Facts Checked By Freewill Beauty Experts - Written by Gopika Suresh (Journalist) on 09th Nov 2020

Panthenol for Hair: Facts You Should Know

Panthenol for Hair

Panthenol is an ingredient that is popular amongst hair care products. These products claim that the element provides enhanced moisturization effects and also adds thickness to the hair, giving it body.

However, there has always been confusion regarding the benefits of panthenol and its formulation. Most people are unsure whether it truly benefits the hair or not, and several even doubt that it may harm curly hair.

Let us take a closer look at the chemistry and composition of panthenol and clarify all your doubts regarding this ingredient.  

The basic chemistry of the element - Panthenol

It is essential to start from an element's basic composition and structure to understand its actual benefits. Panthenol is derived from Vitamin B5 or pantothenic acid and is called a provitamin.

Panthenol is a chiral molecule. This type of molecule has a molecular structure that provides "handedness." This can be either left-handed (levorotatory) or right-handed (dextrorotatory). The two enantiomers are mirror images to each other.

However, they do not superimpose, in the same way, that your two hands are mirror images of one and another. However, they are not exact duplicates.

These two mirror-image enantiomers are not superimposable on one another, in the same manner in which your two hands are mirror images of one another rather than exact duplicates. Most often, there exist two versions of the same molecule possessing different biological and chemical properties.

While used for cosmetic purposes, panthenol is supplied either as a racemic mixture, 50/50 of both kinds of enantiomers, or as its purified "D" version. This method is most apt for skincare applications as panthenol's D version, which is biologically most active. 

The chemical properties of panthenol  

Panthenol molecules contain multiple hydroxyl (-OH) groups, giving it all of its physical properties, such as its high solubility in water and other solvents. It is also a very effective humectant.

This means that it belongs to a class of elements used in skin and hair care products to promote and improve moisture retention. It is an element that is highly hydrophilic and has a hygroscopic chemical structure. This allows it to attract water from the atmosphere, which it binds to several sites along the molecule.

Humectants usually contain several alcohol (hydroxyl) or similar hydrophilic areas such as ammonium groups or ethers. These are available for hydrogen bonding along with water molecules.

The hydrogen bonding between humectants and water promotes moisture retention as it reduces any water loss that can occur as a result of evaporation.  

What does panthenol, the humectant do for your hair?  

Panthenol is not just a humectant, but it is also an excellent moisturizer and emollient. This means that it can spread evenly on the surface of your hair strands. Thus, forming a silky film on the hair cuticle's surface.

The film provides an enhanced coherence to the reflection of the light from the hair strand's surface. Doing so imparts a glossy look and gives shine to your hair. This smooth film that panthenol forms also provides an excellent slip between strands adjacent to each other.

It also possesses detangling properties, which makes the hair more manageable. Humectants help reduce moisture loss from the skin. Thus, bringing relief to damaged and dry skin, which includes your scalp too.

Panthenol has a unique capability to penetrate through the cuticle and enter the hair's shaft. This, in turn, improves your tresses moisture retention property, gives them volume and a nice bounce.  

Minimalist advice - A potential side effect of using panthenol  

However, it is essential to note that sometimes, penetration of the hair's shaft by certain ingredients can lead to rough cuticle surfaces and lead to swelling of the hair shaft. This, in turn, causes frizziness. But, there is no need to worry as this does not happen to everyone.

It is dependent on various factors, such as the amount of ingredient that the product contains to your hair's porosity. However, that being said, this is a potential side effect of using panthenol on your hair. So, make sure to keep this in mind when you purchase a product made of the ingredient. 

A popular myth that surrounds the usage of panthenol  

Although several people believe that panthenol usage can create a waxy build-up on their tresses, there is no evidence given to such an assumption. Moreover, panthenol is not in any way structurally similar or identical to waxy ingredients.

It is also readily soluble in water and alcohol, mildly soluble when mixed with glycerin.

Another property that negates the fact that panthenol causes a waxy film is that it possesses no component in its chemical structure that would make it bind tightly to the surface of your hair strand. Due to all these reasons, it is effortless and hassles free to remove products containing panthenol from your tresses by merely rinsing or washing with a mild shampoo.

You may continue with your regular conditioning after a hair wash as well.  

What to consider if you notice any issues after using panthenol? 

However, suppose you experience any problems after using a product containing panthenol, such as the unpleasant texture of hair or unnecessary build-up. In that case, it is more likely caused due to the other ingredients used while manufacturing the product.  

How does panthenol help the skin on your scalp?  

Your scalp can readily absorb panthenol. As it is a derivative of Vitamin B5, it directly improves metabolic processes in the epidermal cells of your skin. It has been found that panthenol possesses several beneficial properties for the epithelial tissue, such as hydration and improved cell regeneration, which is excellent for the scalp. Keeping the scalp healthy would ultimately improve your hair too.  

So, it helps the skin (and scalp) but can panthenol also improve your hair's health?

The answer to this question is, Yes!

Panthenol can most probably bring added benefits to your hair as well. As long as you are in normal conditions, it can make your hair softer and more robust. Several shampoos and conditioners use panthenol while manufacturing as it adds benefits that improve scalp and hair health. 

Can panthenol protect our scalp and hair from harsh styling tools, products, and the environment?  

Nowadays, most of us are exposed to constant styling from heat and other hair products. Overuse of these can damage the hair. However, it is almost impossible to neglect them due to our lifestyles today. But an ingredient like panthenol can protect not just styling but also the environment, which can get unhealthy at times. In some cases, it may also provide support to hair that has been damaged due to medical inducements. So, this could mean that panthenol may be the perfect ingredient for those suffering from weak hair due to chemotherapy and radiation, and they could consider looking for products that are made of it.  

Does panthenol help those who suffer hair loss from medical treatments?

It may be that when panthenol is used in combination with other products such as caffeine, niacinamide, dimethicone, and an acrylate polymer, it has shown some great results such as the ability to reduce thinning of hair.

This ingredient does this by increasing the diameter of hair fibers on your scalp that is already existent. As most of us know, hair loss is one of the most dreaded and well-known side effects of radiation and chemotherapy. Along with the medical condition, which is severe enough, dealing with hair loss is both emotionally and physically draining for almost all patients, as it can completely rip off your self-esteem. So, using products that contain panthenol during or after radiation and chemotherapy can help. 

The Takeaway 

So, if you are looking to give some life to your dull, damaged hair, you may give panthenol a try, which is now included in the composition of many shampoos and conditioners.