Induction of a hardening phenomenon by repeated application of SLS: analysis of lipid changes in the stratum corneum

Acta Derm Venereol. 2005;85(4):290-5. doi: 10.1080/00015550410026362.


Adaptation of the skin to repeated influence of exogenous irritants is called the hardening phenomenon. We investigated the stratum corneum lipid composition before and after induction of a hardening phenomenon. Irritant contact dermatitis was induced in 23 non-atopic volunteers by repeated occlusive application of 0.5% sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) over 3 weeks. At 3, 6 and 9 weeks after irritation, the SLS responses of pre-irritated skin and normal skin were compared. The horny layer lipid composition (ceramides 1-7, cholesterol and free fatty acids) was assessed before irritation and 3, 6 and 9 weeks after irritation. During the first 2 weeks of irritation the transepidermal water loss increased continuously and seemed to decrease during the third week (effect of adaptation). The barrier function of pre-irritated sites was more stable to SLS challenge. Three weeks after irritation, there was a significant increase of ceramide 1 (p<0.001). The only volunteer without hardening phenomenon showed no increase of ceramide 1. Ceramide 1 seems to play a key role as a protection mechanism against repeated irritation.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Cutaneous
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Ceramides / metabolism
  • Cholesterol / metabolism
  • Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid
  • Dermatitis, Irritant / etiology*
  • Dermatitis, Irritant / metabolism
  • Dermatitis, Irritant / pathology
  • Fatty Acids / metabolism
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Irritants / administration & dosage
  • Irritants / pharmacology*
  • Lipid Metabolism*
  • Male
  • Skin / drug effects*
  • Skin / metabolism
  • Skin / pathology
  • Sodium Dodecyl Sulfate / administration & dosage
  • Sodium Dodecyl Sulfate / pharmacology*
  • Water Loss, Insensible / drug effects


  • Ceramides
  • Fatty Acids
  • Irritants
  • Sodium Dodecyl Sulfate
  • Cholesterol