Pantothenic acid is essential to normal epithelial function. It is a component of coenzyme A, which serves as a cofactor for a variety of enzyme-catalyzed reactions that are important in the metabolism of carbohydrates, fatty acids, proteins, gluconeogenesis, sterols, steroid hormones, and porphyrins. The topical use of dexpanthenol, the stable alcoholic analog of pantothenic acid, is based on good skin penetration and high local concentrations of dexpanthenol when administered in an adequate vehicle, such as water-in-oil emulsions. Topical dexpanthenol acts like a moisturizer, improving stratum corneum hydration, reducing transepidermal water loss and maintaining skin softness and elasticity. Activation of fibroblast proliferation, which is of relevance in wound healing, has been observed both in vitro and in vivo with dexpanthenol. Accelerated re-epithelization in wound healing, monitored by means of the transepidermal water loss as an indicator of the intact epidermal barrier function, has also been seen. Dexpanthenol has been shown to have an anti-inflammatory effect on experimental ultraviolet-induced erythema. Beneficial effects of dexpanthenol have been observed in patients who have undergone skin transplantation or scar treatment, or therapy for burn injuries and different dermatoses. The stimulation of epithelization, granulation and mitigation of itching were the most prominent effects of formulations containing dexpanthenol. In double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trials, dexpanthenol was evaluated for its efficacy in improving wound healing. Epidermal wounds treated with dexpanthenol emulsion showed a reduction in erythema, and more elastic and solid tissue regeneration. Monitoring of transepidermal water loss showed a significant acceleration of epidermal regeneration as a result of dexpanthenol therapy, as compared with the vehicle. In an irritation model, pretreatment with dexpanthenol cream resulted in significantly less damage to the stratum corneum barrier, compared with no pretreatment. Adjuvant skin care with dexpanthenol considerably improved the symptoms of skin irritation, such as dryness of the skin, roughness, scaling, pruritus, erythema, erosion/fissures, over 3 to 4 weeks. Usually, the topical administration of dexpanthenol preparations is well tolerated, with minimal risk of skin irritancy or sensitization.