Dexpanthenol is popular in treating various dermatoses and in skin care, but few controlled clinical trials have been performed. We investigated the efficacy of dexpanthenol in skin protection against irritation in a randomized, prospective, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. 25 healthy volunteers (age 18-45 years) were treated for the inner aspect of both forearms with either Bepanthol Handbalsam containing 5% dexpanthenol or placebo x2 daily for 26 days. From day 15-22, sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) 2% was applied to these areas x2 daily. Documentation comprised sebumetry, corneometry, pH value and clinical appearance (photographs). 21 volunteers completed the study, 3 were excluded because of non-compliance and 1 experienced a non-study-related, severe, adverse event. Only corneometry yielded a statistically significant difference, with decreased values following SLS challenge at the placebo sites (P < 0.05). Intraindividual comparisons showed superior results at the dexpanthenol-treated sites in 11 cases and in only 1 case at the placebo site. 6 volunteers experienced an irritant contact dermatitis, with more severe symptoms at the placebo site in 5 cases. In conclusion, dexpanthenol exhibits protective effects against skin irritation. The initiation of a study to evaluate the efficacy of dexpanthenol in preventing irritant occupational contact dermatitis under real workplace conditions is validated.