The fatty acid profile of the skin surface lipid layer in papulopustular rosacea

Br J Dermatol. 2012 Feb;166(2):279-87. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2133.2011.10662.x.


Background: Patients with papulopustular rosacea (PPR) frequently complain of dry, sensitive skin. We have previously demonstrated that patients with PPR have reduced skin surface hydration levels in the presence of normal sebum casual levels, suggesting that it may be the quality and not the quantity of sebum that plays a role in PPR.

Objectives: To compare the sebaceous fatty acid composition of patients with PPR to that of controls with normal facial skin.

Methods: The sebaceous fatty acid composition of 25 patients with PPR and 24 age- and sex-matched controls was analysed by gas chromatography - mass spectrometry. Results Myristic acid (C14:0) was present in greater concentrations in PPR sebum, while the long chain saturated fatty acids arachidic acid (C20:0), behenic acid (C22:0), tricosanoic acid (C23:0) and lignoceric acid (C24:0) as well as the monounsaturated fatty acid cis-11-eicosanoic acid (C20:1) were present in the sebum of patients with PPR in lesser concentrations as compared with controls.

Conclusions: There is increasing evidence that sebaceous fatty acids play a role in the maintenance of skin barrier integrity. We have shown for the first time that patients with PPR have an abnormal sebaceous fatty acid composition, with reduced levels of long chain saturated fatty acids. These new findings may have therapeutic implications for the development of sebum-modifying nonantibiotic treatments for patients with PPR.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Dermatologic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Fatty Acids / chemistry
  • Fatty Acids / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Minocycline / therapeutic use
  • Rosacea / drug therapy
  • Rosacea / metabolism*
  • Sebaceous Glands / chemistry*
  • Sebum / chemistry*


  • Dermatologic Agents
  • Fatty Acids
  • Minocycline