B5 & Acne: Frequently Asked Questions
(FAQ version 1.1)
What is B5?
How does B5 clear acne?
Is B5 safe?
Are there any side effects?
How much B5 should I take?
When and how should I take B5?
How long will it take for B5 to clear my acne?
Why can’t I get enough B5 from food?
Isn’t Coenzyme-A inexhaustible (so why should I need more B5)?
Does diet matter when taking B5?
Will B5 decrease the size of my pores?
Can I take B5 during pregnancy?
How well does B5 really work?
What if B5 doesn’t work for me?
Who discovered B5’s effects on acne?
1. What is B5?
B5, also known as pantothenic acid, is one of the “B” vitamins, and chemically is considered to be an extended amino acid. It’s biologically active form is D-pantothenic acid (dextro-rotatory isomer), though in nature the “D” form and the non-vitamin “L” form are usually found together.
B5 is a water-soluble vitamin, and is involved in a number of essential metabolic functions in the human body: it is an essential constituent of coenzyme-A (CoA), and is necessary in the metabolism of fats, carbohydrates, and protein in energy production (it is involved in the synthesis and degradation of fatty acids, and in the citric acid cycle); CoA is also responsible for the creation and regulation of hormones, and it plays important roles in the formation of antibodies and — through acetylcholine — neural function.
“Pantothenic acid” is derived from the Greek word pantos meaning “everywhere”. This name reflects the vitamin’s widespread occurrence in all living cells, being widely distributed in yeasts, molds, bacteria, and individual cells of all animals and plants.
For more information on B5, its chemical structure, functions, etc, go here¹.
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2. How does B5 clear acne?
In a nutshell (perhaps more than a bit oversimplified here), the working theory of B5’s anti-acne effect is that acne vulgaris (“vulgaris” from the Latin word for “common”) is really a symptom of a B5 deficiency in the body. Normally, B5 is used in the body to create and regulate hormones, process lipids (fats), etc. But when the body’s B5 pool is depleted, B5 (as coenzyme-A) is allocated according to the body’s own survival priorities. In other words, hormones and neural function are given as much available B5 as possible, with the process of fat metabolism receiving whatever B5 is left over from the more important processes. How does this relate to acne? Well, when they’re not burned for fuel or stored for future use, extra fats are excreted, among other methods, through the skin as a fat-rich oil called “sebum”. The skin normally has a certain amount of oil released through the sebaceous glands as a means of lubrication. But when there are excess lipids to be eliminated, they are excreted through the sebaceous glands as extra sebum. Thus one experiences “oily” skin. The skin naturally has a number of blocked pores at any given time, either because of dirt, unshed skin cells or solidified sebum, but the normal output of oil is so low that there is little appreciable build-up of oil behind the blockages. In the case of excess sebum secretion, blocked pores quickly become flooded with sebum, creating a buildup that not only causes a noticeable bump or “comedone”, but also an environment where bacteria may flourish, sometimes causing the pore and surrounding skin to become infected.
By supplementing extra B5, the body’s B5 pool is brought up to an adequate level, resulting in more thorough fat metabolism: after covering the hormonal and neural aspects of the body’s needs for B5, there’s still plenty to go around to burn off the fats. So instead of excess fats ending up as extra sebum (and eventually resulting in acne) they are burned for fuel. No extra fats means reduced sebum output, and thus less likelihood of acne.
It is important to note that there are many reasons a person may be deficient in B5, and any combination—or all—could apply. Our world today, unlike the world of our ancestors many thousands of years ago, has high levels of pollution in our land, sea and air, which takes its toll on us. Pollution is a type of stress that our bodies must deal with on an ongoing basis, through stepping up action of the immune system, eradicating free radicals, removing toxins, and so on. However, we are also affected by the food we eat. Humankind evolved for millions of years on a diet that consisted mainly of animal flesh, fruits, and non-starchy vegetables. Today we have an abundance of food, but much of it contains grains and dairy, or is processed with salt and other chemicals, things that were never staples of our diet. If we start out in life eating foods that are nutritionally deficient or incompatible with our digestive systems, those deficiencies will give rise to various diseases and disorders as we mature. Acne vulgaris is one of these diseases—it reflects a deficiency of B5.
Many of the foods we eat today have varying and sometimes unpredictable effects on our bodies, aside from causing deficiencies. Refined sugar (among other high-glycemic foods), for example, causes a spike in insulin levels, and as we are coming to realize is a prime factor in the cause and prevalence in diabetes and obesity. Refined sugars in the diet not only raise insulin levels, but they have also been linked to increases of cholesterol and triglycerides (fats) in blood serum as a result of the sugar’s conversion to fructose (and to some degree, sucrose) in the bloodstream. There are many factors at work here, but suffice it to say that when the body is fed carbohydrates with a higher glycemic index, it will use those carbohydrates first for a quick and easy energy burn (it should be noted that this method of obtaining energy is actually quite inferior to that of obtaining energy from fats), and since this involves a different process than that normally used to burn fats for fuel, those fats that would normally be used up are left mostly unmetabolized and must be dealt with, which depends a lot on the amount of B5 available to form CoA. Though some fats do still manage to get metabolised this way, some of the excess are stored through the action of insulin, and the remainder must be excreted (sebum being one of these excretion methods). Thus it is possible to see the correlation between sugar and acne, though it must also be noted that most fruits and vegetables do not cause an increase in cholesterol and triglycerides because they include enough dietary fiber to delay entry of carbohydrates into the bloodstream (giving them low rankings on the glycemic index). To illustrate this, consider your typical chocolate bar and its effects on acne: it has a high content of fats and refined sugars, and practically no dietary fiber to speak of. So by eating the chocolate bar, you get a number of bad effects, namely a large spike in insulin levels, increases in blood cholesterol and triglycerides, and on top of that all the extra fats that the chocolate bar contains aside from the sugars having the previous effects, so then there’s even more fat that the body must deal with through excretion.
Puberty is another example of the body’s increased need for B5. During puberty, the body is flooded with hormones—it’s no coincidence that puberty is also when most people first experience acne! The production of all these extra hormones means a drain on the body’s B5 pool. Any situation that involves a rise in the body’s hormones means a greater possibility of a B5 deficiency, resulting in acne. Puberty, pregnancy, use of anabolic steroids, caffeine intake (increases adrenaline levels), etc, all cause a greater hormonal output. By supplementing with extra B5, we can ensure that there will be enough left over to properly metabolize fats and keep our skin clear.
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3. Is B5 safe?
There have been many tests with B5 conducted over the years, all indicating its inherent safety2, even in high doses. Because B5 is a water-soluble vitamin, it does not collect in bodily tissues. Instead, the body takes what it can use, storing some small amounts in the heart, liver and kidneys, and rapidly excreting any excess. Compare this to a fat-soluble vitamin like vitamin A, which does collect in bodily tissues and can build up toxicity over time if too much is taken. B5 has even been given to animals and humans in doses of up to 1 gram per kilogram live weight, with no harmful side effects whatsoever! For a 70-kilo man that would equate to about 70 grams per day, far above the maximum of 15 grams currently recommended for acne treatment.
There have been some discussions that large intakes of B5 might throw off the balance of other vitamins in the body, specifically zinc. Though there has not as yet been any documented evidence to this effect, it is recommended that a multi-vitamin be taken regularly when dosing with B5, if just to ensure that all the bases are covered; not everyone eats healthily enough that they may get all their vitamins from food alone, though this site highly recommends making the effort to adhere to such a diet (see “The Paleolithic Diet3”).
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4. Are there any side effects?
When initially starting a B5 regimen, or when significantly increasing one’s dosage, there are some small negative side effects that people may expect to experience. The most common—as with many vitamins sometimes given in high dosage, like vitamin C—is diarrhea. This usually lasts for a couple of days at most, and is relatively mild. Other minor side effects may include increased hunger (“gnawing” sensation in the stomach), tiredness at odd times, and more rarely, headaches. The “gnawing” sensation in the stomach and the tiredness, as this author and others experienced, were infrequent, and totally absent after the first week of B5 supplementation. Most of those who experienced headaches report that their headaches either dissipated within a few days of starting B5, or after they increased their water intake.
The good news is that there are a number of positive side effects people have experienced while supplementing with B5. The most noticeable was an increase in energy levels. The energy boost may easily be attributed to the body’s metabolism shift to burning more fats for fuel. The body in fact prefers to burn fats for energy (not to be confused with “ketosis”, by the way, which is a dangerous state for the body to be in). When the body derives energy from fats, the energy source is more constant, and the blood sugar is not subject to the fluctuating peaks and valleys normally experienced when deriving most of one’s energy from complex carbohydrates, such as those found in grains. With fats, there is an even energy burn all day. Many athletes are coming to realize the benefits of deriving energy mainly from fats instead of complex carbohydrates, in that there is more glycogen and ATP being made available for muscular performance. Aside from increasing energy reserves, B5 promotes a positive nitrogen balance in the body, which is essential for the purposes of building muscle; athletes and bodybuilders are catching on to this fact as well.
A boost to the immune system may also be seen with B5 supplementation. Again, B5 has many different (and critical) functions in the body, among them tissue repair and immune function. Anecdotal reports from B5 users indicate shorter recovery times from illness and wounds. Animal studies also indicate an improvement in overall health, not only in the eradication of various B5 deficiency-related diseases, but improvements in already “healthy” animals.
Other positive reported side effects include vivid dreams and increased mental alertness, both of which (in addition to the athletic benefits mentioned above) this FAQ’s author has had the pleasure of experiencing.
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5. How much B5 should I take?
In Dr. Leung’s original acne study, subjects took from 10 to 15 grams per day orally, though they did also apply a B5 topical cream to affected areas. The cream may help (B5, like other vitamins, can be absorbed through the skin), but most people who have used B5 have so far reported that the oral form (capsule or powder) is excellent on its own. In cases of severe acne, and complicating factors (like seborrheic dermatitis), topical B5 is recommended in addition to oral dosing.
It is generally suggested to begin dosing with B5 in the mid-range, at around 4 to 5 grams per day. From there it is easy enough to see how well the initial dose is working, and it can be increased or decreased from there. Some people will have the need to go up to 10 grams per day, depending on the rate of clearing in their skin. Some people will have satisfactory results on only 5 grams, and may be able to decrease their dose to a minimum maintenance dose that keeps them clear (and saves money on B5 at the same time); some people have reported a minimum daily maintenance dose of as little as 250mg to keep their skin free of acne. Some, like the author of this paper, are at the other extreme, and require up to 15 grams of B5 per day for many months. What matters in determining B5 dosage is individual need based on initial B5 deficiency, genetics, exposure to pollutants and other bodily stresses, and diet. The trick is to use observation to determine the minimum dosage you need to take to get the results you want. B5 isn’t expensive, especially in powder form, but at 15 grams per day the cost can add up (though compared to the alternative—acne—it may very well be worth it).
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6. When and how should I take B5?
It is highly recommended to take your doses of B5 divided up evenly over the day. For example, if you’re taking 6 grams of B5 per day, you would do well to take six 1-gram doses, spaced out as evenly as possible. The reason for spacing out your doses is that the body can only make use of so much B5 (or any nutrient) at a time. Trying to take the 6 grams of B5 all at once would really only result in a waste of the excess that the body can’t absorb, and it wouldn’t allow much coverage for your body’s B5 needs throughout the rest of the day. The ideal might be to take as many small doses throughout the day as possible, but it isn’t always practical to take doses on every hour or half-hour. Every two or three hours appears to work best for most people.
It is up for debate of whether to take B5 with food or not. One contention is that the simultaneous absorption of certain other types of vitamins (B6 & B12 for example), either from food or supplements, can interfere with B5’s absorption. You may want to try taking your doses at least 15 minutes before a meal, or a minimum of an hour afterward. Other recommendations state that B5 should be taken with food, though as of this writing it is hard to say why, unless it is thought that the food bulk will slow down the passage of B5 through the stomach and increase its absorption, or perhaps prevent any possibility of gastric distress. You will have to find what works best for you, if indeed there is any difference between the two methods. The author of this paper has taken B5 before, during, and after meals with no apparent reduction in B5′s efficacy.
Take B5 capsules with water, and B5 powder can be mixed into water quite easily, though if the taste of the powder is too noticeably bitter, a little added fruit juice can disguise the taste.
Here is a sample B5 regimen for a dosage of 15 grams per day, using 500mg capsules:
BREAKFAST: 5 capsules & 4 ounces of water.
MID-MORNING SNACK: 5 capsules & 4 ounces of water.
LUNCH: 5 capsules & 4 ounces of water.
AFTERNOON SNACK: 5 capsules & 4 ounces of water.
DINNER: 5 capsules & 4 ounces of water.
BEDTIME: 5 capsules & 4 ounces of water 30 minutes before sleep.
It is worth noting that the author has since discovered that taking B5 prior to sleep may result in interrupted sleep patterns due to a need to urinate; this may be caused either by the liquid ingested, and/or the B5; the body may be trying to eliminate left-over B5 in the urine. If you are sensitive in this way, you may want to take your last dose of B5 several hours before you plan to go to sleep, thus ensuring that you get a full night’s rest.
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7. How long will it take for B5 to clear my acne?
This is entirely dependent upon your own unique situation. People with severe acne can expect total clearing to take longer than for people with mild to moderate acne. In the original study conducted by Dr. Leung, some people took up to six months to be acne-free at 15 grams per day, whereas many cleared totally within a couple of months. And some people on low dosages will see total clearing in as little as a couple of weeks—perhaps less. Again, the factors involved are initial individual deficiency in B5, genetics, exposure to bodily stresses (like pollution), hormonal profile, diet, and sleep patterns4 (sleep is when the human body repairs its skin, so don’t deprive yourself!). As yet there is no definitive method to determine just how deficient in B5 a person is; if one goes by the vastly underestimated U.S. RDA, it doesn’t seem possible that anyone could be deficient in a vitamin that is recommended at a minimum of only 10mg per day, though in most parts of the world acne is not yet recognized as a disease caused by deficiency in B5. Obviously, a little bit of trial and error will be required for you to hit upon the dosage that gives you the results you want.
At the risk of sounding too obtuse, you may or may not have to supplement B5 longer than 6 months, or even for an indefinite period of time (perhaps years). Studies longer than 6 months have not yet been published. There have been reported cases of people whose acne cleared up and who did not need to supplement B5 afterwards to remain acne-free. But its also possible that you will need to take in a regular daily maintenance dose to stay clear of acne. The goal is to get your skin to the point where it is consistently clear for several months, after which you can begin scaling down the dosage to see what your minimum dosage requirement is.
When beginning a B5 regimen, expect to experience visible improvement at a given dosage in at least two weeks. Yes, some people see clearing within a week, or even within a few days, but this isn’t really the norm. If within two weeks you see no improvement, then increase your dosage (depending on where you began, you may want to double the dosage, i.e., from 5 grams to 10 grams) for another two weeks. When taking B5 for acne, the virtues of observation and patience offer compelling rewards.
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8. Why can’t I get enough B5 from food?
B5 is present in most foods, which is no surprise given that B5 is essential to all living cells. But the amounts available to humans are tiny—only a matter of milligrams. B5 breaks down with excess heat, so cooking inevitably robs our food of some B5, as do certain food processing methods and storage conditions. When you consider that acne treatment can require up to 15 grams’ worth of B5 per day, you see how pointless it would be to try to get even 1 gram of B5 per day from food alone; the sheer bulk of food involved would be too much to consume. Here are examples of B5 levels present in some common foods:
B5 Content of Selected Foods, in Milligrams per 3 ½ oz. (100 gm) Serving
Peppers, red chili
Rye flour, whole
Blackeye peas, dry
Wheat germ, toasted
For people without a B5 deficiency, natural foods provide all the B5 their bodies need, just as nature intended. But many of us do have a B5 deficiency, for any combination of the reasons discussed previously. Some of us may get over our deficiencies, and some of us may have to treat them on an ongoing basis. In either case, megadoses of B5 are needed, and it just isn’t possible to get those levels of B5 from food alone. Supplementation is essential.
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9. Isn’t Coenzyme-A inexhaustible (so why should I need more B5)?
This is an interesting question that has been brought up many times before. Coenzyme-A acts as a catalyst to various chemical processes in the human body. Catalysts don’t take part in a chemical reaction themselves—they just get the ball rolling, so to speak, and are thus technically thought to be inexhaustible. While this may hold true for metals and certain synthetic compounds, this doesn’t hold true for organic molecules like enzymes. They are subject to breakdown from heat and other chemicals, and some amounts may also leave the body during elimination. If CoA truly never broke down, we would have had all the B5 we’d ever need long before we’d ever left childhood. According to medical science we still have basic B5 requirements every day of our lives, so obviously CoA doesn’t last indefinitely. No one yet knows for sure why CoA seems to have such a high turnover rate in some people and not in others, but it is likely that genetics, stress and pollution are mitigating factors. Doubtless we will eventually know, and the root causes can then by addressed. Until that day comes, mega-dosing B5 is a viable and highly effective option.
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10. Does diet matter when taking B5?
Absolutely! B5 can help you recover gracefully from the occasional slip, but a steady diet of junk food is only going to work against the B5 (and you).
Despite the fact that many doctors and dermatologists claim that there is no link between sugar and acne, a link does in fact exist. Sugar, in and of itself, has no directly appreciable characteristics that induce acne. However, it is sugar’s effects on the body’s blood chemistry that leads to acne, as discussed in question number “2” above. The more refined sugar you eat, the more your body’s B5 pool is depleted as the body attempts to cope with raised levels of blood triglycerides through action of CoA. As discussed earlier in how B5 supplementation treats acne, when the body is low on B5 the processes that are more critical for survival are the ones to which the available B5 is allocated. Other processes, like lipid (fat) metabolism, receive a secondary importance, and thus any remaining B5. If there isn’t enough B5 to process all the fats, either because B5 levels are low to begin with or because dietary intake of high-glycemic foods is increasing the need for B5, unprocessed fats are excreted through the skin as excess sebum, which in turn leads to acne. For more detailed information on the glycemic index and how sugar affects the body, you may want to read the book Sugar Busters5.
Fats and oils should not be taken in excess. What defines “excess”? This can vary from person to person, but typically any fats you don’t get directly from whole, natural foods can be seen as excessive (despite the erroneous suggestions of the “Food Pyramid”, grain and dairy products do not fall under the “natural” category for humans). Processed foods tend to contain a lot of fats—some natural, some unnatural, and many are unhealthy for you despite being derived from “natural” sources. For more information on how human beings really ought to eat, you may want to read The Paleo Diet3. From what you’ve read here so far, you know that the body has to deal with excess fats, but this doesn’t mean that you should try to cut all fats out of your diet, nor necessarily aim for a “low-fat” diet. If you’re eating properly (as explained in “The Paleo Diet”), your body will be burning fats for energy, which are its preferred energy source (not to be confused with “ketosis” which is dangerous), instead of storing them around your middle. For some people, like the author of this FAQ, fats are best derived from natural animal sources (meat), and/or nuts (such as macadamia nuts); even though oils like olive oil have been deemed as “healthy” by many mainstream nutritionists and doctors, they can often exacerbate acne (again, such as this author has experienced). A little trial and error will indicate whether you can handle oils as a regular part of your diet, or if you can only have them occasionally, if at all.
Other substances that artificially change the body’s hormone profile should also be avoided. Caffeine raises adrenaline levels. Nicotine, aside from being an outright poison, inflates levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin, and it loads your body with toxins, which impacts the immune system, which in turn depletes B5 even more. Anabolic steroids pump the body full of unnaturally high levels of testosterone. You get the idea. All of these things cause a drain on the body’s reserves of B5, so if controlling your acne is a priority, you’ll avoid these substances. You’ll also do well to avoid emotional stress when possible, which will not only reduce the levels of B5 drained away to regulate hormonal flux, but will benefit your psyche as a whole (this goes without saying). Learn to deal with stress if you can’t avoid it—take deep breaths, exercise, meditate—whatever works for you. To paraphrase Edward Norton’s character from the movie Fight Club, you have to learn to let the things that don’t matter truly slide. However, all this doesn’t mean you need to go around in a state of “neutral”—things that make you happy will benefit your body chemistry and your psyche in a multitude of ways I cannot even begin to recount here.
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11. Will B5 decrease the size of my pores?
If your pores are enlarged because of increased amounts of sebum flowing out of them, then yes, B5 will help reduce pore size. How? Each pore is ringed and regulated by tiny muscles that can expand or contract the pore opening. When your skin is excreting more sebum than normal, the pores expand to allow the sebum to flow out. Dirt, debris, and hardened sebum can also remain trapped in the pore, keeping it expanded. When you take B5, the excess fats that would normally be pumped out of the pores as extra sebum are metabolized instead, decreasing sebum flow, which eventually leads to a reduction in pore size. Granted, genetically speaking, some people may have larger pores than others, but if your skin is excreting more sebum than is natural for you, then your pores are quite probably larger than they should be. The amount of sebum normally needed to keep the surface of the skin moist is rather minute, and pores are naturally very fine and tight. However, don’t expect your skin’s pores to shrink overnight. They will gradually contract as less sebum is produced, coinciding with your B5 regimen. It is not uncommon, however, to see a difference in pore size within a couple of weeks of an effective B5 dose.
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12. Can I take B5 during pregnancy?
This is a touchy subject at best. I’ll say up front that no drug company, doctor, or supplement retailer wants to go on the record as recommending anything during pregnancy beyond the typical, documented advice and established RDAs. The irony is that a lot of documented advice is derived from cases where pregnant women have taken it upon themselves to use a particular drug or vitamin during their pregnancies, all at their own risk, as doctors don’t want to end up getting sued for experimenting on unborn babies. There are just too many risks of lawsuits for anyone to want to take a chance to recommend something that hasn’t already been studied during pregnancy ad infinitum. If you are pregnant and you decide to supplement B5 during your pregnancy, you will have to do so at your own risk.
That said, I will now point out some anecdotal observations. Dr. Leung had a number of pregnant patients who, of their own accord, decided to keep supplementing B5 during their pregnancies. None of the women showed any ill effects, and their babies were all born healthy. It’s important to keep in mind the science behind the treatment here. It’s too easy for people to have a knee-jerk reaction on this subject because it involves babies. B5, as we already know, is a non-toxic, water-soluble vitamin. What the body can’t use, it passes out of the body. So in the case of pregnancy, the body will take what it can use for the developing fetus, and for the mother, and that’s it. B5 doesn’t collect in bodily tissues like, say, vitamin A, so there’s no reason to think that it could build up and somehow pass into the womb en masse. It just doesn’t work that way. Many women already supplement vitamins during pregnancy, not all of which are water-soluble, and they do so without any apparent ill effects.
Pregnancy is a time when the mother’s body is flooded with hormones. Women experience any of a range of symptoms during and after pregnancy, among them acne. Acne, as we know, is a symptom of B5 deficiency. Rational thought would conclude that it makes sense to supplement B5 during pregnancy when such symptoms occur. Besides, wouldn’t a woman be better off with extra B5 than not enough, since we have no idea what a deficiency in B5 might do to a baby? In actual fact, it is generally recommended by doctors that women increase their intake of B5 (among other vitamins) during pregnancy, though the typical recommended amounts are miniscule at best. If you decide to supplement B5 during pregnancy, make your own educated decision based on science and evidence, not on alarmist rantings.
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13. How well does B5 really work?
You won’t know until you try it. By now you know that everyone’s needs are different. But what you can indeed expect is to find a dosage anywhere up to 15 grams per day (except in more extreme cases) that will keep your skin clear of acne while decreasing oiliness. Yes, it takes a little bit of trial and error to find what regimen works best for you, but compared to walking around with full-blown acne, this process is relatively painless. You will have to weigh the benefits and arrive at your own decision of whether to give B5 a try or not. Compared to other acne treatments on the market, B5 is cheap, extremely safe, and highly effective at controlling acne. If you cave in to temptation and eat junk food every now and then, sure, you may get a few bumps on your skin because of it, but B5 works quickly to make those bumps not only disappear but also prevent them from turning into full-fledged breakouts. B5 is not only a source of prevention for acne, it is also great for damage control. If you’re eating right, and unless you have other factors complicating your acne vulgaris (like seborrheic dermatitis), you can expect to remain virtually acne-free while using B5.
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14. What if B5 doesn’t work for me?
If you try dosing up to 15 or even 20 grams per day with B5, and your acne still will not come under control, and you have given the treatment enough time (at least a couple of months at high doses to see some kind of visible clearing), then you may want to re-examine a few things: First—are you eating properly? I can’t emphasize this point enough—if you eat garbage, expect to look like it; B5 can only do so much to help you, so don’t sabotage your own efforts! Second—what brand of B5 are you using? Is it a well-known name-brand, or did you pick it up really cheap from some company nobody ever heard of before? If you have any doubts about your B5 supply, then make sure to buy it from a reputable company. Also be careful when storing B5, since heat and light can break it down, thus reducing its potency. Third—what kind of acne do you actually have? Is it acne vulgaris (“regular” acne), or is it cystic acne? If it’s cystic acne, you may in fact have a sensitivity or allergy to a particular kind of food. The author of this paper happens to get bad cystic acne after consuming oil & vinegar together (like balsamic vinegar) but at no other time. Monitor your food intake if this is the case. Also, there have been reported cases of B5 helping to control and even clear up acne rosacea and seborrheic dermatitis, but don’t expect this to happen overnight. The more complicated the case, the longer you should expect for clearing to take. Actual acne will appear to clear first, with various skin irritations and conditions taking longer to be improved by B5.
If you try B5 and it does not work for you at all, even at high doses, then there must be something more to your acne vulgaris than just a B5 deficiency. If you see any clearing at all with B5, though not total clearing, then the B5 will work for you, but you will just have to keep using it longer, and/or increase your dosage. If it really doesn’t seem to work at all, and you are paying strict attention to diet, sleep, etc, then there are other acne treatments available. However, without going into too much detail here, many of those “treatments” are Band-Aid solutions at best—they are supposed to be applied to existing acne in order to reduce swelling and clear up lesions that have already occurred. Antibiotics may work for a little while (if at all), but eventually the body grows resistant to them and your doctor will need to prescribe another antibiotic, then another, and so on (the author of this paper has experienced this nasty “merry-go-round”).
Accutane, a vitamin A derivative drug, has an effective track record for clearing acne and keeping patients clear, however it also comes with a host of possible side effects, some of which can be rather harmful in the near and long-term. Accutane may also only keep you clear for a couple of years, after which you may need another course to stay clear if by then your body hasn’t “gotten over” the acne. You will need to discuss Accutane with your doctor, since it is only recommended for use in cases where other legitimate means have been tried, and only then in severe cases.
Retin-A, also a vitamin A derivative like Accutane, but applied topically instead of orally, works by causing the skin to peel, thus keeping pores relatively free of dead skin blockages and looking “new”. It is important to note that Retin-A may have bad side effects for some people (though not necessarily all), such as redness, excessive flaking, thinning and sensitization of the skin. This author has had seborrheic dermatitis for the past 13 years thanks to Retin-A’s side effects, so it is difficult to give an unbiased opinion of it here. Again, however, Retin-A falls into the “Band-Aid solution” category, since it is doing nothing to address the acne cause, just the symptom—even Accutane at least has a systemic effect that results in reduced sebum output (among its other physiological effects—not all of them good).
When you try B5, approach your regimen with discipline and purpose. If you have acne vulgaris, B5 can keep your skin clear, but you have to give it a chance to work. If you do, I’m sure you’ll be very pleased with the results.
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15. Who discovered B5’s effects on acne?
Lit-Hung Leung, M.D. (originally at the Department of General Surgery at Hong Kong Central Hospital) discovered B5’s anti-acne effects on test subjects while conducting a study to determine B5’s effects on dieting and obesity while supplementing B5 on a reduced-calorie diet. His study on B5 and obesity was published in 1995. After conducting a subsequent study on B5’s effects on acne alone, Dr. Leung later published his paper on B5’s effects on both acne and obesity in 1997. Dr. Leung is still conducting B5 research. You can e-mail him at: firstname.lastname@example.org
If you have any questions about B5 that have not been answered in this FAQ, or any suggestions or comments, you can e-mail the author of this FAQ here: email@example.com