The alkaline pH-adapted skin barrier is disrupted severely by SLS-induced irritation

Int J Cosmet Sci. 2009 Aug;31(4):263-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1468-2494.2009.00491.x. Epub 2009 May 20.


The pH of the healthy skin is 5.5 and maintained by many regulatory mechanisms. The pH of the skin care product we use on a daily basis can have an influence on the skin properties. To investigate how the physical properties of skin change after the alkaline or acidic pH of the skin care products are applied on the skin for a long term, we adjusted the pH of the skin care products to 3, 5 and 8 (A, B, C), with glycolic acid and triethanolamine. For 5 weeks the skin care products were applied on 20 healthy subjects' ventral forearm and the skin physical properties were measured. After 5 weeks, skin responses to the external stress of 1% (w/v) SLS (sodium lauryl sulphate) irritation and erythema by UV were measured. Skin colour and skin UV response were not altered by the pH. However, on the C-applied site (pH 8) the transepidermal water loss of stratum corneum (SC) increased significantly, the water content increased and desquamation decreased, respectively, and the SLS significantly impaired the skin barrier in comparison with other sites. The alkaline skin care product impaired the skin barrier after repeated application over 5-week period and the skin barrier was disrupted severely by 1% SLS exposure because SC was already impaired by alkaline pH and sensitive to external stress. This suggests that the pH of daily skin care products is very important for skin barrier homeostasis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Male
  • Skin / drug effects*
  • Skin / metabolism
  • Skin Absorption / drug effects
  • Sodium Dodecyl Sulfate / adverse effects
  • Sodium Dodecyl Sulfate / pharmacology*
  • Surface-Active Agents / adverse effects
  • Surface-Active Agents / pharmacology*
  • Water Loss, Insensible / drug effects
  • Water Loss, Insensible / physiology
  • Young Adult


  • Surface-Active Agents
  • Sodium Dodecyl Sulfate