Tracking solvents in the skin through atomically resolved measurements of molecular mobility in intact stratum corneum

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Solvents are commonly used in pharmaceutical and cosmetic formulations and sanitary products and cleansers. The uptake of solvent into the skin may change the molecular organization of skin lipids and proteins, which may in turn alter the protective skin barrier function. We herein examine the molecular effects of 10 different solvents on the outermost layer of skin, the stratum corneum (SC), using polarization transfer solid-state NMR on natural abundance 13C in intact SC. With this approach it is possible to characterize the molecular dynamics of solvent molecules when present inside intact SC and to simultaneously monitor the effects caused by the added solvent on SC lipids and protein components. All solvents investigated cause an increased fluidity of SC lipids, with the most prominent effects shown for the apolar hydrocarbon solvents and 2-propanol. However, no solvent other than water shows the ability to fluidize amino acids in the keratin filaments. The solvent molecules themselves show reduced molecular mobility when incorporated in the SC matrix. Changes in the molecular properties of the SC, and in particular alternation in the balance between solid and fluid SC components, may have significant influences on the macroscopic SC barrier properties as well as mechanical properties of the skin. Deepened understanding of molecular effects of foreign compounds in SC fluidity can therefore have strong impact on the development of skin products in pharmaceutical, cosmetic, and sanitary applications.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Cell and Molecular Biology


  • Corneocytes, Extracellular lipids, Keratin filaments, Phase behavior, Solid-state NMR
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)E112-E121
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2017 Jan 10
Publication categoryResearch