Depth-dependent hydration dynamics in human skin: Vehicle-controlled efficacy assessment of a functional 10% urea plus NMF moisturizer by near-infrared confocal spectroscopic imaging (KOSIM IR) and capacitance method complemented by volunteer perception

Skin Res Technol. 2022 Mar;28(2):342-349. doi: 10.1111/srt.13137. Epub 2022 Jan 15.


Background: Stratum corneum (SC) hydration is vital for the optimal maintenance and appearance of healthy skin. In this context, we evaluated the efficacy of an NMF-enriched moisturizer containing 10% urea on different aspects of SC hydration of dry skin.

Material and methods: In two clinical studies, the hydration efficacy of the moisturizer in comparison to its vehicle was investigated. In the first study, 42 subjects applied the moisturizer and the vehicle to one lower leg each. Thirty minutes and 24 h after this single treatment, SC hydration was measured by corneometry. Volunteers also rated skin moisturization and evaluated product properties. In the second study, 27 subjects each treated one forearm twice daily for 2 weeks with the moisturizer and the vehicle. Then, depth-resolved water-absorption spectra were measured by near-infrared confocal spectroscopic imaging (KOSIM IR).

Results: The moisturizer exerted a superior hydrating effect compared to the vehicle. KOSIM IR measurements show that, compared to the vehicle, the moisturizer significantly improved the water gradient in the SC from the surface to a depth of 15 μm. Moreover, the moisturizer received high acceptance ratings from the volunteers and was preferred to the vehicle.

Conclusion: The humectants applied in the investigated moisturizer improved SC water content in total and as a function of depth. The combination of depth-resolved data (KOSIM IR) with classical corneometry provides an integrated concept in the measurement of skin hydration, rendering both methods complementary. These findings were in line with the volunteers` self-assessments of the moisturizer properties that are relevant to treatment adherence.

Keywords: corneometry; dry skin; glycerol; hydration gradient; natural moisturizing factor; perceived moisturization; stratum corneum; xerosis.

Publication types

  • Clinical Study

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Topical
  • Emollients* / pharmacology
  • Epidermis / diagnostic imaging
  • Humans
  • Perception
  • Skin* / diagnostic imaging
  • Urea* / pharmacology
  • Volunteers


  • Emollients
  • Urea

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