Percutaneous absorption of hydrocortisone and testosterone on the vulva and forearm: effect of the menopause and site

Br J Dermatol. 1996 Feb;134(2):229-33.


The percutaneous absorption of hydrocortisone and testosterone was studied following their application to the vulvar and ventral forearm regions of pre- and post-menopausal women. Percutaneous absorption of hydrocortisone was significantly greater in vulvar skin than forearm skin in both pre- and post-menopausal women (P < 0.05, respectively), whereas the percutaneous absorption of testosterone was significantly increased (P < 0.01) on the vulva compared with the arm only in post-menopausal women. The effect of age on the percutaneous absorption of hydrocortisone and testosterone was evaluated by using the menopause as a biological chronometric end point. It is a common misconception that older skin has a diminished barrier capacity, and that percutaneous absorption is therefore greater. Our studies showed that absorption of hydrocortisone vulval skin of pre-menopausal women was significantly greater (P < 0.01) than in post-menopausal women. The ventral forearm skin of pre-menopausal women tended to show increased absorption compared with post-menopausal women, but statistical significance was not reached. No significant differences (P > 0.05) in the percutaneous absorption of testosterone in vulval or forearm skin were observed between the two age groups.

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Topical
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / pharmacokinetics*
  • Female
  • Forearm
  • Humans
  • Hydrocortisone
  • Menopause / metabolism*
  • Middle Aged
  • Postmenopause / metabolism
  • Premenopause / metabolism
  • Skin Absorption / physiology*
  • Skin Aging / physiology*
  • Testosterone / pharmacokinetics*
  • Vulva / metabolism


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents
  • Testosterone
  • Hydrocortisone