Acne is estimated to impact 95 percent of people at some point in their lives, typically beginning in puberty. Acne can be embarrassing and even painful, and researchers have spent decades trying to come up with effective treatments. Although many acne treatments are harsh and drying on the skin, recent research indicates that there may be a natural alternative in the form of vitamin B5.
Several studies have begun to evaluate the possibility of treating acne using vitamin B5, which would represent a major breakthrough in natural treatments for the condition if proven effective. If you’ve tried everything to get rid of your acne and are looking for a natural treatment that won’t dry out your skin or cause harsh side effects, you might be interested in learning more about the application of vitamin B5 in the fight against acne. So, can vitamin B5 help to treat acne?
What is vitamin B5?
Vitamin B5, also known as pantothenic acid, is a water-soluble vitamin that belongs to the B complex of vitamins. There are eight different vitamins in the B complex, all of which must be acquired through the diet or supplementation because they cannot be naturally produced by the body. The B-complex vitamins include thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folic acid, vitamin B6, pantothenic acid (vitamin B5), biotin, and vitamin B12, each of which has a different function in the body. All of the B-complex vitamins contribute to producing energy, boosting your metabolism, and promoting healthy cognitive function. B-complex vitamins play a critical role in helping the body break down protein, fats, and carbohydrates in the body and converting them to glucose, which provides the energy our bodies need to perform daily functions and rebuild damaged tissues, organs, and muscles. Vitamin B5 plays several specific roles in the body, including:
- Converting food into glucose
- Creating sex hormones
- Synthesizing cholesterol
- Forming stress-related hormones
- Creating red blood cells
Additionally, vitamin B5 is well known for its importance in promoting healthy skin, hair, and eyes. Vitamin B5 supplementation has been found to help manage a number of health conditions, including:
- Multiple sclerosis
Because of the link between vitamin B5 and healthy skin, researchers began exploring the link between vitamin B5 supplementation and the treatment of acne in the late 1990s.
Can vitamin B5 help to treat acne?
Acne is one of the most common skin conditions in the United States, affecting an estimated 50 million people each year. Once thought to be a condition that affected only teenagers, people of any age can experience acne, including adults. Researchers are always looking for new treatments for acne, and since many of the current treatments are harsh on your skin, a natural remedy is considered highly desirable. Vitamin B5 is one of the natural remedies being examined as a treatment for acne.
The use of vitamin B5 as a treatment for acne began in earnest in the late 1990s. The first study attempted to prove a link between a vitamin B5 deficiency and acne. The study hypothesized that the more fat a person consumed, the worse their acne would be, particularly if the person had a vitamin B5 deficiency. Because vitamin B5 plays an important role in how the body digests and processes fats, it was believed that consuming a large amount of fat that could not be processed properly might lead to excess fat being expunged through the skin in the form of sebum, an oily substance produced by the sebaceous glands. The sebaceous glands secrete oil through the pores, and when the pores become clogged with excess oil, dirt, or skin cells, acne is often the result. The vitamin B5 deficiency theory argued that this excess oil was the result of a vitamin B5 deficiency that prevented the body from properly processing fats. However, this theory has ultimately been largely disproven, as vitamin B5 deficiency is extremely rare. With that said, vitamin B5 may still be helpful in the treatment of acne.
Vitamin B5 and Coenzyme A
What the results of the 1997 study did show is that treatment with vitamin B5 does seem to have an impact on acne. The question that remains is why is vitamin B5 an effective treatment? Scientists still are not entirely sure, but they have a few theories. The first is that vitamin B5 levels impact the production of coenzyme A, which is a substance that is extremely important for the metabolism of lipids and other cellular processes. Coenzyme A helps to break down excess oil in the sebaceous glands, which helps to minimize the incidence of clogged pores. As a result, coenzyme A deficiency has linked as one of the causes of acne. By supplementing with vitamin B5, coenzyme A production can increase, which in turns helps prevent the pores from clogging with excess sebum.
Vitamin B5 and Stress Levels
Stress is another factor that is commonly linked to acne and breakouts. Vitamin B5 has an impact on regulating the body’s stress response, so researchers believe that supplementing with the vitamin may help to lower the production of stress hormones and slow the stress response. As a result, people with stress-induced acne may seen a reduction in breakouts while taking an increased dose of vitamin B5.
One recent study of people with mild to moderate acne vulgaris found that taking a treatment level dose of vitamin B5 significantly reduced the appearance and incidence of breakouts. Research on the topic is limited, and more studies with larger sample sizes need to be conducted in order to confirm the potential for acne treatment using pantothenic acid, but initial results are promising. The best part is that vitamin B5 is a natural remedy, and as a water-soluble vitamin, there is little risk of patients taking too much vitamin B5 during treatment. While the treatment may not work for everyone, particularly in patients with severe acne or those with acne caused by different factors, it may be effective for many people.
What are natural sources of vitamin B5?
Vitamin B5 is commonly found in many different plant and animal products. In fact, the word “pantothenic” is derived from a word that means “everywhere” due to how ubiquitous the vitamin is in natural food sources. Natural sources of vitamin B5 include:
- Meats such as pork, turkey, beef, chicken, and duck
- Animal organs such as kidney and liver
- Fish including salmon, shellfish, and lobster
- Dairy products including milk, yogurt, cheese, and other milk products
- Vegetables including mushrooms, broccoli, corn, kale, avocado, sweet potatoes, cauliflower, and tomatoes
- Grains including whole grain breads and cereals
- Legumes such as lentils, soybeans, and split peas
Vitamin B5 can also be found in foods like peanuts, wheat germ, brewer’s yeast, sunflower seeds, oatmeal, and royal jelly. Although many foods naturally contain pantothenic acid, much of it is lost in processing. For example, up to 75 percent of the vitamin B5 content of whole grains is removed during the milling process; canning, freezing, and boiling also remove vitamin B5. As a result, people who are hoping to get their vitamin B5 from natural sources should make an effort to eat fresh, unprocessed foods containing the vitamin whenever possible. Pantothenic acid is also a common ingredient in many multivitamins and other dietary supplements, so even people who are picky eaters aren’t doomed to experience a deficiency. However, as noted above, pantothenic acid is often lost in processing, so it is best to choose a whole foods-based multivitamin containing the nutrient in order to maximize your absorption.
How much vitamin B5 should I take to treat acne?
Because the study of how vitamin B5 can be used to treat acne is still in its infancy, there are no firm recommendations yet on the amount of vitamin B5 that should be taken in order to treat the condition. The recent study that was conducted that showed a demonstrable reduction in the number and severity of facial lesions due to acne treated patients over the course of a 12-week period with four 2.2-gram tablets per day; two 2.2-gram tablets were taken twice per day. When considered in the context of the current recommendations for daily vitamin B5 intake, this amount represents a considerable increase. The recommended daily intakes of vitamin B5 are as follows:
- Infants 0 – 6 months: 1.7 mg per day
- Infants 7 – 12 months: 1.8 mg per day
- Children 1 – 3 years: 2 mg per day
- Children 4 – 8 years: 3 mg per day
- Children 9 – 13 years: 4 mg per day
- Males and females 14 years and older: 5 mg per day
- Pregnant women: 6 mg per day
- Breastfeeding women: 7 mg per day
Because there are no current recommendations or guidelines for the treatment of acne with vitamin B5, it is recommended that people interested in trying the treatment speak to their doctors before adding a vitamin B5 supplement to their diets. Make sure to tell your healthcare professional about any other medications, dietary supplements, or herbs that you may be taking.