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How do solvents affect the skin?

Dr. Emma Sparr, Lund University  (Photo: Gunnar Menander)

Dr. Emma Sparr, Lund University (Photo: Gunnar Menander)

Researchers at Lund University in Sweden have developed a method that makes it possible to see how individual molecules from solvents in cosmetics, washing and sanitary agents, and drug formulations can affect and interact with the skin’s own molecules.

In the study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (Jan. 10, 2017; 114(2):E112-E121), the researchers examined how molecules added to the skin through various liquids and creams affect the skin, and how the same molecules are affected by uptake into the stratum corneum.

Only a small portion of the skin’s molecules is in a fluid state. However, these mobile molecules are important as they determine many of the skin’s properties, such as elasticity and barrier function. By using a type of solid state NMR (Nuclear Magnetic Resonance), the researchers were able to detect changes in the fluid skin molecules when they interact with the molecules of different solvents. In addition, the researchers were able to identify how the added molecules are affected by their interaction with molecules of the skin.

“These types of measurements have not been done before. Our results complement previous studies that have measured how molecules penetrate the skin under different conditions,” said Emma Sparr, PhD, professor at the Department of Chemistry at Lund University, in a press release. “Our contribution is that we have now increased our understanding of how molecules—both added components and skin molecules—are affected by each other,”

She continued, “through an increased understanding of molecular mechanisms we are able to more efficiently influence and regulate skin properties.”

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