I spent 6 months taking vitamin B5 (also known as pantothenic acid) to treat my acne. There is a vast amount of information on the internet about vitamin B5 and how it allegedly can help acne sufferers.
Aside from the conventional treatments available like Accutane, antibiotics, laser therapy and topical ointments, Vitamin B5 has become a popular alternative for plauged acne sufferers who are desperate to find a solution.
I spent several months reading scientific articles and publications, such as Dr. Jeffrey Dach’s and Dr. Lit-Hung Leung’s papers to understand what pantothenic acid is and how this vitamin allegedly helps acne prone skin.
I also trawled through acne related forums and blog posts to learn about people’s experiences on vitamin B5, weighing up the arguments for and against before taking it myself.
The purpose of this blog post is to pull together all the online material I came across and what I learned. Explaining what vitamin B5 is, what it does and the effects this can have for acne. I will also share with you my own experiences taking it, giving you an open and honest assessment of its effectiveness, with the intention that it helps you make an informed decision if you are considering taking it.
What is pantothenic acid?
Here is the science-y bit.... (sorry for some of the complicated words)
More popularly known as Vitamin B5, pantothenic acid is a water-soluble vitamin that can be found in almost all kinds of food. Coined by R.J. Williams, it came from the Greek word pantos which means “everywhere.” True to its given name, this vitamin is not only ubiquitous in terms of food presence but it also is multi-functional in the body. It plays a role in energy production, protein and fat synthesis and is essential in the growth and regeneration of different cell types; most importantly – pantothenic acid is an important component of Coenzyme-A (CoA).
Coenzyme-A is composed of pantothenic acid, ATP and Cysteine. At the cellular level, CoA is used for diverse biochemical cellular reactions; but it is most essential for fatty acid oxidation (fat breakdown). Since ATP and Cysteine are produced by the body through specific processes, pantothenic acid is the only component which needs to be taken into the body voluntarily through incorporating it in one's diet – making it relatively possible for a person to have a deficiency in this component.
When the body lacks CoA (most probably as a result of B5 deficiency), healthy lipid metabolism or fat breakdown is hindered. Thus, these excess fats are rid by the body through other means – such as ejecting it via the oil glands of the skin as sebum (oil). Eventually, this increase in skin sebum leads to acne.
Is pantothenic acid an effective acne cure?
The use of pantothenic acid as a cure for acne is still subject for approval. Although there are studies done regarding its effectiveness, across the Internet there are only two visible clinical trials involving it. Yang et al. (2014), did a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study regarding the effects of using pantothenic acid for subjects with mild to moderate facial acne. The results of the study show that pantothenic acid is well-tolerated, is safe and is effective in reducing facial acne lesions after 12 weeks of use.
Another clinical trial related to pantothenic acid is the one done by Capodice (2012). The study assessed the feasibility, tolerability, safety and efficacy of this vitamin (incorporated in a dietary supplement) in individuals suffering from mild to moderate facial acne. Similarly, the study’s results show that taking pantothenic acid is safe and it can reduce facial lesions caused by acne.
However, although these clinical trials support pantothenic acid’s effectiveness in addressing acne, it is not a hundred percent guarantee that everyone will achieve the same results if they start with B5 treatment. These two studies have too few subjects; 51 and 11, respectively. Further studies which involve more subjects, and are not marked by biases are encouraged.
On the other hand, pantothenic acid cure reviews found online have mixed accounts regarding the substance. Some individuals say that it’s effective and has helped reduce their acne while others just didn’t get that fortunate. In general, most users say that vitamin B5 is effective only for a short time. As of the moment, the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database rated pantothenic acid (Vitamin B5) as having insufficient evidence to rate its effectiveness in treating skin problems.
Advantages and disadvantages of using pantothenic acid for acne
As like all other substances taken into the body, pantothenic acid has its share of pros and cons. Perhaps the most evident advantage of taking pantothenic acid is that it prevents an individual from having a deficiency in the vitamin. Thus, it promotes the physical well-being of a person specifically by supporting biological processes which involve Coenzyme-A.
On the other hand, in terms of using it as an acne cure, as mentioned earlier, pantothenic acid has been found by certain studies to be effective in providing relief from this skin condition. However, it is also stated that for pantothenic acid to work as an acne treatment, it should be taken in very large amounts into the body.
As according to the protocol set by Dr. Lit-Hung Leung, the most popular doctor in terms of relating B5 with acne, megadosing of the said vitamin (up to 10 grams a day) is the recommended dosage to cure acne. His claims received a lot of critique from skeptics:
First, Dr. Leung's paper regarding pantothenic acid has not been published as a research work but rather only as a hypothesis paper. In addition, Dr. Leung has a US patent for acne treatment using B5; this insinuates a financial interest on the part of the author. In addition, there are only two independent studies involving the use of Vitamin B5 as cure for acne, and these were all sponsored by companies that sell B5 products, thus making the results of the researches somewhat biased.
The pantothenic acid advantages which are much more valid are:
1) Taking this vitamin will prevent one from having a B5 deficiency.
2) Taking pantothenic acid helps in the healthy production of Coenzyme-A, which then translates to a healthy fat breakdown.
3) Sources of pantothenic acid are readily available.
In terms of curing acne, this vitamin still got a lot of work to do.
On the other hand, pantothenic acid disadvantages include the following:
1) Pantothenic acid as cure for acne has not yet been medically established.
2) Only 2 researches/clinical trials exist that prove its effectiveness.
3) Long-term effects of using pantothenic acid are not yet known.
4) Mega-dosing is required to achieve treatment from acne.
5) Effects of mega-dosing of vitamin B5 are not yet fully known.
My experience taking pantothenic acid for acne
I had read so much negative material about mega dosing on Vitamin B5, such as, it leading to chronic fatigue syndrome, hair loss and joint problems. Therefore I decided to take pantethine, a precursor of pantothenic acid, which is a more active form of pantothenic Acid. Meaning that the body breaks it down easier and therefore you do not need to megadose like Dr. Leung recommends. Therefore, I took 300mg x 3 times a day = 900mg daily as recommended by Dr. Dach’s paper.
In a nutshell, it did not clear my skin and make me “acne free”, which we all dream of. Did I see an improvement though? Maybe slightly, but not enough of an improvement to start singing from the rooftops that Vitamin B5 is a wonder cure! The improvement was so small that it could quite easily have been the placebo effect of the fact I was taking something to improve my skin. Perhaps I just became less stressed out and positive about my skin because I was taking something.
There were also occasions when I would get more unexplained breakouts than normal, so on the whole it was not worth it. I also experienced some small side effects, such as my eyes and lips became very dry, which I thought was due to the drying effect (breaking down the oils).
Pantothenic acid as cure for acne is not yet a proven science. The recommendations provided by Dr. Leung are just based on his theories as of this time. Thus, there is still no verdict as to whether the substance is really effective in treating acne or not.
However, there are users who claim that they have experienced relief from acne after taking large doses of vitamin B5 and in addition, the studies support this claim too. However, further tests should still be conducted to really pinpoint the effects of pantothenic acid to the skin.
Pantothenic acid as cure for acne may produce varying results per individual. There are those who may experience relief of their acne symptoms and there are those who may not have the same outcome. However, it is important to note that caution must be observed in using this substance as little is known about the effects of pantothenic acid if taken for a long period of time.
For me, the reward is not worth the risk!