making about vitamin B5 reducing the level of sebum produced.

Also, some people have taken it upon themselves to ingest large doses of pathenine to try and deal with acne. Pathenine is an active form of pantothenic acid. Anecdotally, a few people say it works, but most people say it doesn't.

But the key problem is that the people advocating the use of vitamin B5 to reduce acne, are suggesting that basically unprocessed fat is squeezing itself out of the pores of our skin. This is not actually the case, sebum is an oil that is used for a specific role, it's not just unwanted fat dripping out of the skin.

The bottom line here is that acne is mostly hormonal, and partly genetic.

You could point to the fact that vitamin B5 is used in a lot of acne treatments you can buy over-the-counter, or off-the-shelf. But this is because those companies are subscribing to the same unsubstantiated theory around processing fat.

You could point to the fact that people using these treatments often see a slight improvement in their acne. But this could be due to the fact that when they buy these treatments and use them, they are generally improving their skin cleanliness, and therefore having less blocked pores.

So the conclusion here is that vitamin B5 could help to reduce levels of acne. Go ahead and try it yourself, there's no harm in trying it, either within products, or as a supplement.

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But as a cure for acne, increasing your intake of vitamin B5 is probably not the answer, unless you are deficient in it. As you've seen though, as long as you are eating, then you're not going to be deficient in it.

  • February 25, 2019
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