Influence of Buffers of Different pH and Composition on the Murine Skin Barrier, Epidermal Proliferation, Differentiation, and Inflammation

Skin Pharmacol Physiol. 2019;32(6):328-336. doi: 10.1159/000501976. Epub 2019 Sep 18.


The pH of the skin is tightly regulated by endogenous buffering systems. We examined the influence of buffers of different pH and composition on skin barrier repair, pH, inflammation, and epidermal thickness/proliferation/differentiation. After tape-stripping in hairless mice buffers with pH 4-7 were applied in patch test chambers. After removal of the chambers, skin pH and transepidermal water loss (TEWL) were monitored for 24 h, and biopsies were taken for histology/immunohistology. Hairless mice showed a basal skin pH of about 5.8. Following barrier disruption and application of water, the pH increased by 0.6 units; increase in pH was reduced by the pH 4 glycolate buffer, unchanged by pH 4 citrate and pH 5.5 buffers, and even increased by the pH 7 buffer. pH 5.5, pH 4 citrate, and pH 4 glycolate buffers led to a slight, while the pH 7 buffer led to a significant increase in TEWL after barrier disruption compared to water. The pH 7 buffers led to a significant increase in epidermal thickness/proliferation/differentiation and inflammation after barrier disruption, whereas buffers with pH 4 and 5.5 caused a slight increase. In conclusion, only the pH 4 glycolate buffer significantly reduced the skin barrier disruption-related increase in skin pH. This was accompanied by only slight increase in epidermal thickness and inflammation compared to water. Application of the pH 7 buffer led to a significant increase in the skin pH, TEWL, epidermal thickness, and inflammation. The results are important for the formulation of topical products for effective acidification in pathological skin conditions.

Keywords: Epidermal differentiation; Epidermal proliferation; Inflammation; Permeability barrier; pH; pH buffer solutions.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Buffers
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Cytokines / metabolism
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Inflammation / metabolism
  • Male
  • Mice, Hairless
  • Skin / anatomy & histology
  • Skin / chemistry*
  • Skin / cytology
  • Skin / metabolism
  • Water Loss, Insensible


  • Buffers
  • Cytokines