The cytotoxicity of monoterpenes, percutaneous absorption enhancers, to cultured human skin cells was investigated in order to quantitatively estimate their skin damage. A neutral red bioassay with epidermal keratinocytes and a contraction test of collagen gel in which dermal fibroblasts were cultured were employed for evaluating the cytotoxicity of terpenes. In the neutral red bioassay, keratinocyte proliferation was inhibited on the addition of terpenes, and cell survival remarkably decreased with an increase in the concentration of terpenes fed into the culture well. When the fibroblasts were cultured in a collagen gel matrix, the lattice of collagen contracted as the cells grew. Therefore, the application of cytotoxic agents brings about an inhibition of collagen gel contraction induced by the fibroblasts. Strong inhibition was observed in the cases of hydrocarbons in terpenes, and the inhibition was dependent on the concentration of these compounds added in the culture medium. The cytotoxicity of terpenes was compared with the skin damage evoked by the application of terpenes in rats in vivo. As a result, it was considered that the skin irritation caused by terpenes was predictable to a certain extent by means of the cytotoxic study of cultured human skin cells.