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J Invest Dermatol. 2001 Jul;117(1):147-50.

Can increasing the viscosity of formulations be used to reduce the human skin penetration of the sunscreen oxybenzone?

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  • 1Department of Medicine, University of Queensland, Princess Alexandra Hospital, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia.


The effect of adding thickening agents on the penetration of a sunscreen benzophenone-3 through epidermal and a high-density polyethylene membrane was studied using both very thick (infinite dose) and thin (in use) applications. Contradictory results were obtained. Thickening agents retard skin penetration, in a manner consistent with a diffusional resistance in the formulation, when applied as an infinite dose. In contrast, when applied as in thin (in use) doses, thickening agents promote penetration, most likely through greater stratum corneum diffusivity arising from an enhanced hydration by the thicker formulations. The two key implications from this work are (i) a recognition of the danger in the potential extrapolation of infinite dosing to in use situations, and (ii) to recognize that thicker formulations may sometimes enhance the penetration of other topical agents when applied "in use".

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