Skin care products can aggravate epidermal function: studies in a murine model suggest a pathogenic role in sensitive skin

Contact Dermatitis. 2018 Feb;78(2):151-158. doi: 10.1111/cod.12909. Epub 2017 Nov 20.


Background: Sensitive skin is defined as a spectrum of unpleasant sensations in response to a variety of stimuli. However, only some skin care products provoke cutaneous symptoms in individuals with sensitive skin. Hence, it would be useful to identify products that could provoke cutaneous symptoms in individuals with sensitive skin.

Objective: To assess whether vehicles, as well as certain branded skin care products, can alter epidermal function following topical applications to normal mouse skin.

Methods: Following topical applications of individual vehicle or skin care product to C57BL/6J mice twice daily for 4 days, transepidermal water loss (TEWL) rates, stratum corneum (SC) hydration and skin surface pH were measured on treated versus untreated mouse skin with an MPA5 device and pH 900 pH meter.

Results: Our results show that all tested products induced abnormalities in epidermal functions of varying severity, including elevations in TEWL and skin surface pH, and reduced SC hydration.

Conclusions: Our results suggest that mice can serve as a predictive model that could be used to evaluate the potential safety of skin care products in humans with sensitive skin.

Keywords: adverse reactions; barrier function; contact dermatitis; epidermal function; hydration; pH; sensitive skin; skin care products.

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Cutaneous
  • Animals
  • Cosmetics / adverse effects*
  • Dermatitis, Atopic / etiology*
  • Dermatitis, Atopic / physiopathology
  • Epidermis / drug effects*
  • Epidermis / physiology
  • Female
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Skin Care / adverse effects*


  • Cosmetics