Background: Increased skin-surface pH is an important host-related factor for deteriorated barrier function in aged skin.
Objectives: We investigated whether restoration of skin pH through topical application of a water-in-oil emulsion with pH 4 improved the barrier homeostasis in aged skin, and compared the effects with an identical galenic formulation with pH 5·8.
Methods: The effects of the test formulations on barrier recovery were investigated by repeated measurements of transepidermal water loss (TEWL) and skin pH 3 h, 6 h and 24 h after acetone-induced impairment of barrier function in aged skin. The long-term effects of the pH 4 and pH 5·8 emulsions were analysed by investigation of the barrier integrity and cohesion, the skin-surface pH and the skin roughness and scaliness before and after a 4-week, controlled application of the formulations.
Results: The application of the pH 4 emulsion accelerated barrier recovery in aged skin: 3 h and 6 h after acetone-induced barrier disruption the differences in the TEWL recovery between the pH 4 treated and acetone control fields were significant. Furthermore, long-term application of the pH 4 formulation resulted in significantly decreased skin pH, enhanced barrier integrity and reduced skin-surface roughness and scaliness. At the same time points, the pH 5·8 formulation exerted only minor effects on the barrier function parameters.
Conclusions: Exogenous acidification through topical application of a water-in-oil emulsion with pH 4 leads to improvement of the skin barrier function and maintenance of the barrier homeostasis in aged skin.
© 2018 British Association of Dermatologists.