Physicochemical characterization of the human nail: solvent effects on the permeation of homologous alcohols

J Pharm Pharmacol. 1985 Nov;37(11):771-5. doi: 10.1111/j.2042-7158.1985.tb04966.x.


To assess how vehicles might influence permeation through human nail, the diffusion of homologous alcohols (methanol to decanol) administered as neat liquids through finger nail plate has been studied using in-vitro diffusion cell methods and compared with permeation data for the same compounds in aqueous media. Permeation rates of the homologous alcohols through lipid depleted nail plate have also been assessed and the influences of dimethylsulphoxide (DMSO) and isopropyl alcohol on permeation rates of methanol and hexanol have been examined. With the exception of methanol, permeability coefficients are uniformly about five-fold smaller when the alcohols are undiluted than when they are applied in water. Overall parallelism in the permeability profiles under these separate circumstances of application is an indication that the external concentrations of the alcohols themselves are a determinant of their permeation velocities through the nail plate matrix. The even separation of the profiles suggests a facilitating role of water within the nail matrix. Chloroform/methanol delipidization of the nail led to increased penetration rates of water, methanol, ethanol and butanol. On the other hand, it caused a six-fold decrease in the permeation rate of decanol. Application of methanol and hexanol in DMSO somewhat retards their rates of permeation. Isopropyl alcohol also slows the permeation rate of hexanol but has little influence on that of methanol. Thus it appears that solvents which tend to promote diffusion through the skin horny layer have little promise as accelerants of nail plate permeability.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Alcohols / analysis*
  • Chemical Phenomena
  • Chemistry, Physical
  • Humans
  • Lipids / analysis
  • Nails / analysis*
  • Permeability
  • Solutions
  • Solvents


  • Alcohols
  • Lipids
  • Solutions
  • Solvents